According to me, Sundays are the best day of the week. It is not like Monday to Friday when I am rushing about at a maniacal pace, counting down the days till weekend. Neither like Saturday, when I am so joyous that the weekend is finally here that I cannot wait to get out there, catching up on the local museums and shopping at malls. Then comes Sunday,the pace of this day is unlike any other of the week, we have worked, we have played now its time to kick back and take it slow.
The story with my cooking also runs along the same line. All week long I cook at break neck speed, trying to finish cooking before hubby goes to office and son goes to school. Then comes Saturday and I declare my kitchen to be under strike and take a break from cooking. Sunday however I am all rested and can take all the time to cook up some dishes whose ingredient lists will have you emptying half of your pantry on the kitchen countertops. My husband takes over the childcare and lets me be one with my stove......
Paneer Makhani or as I love to call it Paneer Butter Masala is a one of those dishes. Please do not be deterred, I was exaggerating about the ingredient list, it is no more than any other sabji with gravy. The only things different about this dish is a couple of extra steps, but its totally worth it.
I got this recipe while training in a hotel in Mumbai. I still have the scrape of paper on which I quickly jotted down the recipe while our chef rattled it at break neck speed. The paper is stained, dog eared and the ink smudged in places where it came in contact with my wet fingers. Still this piece of paper is very precious to me. I have adapted it by reducing the oil and omitting the red food color.
400 gm / 14 oz block of paneer, cut into roughly 2x1 inch rectangles about 1/2 inch thick ( you can cut it in any size you desire )
2+1 tbsp cooking oil
1 tbsp butter
1 big onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, cover peeled
1 inch of ginger, peeled
2 whole dried red chilies ( if this is unavailable substitute with 1/2 tsp red chili powder, like cayenne )
1/4 tsp turmeric powder / haldi
1/8 tsp deggi mirch powder ( this adds color to the dish, it can be substitute with 1/8 tsp cayenne powder )
2 tsp coriander powder / dhaniya powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp tomato ketchup
3 tbsp cashew nuts, grounded into fine powder and mixed with 1/4 cup of water to make a paste
1 tbsp kasuri methi / dried fenugreek leaves
2 tbsp fresh cream
1/8 - 1/4 tsp sugar
2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
salt, to taste
2 cups water
- In a small saucepan boil the 2 cups of water, chopped onions, garlic cloves, ginger piece and the two whole dried red chilies. Boil till the onions soften, about 5-10 minutes. ( Note: if you are substituting the whole dried red chilies with red chili powder, do not add the red chili powder to the boiling water, add it later when we add the deggi mirch powder ). After 10 minutes remove from heat and set aside to cool. When cooled, remove the onions, garlic, ginger and red chilies with a slotted spoon and grind to a fine paste. ( You might not need to add any water to it while grinding as they already are soft and plumped with the hot water ). Set aside this paste. Do not discard the hot water as this water will be used to soak the paneer pieces. ( The reason I add the red chilies is for the color. In restaurants Paneer Butter Masala, has this deep rich red color, they add food color for that effect. Adding whole red chilies will give you a similar color ).
Add 1 tbsp of oil to a non-stick saucepan and lightly brown the paneer pieces. Make sure you do not brown it too much as this will make the paneer chewy and hard. When done remove and drain on an absorbent paper. Now put these pieces of paneer in the hot water in which the onions were just boiled, add 1/4 tsp of salt to the water. ( This keeps the paneer pieces moist and succulent, so please do not skip this step )
- In the hot saucepan add the remaining 2 tbsp of oil and 1 tbsp of butter. To this add the blended paste of onions, garlic, ginger and red chilies. Saute this paste in the oil for 5 minutes. Stirring it so that it does not get burnt on the bottom. Keep the heat on medium low ( Note: I own an electric stove, gas stoves get hotter than electric stoves at the same setting ).
- Next add the deggi mirch, turmeric powder, coriander powder and garam masala. Stir it all together and let the masala fry for 3 minutes in the oil to bring out all of its aromatic flavor.
- Then add the tomato ketchup, tomato paste and cashew paste. Stir it all in. Let it saute for another 3 minutes.
- Add the water soaked paneer along with all its water, the kasuri methi, the fresh cream, sugar and salt ( remember that the water that we added with the paneer contains a little salt, so add accordingly ).
- Mix it all together and let it cook for 3 minutes. Check for seasonings; what you are looking for is a sweet and slightly tangy sensation followed by a slow burn at the back of the throat. If the gravy is too hot, add some more cream and / or sugar. If it is not hot enough add some more red chili powder.
- Remove from heat and garnish with some chopped cilantro and fresh cream ( optional ). Serve with hot naans or rotis. (Note: Add the cream cautiously, as the cream will change the balance of the sabji from slightly sweet and fiery to slightly sweet and bland )
Some of the ingredients
Saute the onion, garlic, ginger and red chili paste in the oil.
Next add the coriander powder, garam masala, turmeric powder and red chili powder.
Mix it well and let the mixture saute well in the oil.
Add the tomato ketchup, tomato paste and cashew nut paste.
Mix it well.
Now add the cream, soaked paneer with its water, kasoori methi, sugar and salt.
Serve garnished with chopped cilantro leaves and some cream.