Yesterday you made paneer (you did, right?); now here is something to make with some of that paneer.
Matar-paneer (literally peas-paneer) is a fairly ubiquitous dish on Indian restaurant menus in the US but, as with almost everything on most Indian restaurant menus in the US, often drowned in cream. The recipe below is a version of the basic way in which it is made in most homes in North India: a tomato sauce with clean, bright flavours that offsets the paneer nicely, with the peas providing textural contrast.
It is a very easy recipe, calling for not very many ingredients, most of which you probably have on hand, with a very light touch with the spices.
- 1 lb fresh paneer, cut into cubes
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 tblspn grated ginger
- The following ground into a coarse powder: 2-3 dried red chillies, 1/2 tspn cumin seeds, 1/4 tspn coriander seeds, 1/2 tspn ground turmeric, 1 small piece cinnamon or cassia bark
- 1 tiny pinch of hing (asafoetida)
- 1 cup tomatoes, cut up with juices
- 1 tspn sugar
- 3/4 cup green peas
- 2 cups water
- Salt to taste
Preparation (see pictures below)
- Heat some oil in a large frying pan and lightly, gently fry the cubes of paneer till just beginning to brown on the edges.
- In a smaller pan heat some oil and add the chopped onions and fry over medium-high heat.
- Once the onions begin to brown add the grated ginger and stir for a minute or so.
- Then add the powdered spices and hing and saute for another minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes and salt and sugar, mix and cook down over medium heat till the tomatoes have completely disintegrated and oil begins to separate.
- Add one cup of water, mix well and cook down over medium heat till the oil separates again.
- Add another cup of water, mix well, bring to a boil and then back down to a mild simmer.
- Add the paneer and peas and gently mix in.
- Simmer till the sauce thickens again.
- Serve with rice or chapatis.
- As always the spice mix is a very fungible thing. I try to keep it light so that the paneer is not overwhelmed.
- I probably use more tomatoes than some and less than others. See what works for you.
- You may be wondering about why I cook the sauce down twice before adding more water and the paneer. This is because of two related reasons: 1) I am really not a fan of chunks of tomatoes floating in finished curries and 2) you don’t want the paneer to be in the sauce too long after it goes in (or it might harden) and so it’s good to let the flavours come together nicely in the sauce before you add the paneer.
- You can skip the step of frying the cubes of paneer; it’ll both make it a healthier dish and keep the paneer softer. I don’t usually fry it myself.