Saturday, October 2, 2010

Muttar Paneer - Attempt #1

This is a beautiful plate of food. I've been loving eating and making Indian food this year. I've also been wanting to step out of my Paneer Makhani comfort zone. One of the Indian dishes that I really wanted to make was Muttar Paneer (sometimes called Mattar Paneer or Matar Paneer...I don't know what the difference is, but the dish itself is the same). I had an extra package of paneer in the fridge so this was even more inspiration to make the Muttar Paneer as soon as possible.

I stumbled upon Nigella Lawson's Muttar Paneer recipe on the Food Network website. I love Nigella Lawson mostly because it seems that she's always talking about chocolate. I don't know if this is true but every time I see her on television or read about her in a book, there seems to be a chocolate reference involved. And that's all right with me. Additionally, the Muttar Paneer picture on the website was gorgeous. So I figured I'd take the recipe and run with it.

Muttar Paneer
slightly adapted from Nigella Lawson's recipe
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 14 ounces paneer, cut into bite sized cubes
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1-inch piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup water
  • salt
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 (10-ounce) packets frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon tomato puree
  • dash of habanero sauce
  • 1 cup chicken stock (you can substitute vegetable stock if you like)

1) Heat the oil a large skillet and add the paneer cubes, in several batches, and fry until they are golden. The oil WILL splatter, so be careful. (You can also dry fry the paneer cubes in the pan sans oil, but I haven't tried this. This is Nigella's suggestion.)

2) Remove the golden cubes and rest on a paper towels to absorb excess oil.

3) Pour all but ~2 tablespoons of the oil out of the pan.

4) Put the onion, garlic cloves, ginger and water into a blender (or food processor) and blend to a pulp.

5) Fry gently for about 5 minutes with a sprinkling of salt. Stir in the garam masala and turmeric and cook for another 2 minutes before adding the still frozen peas.

6) Dissolve the tomato puree and habanero sauce in the chicken stock and pour over the contents of the pan.

7) Stir again and turn the heat down to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes, tasting to ensure that the peas are tender.

8) Add the paneer cubes. Stir to incorporate. Allow the paneer to warm through.

9) Serve over rice or naan. (I used brown rice.)

Unfortunately, there's a reason that this post is labeled "...Attempt 1". I liked it, but I wasn't completely in love with it. It had just about every element I enjoy about this dish when I order it from an Indian restaurant:

- The sauce was spicy.
- The peas were sweet and they pop in your mouth as you begin eating them.
- The paneer was firm and slightly crispy due to the frying.

But overall something was missing. I think it has to do with the lack of spices in the recipe. Don't get me wrong, the dish was "spicy", as in there's some heat from the habanero sauce. However, there just isn't the same spice profile that I would get when i order this from Taste of India down the street. So, I'm definitely going to try again. I've started to drink the Muttar Paneer Kool-Aid and so I must must must find another recipe to make!

If you try this recipe and tweak the spices (or anything else), let me know what you do and how it turns out!

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