Back when I lived in Cairo, my good friend Kavitha from India made me taste this wonderful dish at her lovely home. She taught me how to make the soft fresh cheese. As cottage cheese were not available in Cairo, I used to get fresh whole milk from a farmer and gradually practiced making the cheese. I started to cultivate the habit of making fresh cheese at home whenever I made butter paneer. I will make a post on how to make fresh cottage cheese later on.The cheese is readily available in most super markets these days.
To make butter paneer most recipes call for the use of red food colouring, but I am not fond of using colours, so I substitute it with red kashmiri chilli powder which yields a good colour with a mild heat. If you can’t get hold of Kashmiri chilli powder, use paprika powder.
One of the most important ingredients is Kasoori methi leaves which is dried fenugreek leaves.This lends a very strong herby and earthy flavour to this dish. Dried Kasoori methi leaves are available in Indian shops.
Serves: 3-4 persons
Time: 45 minutes
250 grams Indian cottage cheese/paneer, cubed
1 medium sized onion, ground or grated finely
1 medium sized tomato, cubed and pureed
1 tbsp ginger and garlic paste
1 tbsp coriander powder
½ tbsp roasted cumin powder
½ tsp turmeric powder (optional)
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder/ paprika powder
1 bay leaf
5 numbers cashew (optional)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp dried kasoori methi leaves/ dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between your palm before adding
2 tbsp cream or milk
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves/cilantro
½ tsp garam masala powder
¼ cup of warm water
Salt to taste
- Heat oil in a wide-mouthed saucepan.(wide mouthed sauce pan helps to evaporate the liquid and paneer will have sufficient room to cook and won’t be squashy.)
- When the oil is hot, add the bay leaves, the onion and a pinch of salt. Fry on low heat until the onion turns to a light golden brown in colour.
- Add ginger and garlic paste; fry until it turns light golden brown in colour. Add the kasoori methi leaves and fry for a few seconds or until the aroma is released.
4.Add the cashews and fry for a few seconds; add the coriander powder, cumin, turmeric and kashmiri chilli powder. Fry for a few seconds.
5.Add the tomato puree; fry for a few seconds. Add water and cook until the oil floats on top. (This means that the gravy is well cooked.) If you find that the gravy is drying up, add a splash of water. Remove from the cooker and leave to cool.
6.Remove the bay leaf; transfer the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.
7.Rinse the saucepan and heat it with butter. When the butter is hot, add the blended sauce along with warm water and boil till the oil floats on top. Add the seasoning and adjust to suit your palate.
8.When the gravy is simmering, add the cubed paneer. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Add garam masala and switch off the flame. Add the cream/milk; mix well.
Serve garnished with coriander leaves.