I continue to experience and explore the 660 Curries cookbook by Raghavan Uyer. I’ve made a few dishes from this book, so far. They’ve all turned out great! There’s a whole section devoted to paneer and curries that use it.
What’s paneer? It’s the cheese made in north India and is used as a “meat” in many dishes there (since many people are vegetarian). I like to call it the “squeaky cheese” because of the squeaky feel I get when I chew it between my molars. It’s not a cheese for melting. It’s a cheese for frying and putting into savoury curries.
I was very excited when I saw the recipe for paneer in 660 Curries. It was very easy to make paneer. The ingredients were very simple. I was somewhat surprised to discover that paneer was simply cheese curds — the solid bits in the milk that remain after you separate the liquid parts out. I guess it’s how you use it afterwards that separates the paneer from the curds. Right after I finished making them, though, I tried a sample. It tasted very fresh and milky. They were some wonderful curds!
After I made the paneer, I got some great mileage by telling various people that, “I made my own cheese!” (which I consider highly amusing). Sue tells me that I must be a lesbian since I like women and I make my own cheese. I’ll also consider that amusing, but fundamentally incorrect. ;)
I was able to make enough paneer for two separate dishes. I put half in the freezer for later (which perhaps I’ll blog some other time) and put the other half in my refrigerator to use a couple days later in this curry, the mutter paneer. I assume that “mutter” is just the Hindi word for peas, since peas feature prominently in this dish. This curry was jam-packed with flavour! It was very intense. No subtlety here. It’s a very rich dish, though, with both cream and cheese. I wouldn’t eat this curry every day!
Even if you don’t like Indian curries, this flavourful and vibrant dish will cure you… with curds!
I’ll start with the recipe for paneer:
Ingredients for Paneer
As much whole milk as you can fit into your biggest pot
1/4 cup of white vinegar for every 3 litres of milk
Instructions for Paneer
1. Get your biggest pot and fill it with whole milk. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat and stir it frequently to prevent the milk from burning. It will happen faster than you think! When it starts to boil add the vinegar and remove the milk from the heat. Stir it and watch the magic! After 15 or 20 seconds the milk will separate into solid floating curds and the pale-green, thin, and watery whey.
2. Line a colander with cheesecloth or a clean dishcloth with about two or three extra inches hanging over the rim. Place the colander in your sink and pour the curds and whey through the cloth and colander. Allow all the whey to drain down your sink and leave the curds behind in your cheese cloth.
3. Allow some time for the curds to cool.
4. Fold the extra cloth onto the top of the pile of curds. Fill a heavy pot with water and set it directly on top of the cloth-wrapped cheese in the colander. Let it sit there for about 3 to 5 hours to allow more of the whey to get pressed out.
You’re done! Now you can eat some right away (it’s very delicious), cook with it right away, put it in the refrigerator (it should keep for about a week), or in a bag in the freezer (where it should keep for about two months).
Ingredients for Mutter Paneer
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons ginger
3 large cloves garlic
1 tbsp Aleppo chili flakes (or whatever kind of chili you can get)
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 fresh or dried bay leaf
1 cup tomato sauce or a couple tomatoes, finely diced, with a tbsp of tomato paste
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp sea salt
1½ cups frozen peas (no need to thaw)
¼ cup heavy cream
8 ounces paneer (as above) – cut into 1 inch cubes and pan fried in a bit of oil
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
Instructions for Mutter Paneer
1. Combine the onion, ginger, garlic and chilies into a food processor and process them until they are minced.
2. Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the cumin seeds and bay leaf and cook until the cumin sizzles, turns reddish brown, and smells nutty (about 5 to 10 seconds).
3. Immediately add the minced onion blend and stir fry until it’s a light reddish brown (about 5 to 7 minutes).
4. Stir in the tomatoes, garam masala, and salt. Lower the heat to medium to help prevent the contents of the pan from splattering (which it always does for me anyways… I’m a very messy cook). Simmer the sauce while partially covered and stirring occasionally until some oil appears on the surface and around the edges (about 5 to 10 minutes).
5. Pour in ¼ cup of water and add the peas. Cover the pan and simmer while stirring occasionally until the peas are tender and olive green in colour (about 8 to 10 minutes).
6. Gently stir in the cream, fried paneer and cilantro. Cover the pan and simmer, while occasionally stirring gently until the cheese and cream have warmed all the way through (about 5 minutes).
7. Dig out the bay leaf and serve.
I served mine with some pieces of roti, which I arranged into a lovely bread bowl for this photograph. Enjoy!
I’ll credit Janet with help on this recipe. We made at her place and used her food processor. Thanks!
Toronto, Ontario, Canada