Seems like I am back after a long hiatus – 4 days, uhmm not really but I missed being here! How is it November already? I just can’t wrap my head around how fast time is going and the seasons changing…it snowed on Halloween here. The weather is also playing tricks on my mind. It’s crazy!
With the Indian festival season behind us, now is the time to settle in and start thinking about the next phase of the year that lies ahead – beautiful holidays of Thanksgiving and then Christmas. Lot of cooking, baking, filling the home with cosy fall and winter aromas. So exciting!! Above all, I have a big birthday party to plan and put in action in two weeks…yikes! Hopefully I’ll survive – lot of deep breathing needed!
Today, I want to share with you a very popular North Indian dish. Being a Punjabi, I might claim it to be a Punjabi dish but there is really no “zoning” of food. I am talking about Mutter Paneer – an irresistibly tasty curry that you will find on menus of almost all North Indian restaurants and is also very popular “dhaba” food. Soft paneer cubes and sweet peas are dunked in a flavorful curry made of onions, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. It is one of my go to dishes when I do not have a lot of fresh vegetables in the crisper bin. I almost always have a batch of paneer and bag of peas in the freezer and that is what does it for mutter paneer. If paneer is not your thing, extra firm tofu will do the trick as well. If you are in a rush, mutter paneer can be made in a pressure cooker, though it doesn’t take too long to cook in an open sauce pan too.
Paneer – 1 batch (recipe here), about ½ pound or 250 g
Green peas – 1 cup (frozen or fresh)
Onion – ½ onion or about ½ cup chopped onion
Tomatoes – 2 ripe, or 1 cup chopped tomatoes
Ginger – ½ inch piece, peeled
Garlic – 2 cloves
Green chili – 1 (optional)
Oil – 1 tablespoon
Cumin seeds – ½ teaspoon
Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
Red chili powder/Paprika/Cayenne powder – ¼ teaspoon
Coriander powder – 2 teaspoon
Garam masala powder – ¼ teaspoon
Salt – to taste
Water – 1.5 cups
Coriander – leaves from 4-5 sprigs, finely chopped
If using frozen peas and paneer, set them out on the counter to thaw. If your paneer is in a block, you might want to dunk the bag of paneer in warm water to quickly thaw it. I always cut my paneer into cubes before freezing. Saves me a lot of time and frustration. If using tofu, wrap it in a paper towel or kitchen towel and put something heavy on it to further drain out the moisture.
Grind together onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chili to a smooth paste to make the base of “masala” for our mutter paneer. You can do it in a blender or with a hand blender. You might need to add a tablespoon or two of water.
Set a heavy bottomed saucepan or pressure cooker on medium high heat, add oil and once the oil is shimmering add the cumin seeds. Wait till the cumin seeds start dancing around in the hot oil, then add your prepared ground masala. It might splutter and splash a bit so be careful. Add all the dry powders except garam masala, stir and mix everything together. Turn the heat to medium low and cook/bhoono the masala till all the moisture evaporates and you can see tiny droplets of oil start to appear at the edges of the masala. This should take no more than 10 minutes. Keep stirring in between.
While the masala is cooking, cut the paneer/tofu into bite size cubes. If you feel like it, you can pan fry the paneer in a little bit of oil in a nonstick pan to make sure it doesn’t fall apart in the gravy. I do this only when I am feeling “fancy” or making mutter paneer for company.
After the masala is bhoonoed (cooked as per above description), add the peas and cubed paneer, about one and a half cups of water (add to adjust consistency to your liking, we like our curry a little thick), salt to taste and mix. Turn the heat up to high and cover with a lid. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and cook for 10-15 minutes. If using pressure cooker, after turning the heat to high, put the lid on and cook for 1-2 whistles.
Turn the heat off, uncover (for pressure cooker wait till the pressure releases by itself), add garam masala and chopped coriander, adjust salt (if needed). Serve hot with roti (recipe here), homemade garlic naan or rice (recipe here). Enjoy!!
Love – Vaishali.
Sauce pan/pressure cooker
Knife and chopping board
Measuring spoons and cups