Mattar Paneer (Peas and Fried Indian Cheese Curry)
Mattar Paneer is a dish made with peas and Indian cheese. It isn't as quite popular as palak paneer, a similar recipe made with spinach instead of peas.
In our home, mattar paneer is made fairly often because it's the girls' favorite Indian dish. If you have kids and can't get them to eat their peas, this recipe may do the trick. The key is to make a creamy masala sauce. To make the dish even healthier, I add diced, steamed potatoes that are approximately the same shape as the paneer.
Yields: 8 servings1 gallon whole milk
1-1/2 cups heavy cream (optional), + 2 tablespoons for the sauce
2 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt
8 tablespoons lime juice, freshly squeezed (without pulp)
3 red potatoes (optional), peeled, steamed and diced
1 tablespoon canola oil (or any neutral oil)
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen peas, thawed
1 shallot, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
3 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
2/3 teaspoon garam masala
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
3 dried red chiles, stemmed
1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
Making your own paneer cheese: Heat (near-boiling) a gallon of milk in a large non-reactive (non-aluminum) pot over medium-heat but do not boil. Stir constantly. Add 1 tablespoon of yogurt and the lime juice to make it curdle. Once the milk around the edges of the pot starts to become translucent and a bit grey in color, turn off the heat. Do not stir. Let it sit for 2 minutes. Strain the curds through a cheese cloth. Wrap the curds in the cloth. Drain as much liquid as possible. Place the wrapped curds in a loaf pan and gently press the liquid out of it. Leave a heavy weight on top of it in the sink for a couple of hours. Set aside until firm, for about 1/2 hour. Carefully unwrap the cheese. Dice it.
For the paneer: Heat the canola oil in a pan and fry all the cubes of paneer until they are golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel. Reserve the oil. Set the paneer aside.
For the masala sauce: In the same pan, heat the canola oil. Fry the onion in the oil, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown. Add the shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes until nicely golden over medium low heat, stirring frequently. Add the garam masala and turmeric powder. Cook for another 1-2 minutes, then add the remaining yogurt. Transfer to a mini-blender and blend until the sauce is smooth. Add the heavy cream. Set aside.
For the peas: In a large skillet, add the ghee. When it's melted, add the ginger garlic paste. Cook for about 1 minute. Add the masala sauce, sugar and paprika. Add the peas. Keep the temperature at a high heat. Stir frequently for about 3-4 minutes. Add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water and the whole long red chiles. Continue to cook the peas for about 5 minutes. Add the paneer and potatoes at the end, along with the tablespoon of cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Stir well. Simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Set aside.
Remove and discard the red chiles.
Serve with steamed basmati rice, naan or roti (flat Indian wheat bread). You can decorate with a few fennel seeds if you like.
Indian cuisine often calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger and remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender, adding about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.
You can either make your own garam masala spice mix or buy it at any Indian store.
The flatter the onion is, the sweeter it is. I always try to pick flatter-shaped yellow onions at the market. Increase or decrase the amount of sugar depending on the sweetness of the onion.
Whenever I have time, I make my own paneer. This should leave you with a large brick of paneer for the price of a gallon of milk (and 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 industrial 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.
The addition of diced steamed potatoes is not part of the authentic recipe, I just like to add same sized-cubes potatoes to resemble the pieces of cheese.
Some people don't add yogurt and heavy cream to the sauce and add corn starch instead, but I think the heavy cream is enough to thicken it.
Published By: on September 19, 2009.