Hrishikesh has a penchant for dairy, especially when it’s decadent; it seems he’s always longing for cream, pungent cheeses, and thick, strained yogurts. He once told me a story of how he and Petru, his old roommate, used to challenge each other to find the best of what they believed to be the most delicious: yogurt with the highest fat content. I adore ice cream, yes, but my husband’s opulent palate is unmatchable. So, it should be no surprise that at least once a week, he wants to combine cream with Indian spices in Punjabi food, and specifically, paneer makhani, black dal and biryani. Yet, for a girl whose Punjabi picks are baingan bhartha and channa masala, his constant desire for rich food can be hard to digest. Mostly, I end up ignoring his suggestions and tempting him with something else, but once in a while, I have to give in. After all, that’s the compromise of coupledom, right?
So we made paneer makhani the other night. It was delicious and I learned that, as long as you have a blender, compromise can be a cinch. Basically, you make an onion paste and a tomato paste, both blended with spices and other ingredients. Then you fry the pastes, add water, cream, paneer (or even a vegetable, like mushrooms!) and let the flavors simmer and meld together. The result of your understanding and good nature will be a velvety dish in which the sweetness of ground raw cashews perfectly balances the tart tomatoes and the heat of ginger. In the end, of course, everything comes together with that old favorite, thick cream.
Via a google search, I found this recipe at Passionate About Life ‘n Spice, a wonderful blog full of Indian vegetarian recipes. We changed it around a bit, but this recipe, in all its easy glory, is very much Sia’s. Thank you!
Paneer Makhani / Paneer Butter Masala
adapted from http://www.monsoonspice.com
For the Onion Paste:
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon powder
3 cloves garlic
seeds of 3 green cardomom pods
1 bay leaf
1/2 inch ginger, pounded
For the Tomato Paste:
3 large tomatoes, chopped
1 green chile
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. tandoori masala
1/2 tsp. amchur / dried mango powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2-1 tsp. Kashmiri chile powder
2-3 cups paneer (in 1/2 inch pieces)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 tbsp. fresh cream
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. dried methi (dried fenugreek leaves…adds a tiny hint of bitterness)
1 tbsp. ghee/oil
2-3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
1. Grind ingredients for onion paste; remove in a bowl. Grind ingredients for tomato paste.
2. Heat oil in saucepan. Add cumin seeds and let brown. Mix in onion paste and cook until the paste turns a light brown in color, about 6-8 minutes.
3. Add methi and sugar, stir, and cook for another minute.
4. Add tomato paste and stir well, cooking for another 5 minutes. If paste starts sticking to pan, add a little bit of water and keep cooking.
5. Increase the heat and add 1 cup water and salt to taste. Mix well and cover, cooking for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, if you find the gravy too thick, add some more water.
6. Add paneer cubes, cream and cilantro. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve with naan, parathas or rice, with a plate of sliced onion, tomato, and lemon on the side