Sunday, July 18, 2010

Paneer Makhani

Recently, I was thinking about making my favorite Indian dish at home, Paneer Makhani. It's not very expensive to order Indian food here in Hoboken, but why not make it myself? I always welcome a challenge.

Little did I know that the most challenging part of making this dish would be finding the ingredients. Seriously, Hoboken, let's get an Indian grocery store here ASAP. After a few days of intense research, I finally found an Indian grocery store down the street from where I work in Pennsylvania.

I bought the basic ingredients for a Paneer Makhani dish. So, ingredients in hand, it was time to tie down a recipe. After some searching I found a relatively easy recipe online. And of course the picture that goes along with it was very appetizing. Yes, this selection process was very precise.

Paneer Makhani
(slightly adapted from Chef In You's Paneer Makhani recipe)

Serves 4-6 people
  • 2 generous cups Paneer cubes
  • 1/2 tsp oil or ghee
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2-3 green chiles, chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 – 3/4 cups tomato puree
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
  • 1/2 tsp crushed kasoori methi leaves (also called fenugreek leaves)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (as needed for consistency)
  • salt to taste
Something that was recommended was soaking the store-bought paneer in boiling water for 10-15 minutes prior to using them. "D", which is what the blogger calls herself (maybe she's shy) says the purpose of this step is to soften the paneer and remove any impurities. I don't really care so much about impurities, but I love melted cheese. Softened cheese is a close second, so why not?

1) Cube the paneer and place in a bowl of boiling water for 10-15 minutes. Drain the cubes and set aside for later use.

2) In a pot with 1/2 tsp ghee (or oil, if you don't have ghee), add the onion, chiles, garlic and ginger with a little salt. Saute until soft.

3) Transfer this mixture to the blender and add 1/4 cup water. Blend it into a paste.

4) In the same pot as before, add 3 tbsp of butter and add the onion paste. Allow the mixture to saute for 3-5 minutes. This will help to mellow out the flavor of the onion paste.
5) Add the tomato puree and all the spices. Stir well and cook for another 5-10 minutes.

6) Add sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. Add more salt if necessary.
7) Gently drop in the paneer and stir to coat the cheese cubes. Cook for another 2-3 minutes so the paneer can absorb the flavors.

8) Lower the heat to a simmer, then add the heavy cream. Mix well.
Here's a tip for making this dish: Make it in a pot. I know this is kind of strange, but the puree won't evaporate as quickly. If you want a drier dish(though I don't know why you would), feel free to use a skillet.

In case you haven't figured it out yet from the recipe, this Paneer Makhani is not a meal for the dieter or faint at heart. If you want to help reduce your caloric intake, you can simply use less cream. It won't taste as good, but carry on as you wish.

The chiles made this dish pretty spicy. I used 3 chiles the first time I made it, but I stuck to 2 chiles the second time. I like spice, but I enjoy being able to finish a serving more than anything. If major spice is the thing for you, then by all means go for it. The combination of the paneer and the heavy cream helps to balance out the heat of the dish and make it smooth and creamy. In addition, it helped to tone down the tang of the tomato puree. It's soooo good. The reason I had to make this recipe twice is because I ate most of it in the same day the first time I made it. Oops. You may have the same problem too, once you make this.

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