By Renu Jain Chandarana
I ate Indian food for dinner almost every night growing up. We had different lentils every day with a different vegetable curry. It was simple Indian food – very different from what you find in restaurants. The combinations and variety were endless.
One thing that was reserved for special occasions was paneer. We mostly had it when we ate out or when my mom would make it at home for use in Mithai. When a feast was going to be prepared – mom would pull out come cubes of paneer from the freezer and toss them into the jeera rice with peas or she would make Muttar Paneer (Paneer and Green Pea curry). It was something that we included in our Diwali spread for sure. You knew it was a special meal when paneer was on the table.
I remember trying to replicate this recipe at my in laws home when I first got married and something was missing….I couldn’t quite get the flavor that my mom had always managed to tease out. I was a little self conscious making this dish – being the first time we’re celebrating Diwali together and I wanted to bring a little bit of my home into my in laws home. I needed to make it just right – you know those new bride nerves!! I grabbed the bottle of garam masala from my mom in law’s kitchen, threw in a spoonful and prayed for the best.
I took a taste and to my surprise it was exactly what the dish needed – I was too busy over-thinking how everyone would enjoy the dish and forgot the most important element to most Indian curries – garam masala! The best thing was that my mom in law’s garam masala was heavy on the cinnamon and it added this extra flavor that I think compliments Muttar Paneer really well. Phewf – the Diwali feast in my new married home had been saved and those new bride nerves vanished once everyone devoured their meal!
½ of a 400gram package Paneer (about one cup paneer cubed into 2cm cubes)
2 cups Frozen Green Peas rinsed with hot water to take the ice out (I prefer the summer sweet peas or petite peas)
1 398mL can Tomato Sauce (or crushed tomato)
½ cup Water
1Tbsp Ghee or butter or oil
1 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Ground Coriander Seeds
1 tsp Garam Masala
1-2 inches Fresh Ginger finely grated with a microplane or the small edge of the grator
salt to taste
pinch of cinnamon
- Place a medium sized pot on medium heat
- melt ghee in pot
- once hot, add cumin, ground coriander seeds and garam masala
- add the cubed paneer and cashews and gently sautee with the masala mixture for 1-2 minutes – careful not to crumble the paneer or burn the cashews
- add the canned tomato sauce or crushed tomato
- add ½ cup of water and add salt to taste
- let simmer for about 10 minutes on medium to low heat stirring gently a couple of times to make sure paneer is not sticking to the pan
- add grated ginger, cinnamon and sugar and gently stir again
- add rinsed peas and gently stir
- bring to a low simmer and turn the heat off
Enjoy garnished with fresh cilantro and more cashews if you wish!
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