Tandoori Mattar Paneer Recipe

Tandoori Mattar Paneer Recipe Recipe

After editing the grilled tandoori shrimp recipe yesterday, I couldn't help but feel the urge to make a similar dish today for dinner. Given that I have so many vegetarians in the house, I opted for a mattar paneer dish (peas and cheese) flavored with tandoori paste.

In the morning, I made fresh homemade  paneer cheese (it's ultra easy). Later, I marinated the paneer cubes in tandoori paste, which dressed them in a beautiful crimson red color. The rest is the usual paneer masala recipe that my husband Lulu loves so much. I used fresh green peas from a local Indian market for color, texture and nutrition.

This recipe isn't strictly authentic since I combined two dishes I learned from my husband's late grandmother Baji. But your taste buds won't complain, I promise.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

3 cups homemade paneer cheese (click on the link for the recipe), diced into 1"-pieces
½ cup full-fat Greek yogurt
¼ cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1-½ pounds green peas, parboiled then transferred to a cold water bath
1 yellow onion, cut into thin wedges
¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste (click on the link for the recipe)
1 teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon paprika (optional)
⅔ teaspoon garam masala (click on the link for the recipe)
¾ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
3 dried red chiles, stemmed


Directions

For the paneerIn a sealable  container, combine 3 tablespoons yogurt, red chili powder, paprika (if used), ½ teaspoon turmeric powder and garam masala. Stir, add the paneer cheese pieces and seal. Shake well. Make sure the tandoori marinade lightly coats the cheese. Brush a griddle pan with oil. Place the cubes of paneer and cook for 2 minutes on each side until the pieces have a dry red-colored thin crust. Set the paneer aside.

For the masala sauce: In a deep pan, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Fry the onion wedges, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Add the garam masala and turmeric powder. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the remaining yogurt. Transfer half the amount to a plate and the rest to a mini-blender and blend until the sauce is smooth. Add the heavy cream. Set aside.

Assembly time: In the same pan, add more oil. When it's hot, add the ginger garlic paste and the whole long red chiles. Cook for about 1 minute until fragrant. Add the masala sauce. Keep the temperature high. Stir frequently for about 3-4 minutes.  Add about ½ cup of water (up to a cup) and the green peas. Continue to cook the peas for about 5 minutes. Check the texture of the sauce; it should be thickened and the liquid should have evaporated. If you find the sauce to be too thick, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of water depending on how you want the sauce. Add the tandoori paneer pieces and the reserved onions at the end. Season with salt. Stir well. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Cover and let stand until ready to serve.

Serve with steamed basmati rice, naan or roti (flat Indian wheat bread). You can decorate with a few sprigs of fresh cilantro if you like.

Bon appétit!


Tips

Little reminder on how to make ginger garlic paste (Indian cuisine almost always calls for it): Clean a piece of fresh ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then grate it using a Microplane. Place the grated ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle and add about 1 tablespoon (or more) water for easy grinding. Turn the mixture into a thick paste.

You can either make your own garam masala spice mix or buy it at any Indian store.

Whenever I have time, I make my own paneer cheese. This should leave you with a large brick of paneer for the price of a gallon of milk (and it's fresher, too). Home-made paneer has a lot of advantages: you know what's in it, it's all natural, there are no chemical thickening agents and no preservatives, and the end result is not packed and as firm as the store-bought product.

To make paneer, I use a loaf pan to press the liquid out of the curds. You can also use any container that has holes at the bottom; a strainer will work fine as well. I like to add some heavy cream to make the cheese creamier. I used the whole block of paneer. If you're not using it immediately, keep it whole in the refrigerator. You can store it up to a week.

Some people don't add yogurt and heavy cream to the sauce but add cornstarch instead; I think the heavy cream is enough to thicken it.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on April 5, 2012.


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