Paneer, also known as cottage cheese, is a popular form of vegetarian food consumed in India. It is prepared in different forms – like shahi paneer, kadhai paneer, paneer makhani, paneer bhurji, palak paneer and so on. Paneer or fresh cheese is usually made in India from cow’s milk or buffalo milk. Usually most cheeses need some or other animal product for coagulation, but not paneer. That’s why paneer is ideal for consumption among lacto-vegetarians who don’t even take eggs.
Today paneer has become a prominent part of Indian cuisine, without which Indian food and stuff would be considered as incomplete. However not only in India, it is also a quintessential part of Persian and Iranian cuisines. In fact Panir (as is spelt in Iran) is a family favorite served everyday with tea, veggies and various forms of breads. Having said that, it is vital to mention that paneer is not an Indian ingredient; rather it was adopted by Indian culture during Muslim invasions in our country. And it is commendable how incredibly Indians infused this cheese into their food and cuisines. Today Indian paneer dishes are not only a favored and treasured food in almost every Indian household, they have successfully carved out a niche for themselves even in the international culinary world.
In India paneer is traditionally prepared in homes by heating the milk and then adding a souring agent like vinegar or lemon juice, causing it to curdle and separate. Home-made paneer is always the best option you could have, as the paneer would then be very soft. However if one does not have enough time, you could use the store-bought ones which are exceptionally good too. Since the store bought paneer is always frozen, it is always advisable to soak paneer in luke warm water for at least 20-30 mins before it’s used for cooking. That way it will remain soft and creamy textured inside the gravy.
Paneer makhani or paneer butter masala is a mild creamy gravy best enjoyed with hot naan or rotis. Although this dish would not top the health charts because of the use of heavy cream, however I would say occasional indulgence can be a boon to life!! A rich classy dish served at Indian parties and weddings, Paneer Butter Masala never fails to disappoint the foodies.
Paneer – 1 cup cubed
Butter – 1 tbsp
Ginger – 2 small pieces
Garlic – 2 cloves
Green chilli – 1-2 (dont use too many as this gravy is supposed to be mild)
Tomatoes – 2 large pureed
Hunt’s tomato paste – 2 tbsp
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
Kasoori methi powder – 1 tsp
Milk – 1/2 cup
Heavy cream – 1/2 cup
Sugar – 1/2 tsp
Salt – as per taste
- Put ginger, garlic and green chilli into a blender and make a paste using little water.
2. Take some butter in a pan. When the butter melts, add in the ginger-garlic paste. Let this paste saute until oil oozes out and the raw smell is gone.
3. Puree 2 large tomatoes. Then add in the pureed tomatoes. Add the red chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder. Mix well. Cover with a lid and cook until the tomatoes are cooked and oil starts oozing out from the sides.
4. Now add 2 tbsp Hunt’s tomato paste. Mix well and cook for 5 more mins.
5. Add some water and milk. While adding milk, add it slowly and stir the mixture continuously or else the milk might curdle.
6. Add garam masala powder and kasoori methi. Mix well. Let the gravy come to a boil.
7. When the gravy starts boiling, gently add in the paneer cubes. Add some salt and sugar. Mix well. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins.
8. After 5 mins, add some heavy cream. Mix well. Let this boil for another 4-5 mins.
9. After 5 mins, switch off the flame. Paneer butter masala will be ready.
Serve paneer makhani with hot naan or rotis.