[This was written before the animal abuse involved in the milk industry struck me. I do not advocate paneer as a vegan. Please consider substituting paneer with firm tofu. You can fry tofu on a non-stick pan till browned well on all sides. Stick it in the freezer for a day and use it in place of paneer. This way, I am told by one of my friends, Damian, that tofu soaks the flavours of the sauce better.]
There’s something about homemade paneer or cottage cheese that can never be found in store bought paneer! Is it something to do with the colour, the texture and the milky taste? Paneer is one of those items which gives any lunch or dinner its royal and exotic touch. It is easy to prepare and does not require much dressing except for coriander leaves. If you have unexpected guests, making paneer bhurji (Scrambled cottage cheese) , paneer palak or mixed veggies and paneer is enough to have them showering praises on you (isn’t it?).
Its a regular once a week item for me as for once – there is something that we all love (my son included)!!
Paneer makhani is a little elaborate – Not that there is much effort involved but it does take a long time to cook. That is because the pureed tomatoes have to be sauteed till the moisture completely evaporates and that too in reduced heat!!
I browsed around to find out why it is called ‘cottage’ cheese – no answers!! I did find out something that dragged me away a little more than I wanted – Erma Bombeck’s columns reproduced as a collection in a new book called ‘Eat less cottage cheese and more ice cream’!! I have to get that one – here it is at Amazon. She happens to be my favourite humorist – I always speak of her as a philosopher – one who uses humor to get our sights back on matters that matter most!! In fact I have all her books except this one!
Oh! Back to Paneer – I just came back from Wikipedia – Here’s why its called ‘cottage’ cheese –
“The term “cottage cheese” is believed to have originated because the simple cheese was usually made in cottages from any milk leftover after making butter.” BTW, paneer made with skimmed milk tastes equally good if you use curd instead of vinegar or citric acid or lime for curdling!! I will be posting the recipe for paneer in my next post complete with pics.
Meanwhile here’s how I make Paneer Makhani
(Monica, a friend of ours had prepared it when she had called us for dinner once, and she is my inspiration for this item
which is now a regular!)
Paneer /Cottage cheese (Fresh, diced large) – 600g
Tomatoes – 4 big ones
Ginger – 1″ (Grated) and some julienned for topping
Garlic – 2 pods grated (I did not add it)
Green chillies – 2
Use 2 deseeded fresh red chillies (The long thick ones)
– It also adds a bright red colour to the dish
Unsalted butter – 2 tsp.
Cream – 1 tsp. (For topping)
Ajwain – 1 tsp.
Oil – 1 tbsp.
Kasuri methi/Dried fenugreek leaves – 1 tsp. (Optional)
Coriander powder – 1tsp.
Chilli powder – As per taste (I added 1/2tsp.)
turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp.
1. Grind the cleaned tomatoes along with ginger and green chillies/red chillies. Set aside.
2. Heat oil. Reduce heat, and add butter.
3. When it melts crackle ajwain or aniseeds.
4. Add the pureed tomatoes and cook till the moisture completely evaporates and the mixture is totally dry.
5. Add coriander powder, chilli powder, turmeric powder, salt, and kasuri methi and mix well.
6. Add water to bring to a thick gravy consistency and bring to a boil. Adjust seasoning if needed.
7. Add the paneer cubes and cook further for a couple of minutes.
8. If the tomatoes are a little sour wait till the curry cools. Add cold milk when the curry cools to room temperature and balance so that it has a creamy texture and the sourness of the tomatoes is replaced by a warm soupish taste. You may add butter or cream instead, if you prefer. I add milk or a thick solution of skimmed milk powder in warm water.
9. Warm before serving. Be sure to stir constantly so that the gravy remains blended and does not separate or become watery.
10.Top with cream, butter or just coriander and serve with rotis, phulkas, parathas or pulav.