Apr 1, 2010

Paneer Curry with Peas

This recipe spoke to me for two reasons. First the peas. For some reason I am lacking recipes that highlights this lovely spring ingredient that is all over the bay area markets these days. And second the paneer. I've had paneer at Indian restaurants, but cooking with this mild Indian cheese had never crossed my mind and I'm always game to try something new.

So before I go any further I must say that I LOVE this recipe!! I want to shout as I type and write in all caps...but I'm holding back...because I don't want to be a shouter. I'm just saying it was fabulous! I know that I will make versions of it again and again just by tweaking the recipe for the season.

The best part (okay, at least I think the best part) is that it tasted like real Indian food, I mean the kind you get at a restaurant. Yes, you too can make restaurant style yummy Indian food.

The second best part was the paneer! I might have found a new favorite ingredient. Paneer is a fresh cow's-milk or buffalo's-milk cheese that is in a lot of native Indian dishes. I was so impressed how nicely it held together and how the flavor was not rich like most of the more western cheeses I'm used to. Instead it absorbed the flavor's of the curry nicely and was a good substitute for meat - making it an excellent vegetarian meal.

Have I raved enough? No? Okay, one more thing...if you've ever wanted to try something a little different, or to make your own Indian - this is your dish. That's it, I'm done.  

(If you try it let me know what you think, I'd love to hear if I'm crazy or if this really is amazing for anyone else).

Paneer Curry with Peas
adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound paneer, cut into 1 inch cubes (you could also you firm tofu)
5 tablespoons clarified butter (also called ghee, I found this in the butter section at the grocery)
1 large onion, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 serrano chile, minced with seeds (this added a healthy spice, so if your not a fan of spicy food either take out the seeds or use less chile)
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree (I used a quart of tomatoes I canned last fall)
1teaspoon turmeric
1 3/4 cups shelled fresh peas from about 1 3/4 pounds fresh peas in pods (frozen peas that are thawed would also work)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Steamed rice

Place flour in a medium - to - large bowl (go bigger rather than smaller here).  Add paneer to bowl, toss well to coat with flour.  Heat 2 tablespoons clarified butter to heavy large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.  Shake excess flour from paneer; add to skillet and cook until browned in spots, stirring to toss.  This should take about 5-7 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer paneer to plate and set aside.

Place onion pieces in processor. Pulse until finely chopped but not watery. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons clarified butter in the skillet used for the paneer over medium heat.  Add cumin seeds and stir until aromatic (careful not to burn these, it doesn't take very long). Add chopped onion and cook until beginning to brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, coriander and chile; stir 1 minute.  (Note: This is the base of your dish, it bring immense flavor so try not to skimp or change the ingredients from the onion to the chilie.) Add crushed tomatoes and turmeric; bring to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium low; cover and simmer until mixture thickens slightly and flavors come together, stirring occasionally.

If serving with steamed rice I would start it here. I used white jasmine rice and it only took about 15-20 minutes to cook.  If your rice takes longer be sure to begin the rice earlier so that everything comes together pretty close to the same time.

After about 15-20 minutes, once the mix has begun to thicken, add the peas and cooked paneer; folding into the curry to fully incorporate. Cook mixture over medium heat until peas are tender and paneer is heated through, stirring slowly every couple minutes.  Fold in garam masala and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, scoop rice into a bowl and top with curry being sure to incorporate paneer, sauce and peas in the bowl.

Stats: Serves 4 as a main dish...with enough for seconds or leftovers
Time: Probably took an hour start to finish. 
Seasonal Ingredients: English Peas and cilantro

happy cooking.

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