Granted, the recipe for this paneer came from my sister. But I couldn't help feeling like my mother as I made it. I was wearing slippers, as she always does in the kitchen. I was stirring furiously to brown my onions, as she does. I even skipped my 'clean as you go' method, as she does (now I understand why, too. Things move quickly when cooking Indian food!) And of course, I used the blender, which she does ad nauseum. And in the end, I strayed from the recipe, tasting and adding spices until the curry tasted, smelled and felt like I thought it ought.
My mom's would have come out better, but this is pretty close. And, surprisingly easy if you have all the ingredients on hand. I even made the paneer from scratch, following this tutorial that mom and I put together.
The sad part is that this paneer won't be eaten tonight. The mister-to-be woke up with a bit of a stomach bug and, given his lactose intolerance, I don't think cheese and milk-based curry should be on the menu. So there it sits in the fridge, teasing and taunting us both.
The more I make Indian food, the more confident I get in my abilities to recreate the dishes I grew up with. But I always need to muster some courage before I start dicing those onions and shredding that ginger... I never know which way it's going to go! What childhood dishes do you strive to recreate?
Paneer Masala (serves 1 hungry or 2 sorta-hungry people)
- 1 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
- 10 pieces of paneer (fresh or frozen)
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 cloves
- 1 cardammom pod
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp grated ginger
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1/2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp red chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
Heat oil on medium heat in a large pan. When hot, add cumin seeds (they should sizzle and dance). Stir fry the cumin seeds a bit (2-5 seconds), then add onions, ginger and garlic. Add the cloves and cardammom and saute for about 5 minutes, until onions start to brown. Then add tomato paste (mine was frozen, so I added a little water to melt it). Mix thoroughly and turn off heat.
Add milk and stir. Transfer the mixture to a blender (again, I recommend the bella rocket blender....), and blend until everything is finely combined into a curry. Pour the liquid back in the pot and turn the heat to low. If it's too thick, add some more milk and stir. Add turmeric, coriander powder, and salt. My measurements are just estimates of what I used - you should taste and add whatever you think is right. If it's not sweet enough, add a tiny pinch of sugar. Toss in the paneer and gently stir (the paneer breaks very easily!). Adjust seasoning to your taste, add milk to adjust thickness. Serve over white basmati rice or with naan.