We are a family that loves our Paneer (Cottage cheese), It is a regular guest on our dining table and makes its appearance on a fortnightly basis. This soft fluffy pillow-like Cheese is so delicious and versatile that I can try and do something different with them without making it too repetitive and boring.
One of my favorite ways of making Paneer is Paneer Lababdar or the facelift Paneer as we like to call it. By facelift, I mean frying it before cooking it in a gravy full of Cream and Almonds. I don’t make it often and when we do we just serve it on its own with some hot plain rotis and raita (yogurt dip), hoping to give our tummies a little respite.
This is also a great vegetarian party dish and the gravy can be made in advance and frozen to be used whenever you want it to. If you can’t find Paneer from the local Indian shop you can buy some low-fat unsalted Ricotta cheese from your local store deli or roasted Chicken Breast for a meat version and it tastes as delicious.
Here is the recipe (cooking time 40 – 45 minutes)
250 gms fresh or frozen Paneer cut into cubes
1 large Onion roughly chopped
2 medium Tomatoes blanched in hot water
2 Green chilies
1/3 cup Almonds ground to a paste
3 Garlic cloves
1 tsp Ginger paste
1 tbsp fresh cream
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp vegetable Oil
1 1/2 tsp Red chili powder
Salt to taste
2 tsp Cumin powder
1 tbsp crushed Fenugreek leaves (Kasuri Methi)
1 small Cinnamon Stick
1 cubed capsicum (optional)
Cooking the Paneer:
1) Heat 1 tbsp vegetable oil in a pan and shallow fry the Cottage cheese gently on all sides till it is a light Golden Brown in color. You need to be gentle as if the Cheese is cooked too long it will taste like rubber.
2) Remove the Paneer on a kitchen towel and let it stand till you get the gravy ready.
For the Gravy :
1) Heat Butter and oil in a pan and add the ginger and garlic.
2) Add the Onion and Green chilies and saute till the Onions are almost translucent.
3) Add the blanched Tomatoes and let them cook till everything gets all mushy and soft.
4) Turn off the heat and let it cook before you blitz it to a fine paste.
Do not add Water, Cream, and Almond paste if you are making this gravy to freeze.
5) Heat the same pan and add 1 tbsp Vegetable oil, Cumin seeds, Cardamom, Cinnamon & Cloves, and the blitzed paste, cover, and cook for a few minutes on a medium flame till the butter starts to leave the pan.
6) Add the Almond paste, chilli powder, cumin powder, and Salt and mix well.
7) Add the Cream, mix well and then add 1/2 or 1 cup of hot water to the pan and let it come to a boil. Add the green Peas and let them cook for 5 – 7 minutes and turn off the heat.
8) Add the fried Paneer to the gravy and sprinkle the fenugreek leaves. Cover and let it sit till you are ready to serve. The Paneer will soak up all the hot gravy thirstily but still hold its firmness. Garnish with some Cream, Slivered Almonds, or Cashews if you wish (too much Cream can never be bad can it), and serve hot with steamed Rice or Rotis.
Tip: You can add chunks of Capsicum in the gravy before adding the Paneer if you wish to.