If I made one new dish that was Indian every day of my life, I still would run out of time. That’s how varied the Indian kitchen is and I haven’t even scratched the surface.
Food is about memories for me. Just like music invokes and takes me back in time. So does food. It such a intense thing for the senses, isn’t it? Just like music.
Paneer is a star and the king of ingredients in a vegetarian home. And not just in a vegetarian home. It is just the most luscious of ingredients. Because of how creamy it is as it sits in a bed of fiery sauces. A contradictory mix and I love it. It can be cooked in many different ways and this is the most classic of them all.
Because it is such a rich dish, it didn’t get cooked often at home. When it did, it was very special. Cooking the sauces for hours. The paneer added right in the end. And then the paneer just soaking up all the juices and spices. Acting like a sponge.
It takes me back to my time in India, watching my mom, chopping and grinding all the spices, refusing to use any electrical machines to help. There was joy in watching her do this. There is so much pleasure for the senses to also enjoy simple actions. My mom like me is a ball of contradictions. Just as is this dish. She is one of the most liberal women I know from her time in India and yet she was also the epitome of a woman and her place in the home. She taught me to be fiercely independent and to never look to a man for help when I could do it myself. She always told me to never take a favour I couldn’t return. She raised me as if I was a boy. “Why”, she said “must you be different from a man?” Yet she also taught me to be feminine and considered important to know how to look good for myself and pamper and appreciate my better half by means of cooking and keeping a good home. She abhorred helplessness and raised me to be better and to actually mean it when I said I wanted to be equal to a man and not just mouth meaningless words. Walk shoulder to shoulder with your partner and support him instead of leaning on him. A woman is strong. Just as strong as a man, if not stronger.
This dish is powerful like the women in my life. Full of passion and color. An explosion for the senses.
I am using a Le Creuset pan for the first time and I have to say I am blown away. It was a joy to cook in this deep pan. If you are an obsessed cook like me, I will tell you, you will find pure joy cooking in this pan.
- For the Gravy
- 5 medium tomatos
- 2 onions
- 2-3 green chilis (reduce or add more to taste)
- 1 inch fresh ginger
- 3-4 large garlic pods
- handful of cilantro leaves
- 12-14 cashews
- 6-8 whole black peppercorns
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- For the Matar/Green Peas Paneer
- 400 grams paneer, cut into strips or cubes
- 1½ cups green peas, frozen or fresh
- 1½ cups water
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1½ tsps kashmiri chili powder (use less if using regular red chili powder)
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsps kasturi methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tbsps ghee or regular cooking oil
- cilantro leaves for garnish
- salt to taste
- For the gravy, blend all the ingredients to make a smooth paste. Keep aside.
- Heat the ghee or oil in your pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they start to sputter, add the gravy paste. It might sputter quite violently. Cover with lid till it stops. Cook for around 20 minutes, till you see the oil leave the sides.
- Add all the dry ingredients and mix well. Cook again for 10-15 minutes.
- Add the peas and the water at this point. Cover and cook for a further 15 minutes or till the peas are soft and cooked.
- Add more water if your gravy is too thick. I personally prefer a thicker gravy. It is totally upto you.
- Add some sugar to your gravy is it tastes a bit sour.
- Add the paneer and cook for around 3-5 minutes. Do not overcook. Your paneer doesn't need it!
- In the end sprinkle with the kasturi methi leaves crushing them as you sprinkle.
- Garnish with the cilantro leaves and serve with some hot naan or rice!
This post is sponsored by Le Creuset.