The only cheese in a Punjabi dictionary is Cottage Cheese or Paneer as we call it. There is an unending supply of Paneer in Punjabi homes and we do a million different things with it. I don’t remember a time in my childhood when the fridge in my parents home did not have a block of home made Paneer. It becomes a filling for Parathas and Koftas. It is a superstar in rich gravies. It also makes appearances in insipid, watery sauces. And if we don’t have enough of it already we grill it to make Paneer Tikkas or use it to make some dessert.
When invited to a Punjabi home for a meal, you can be assured that you will probably find a dish which features Paneer. The fact that this simple block of firm white cheese can be put to so many incredibly good uses means it has become an integral part of our homes and hearth. And I love cooking with it.
One of the easiest, simplest and lip smacking Paneer Dish I make with a very basic Onion & Tomato gravy which I always stock in the freezer. It means that I can have this fantastic paneer dish ready under 20 minutes flat. Served hot with Rotis, Parathas or even rice this fragrant Paneer Masala becomes a fabulous dish to have in your kitchen diaries.
For the Paneer
250 gms paneer cubed
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
2 tsp ghee or butter
1 tsp caraway seeds (Shahi Jeera)
One tsp Turmeric powder
One tsp Red chilli powder
One tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste
For the Gravy
One large Onion roughly chopped
Two medium Tomatoes roughly chopped
Two Green Chilies
Two cloves of Garlic
One tsp fresh Ginger paste
Two green Cardamoms, 1 inch Cinnamon stick, Two Cloves
One Bay leaf
Two tsp Vegetable Oil
Make the Gravy
Heat oil in a pan and add the Ginger, Garlic, Green Chilies, Cardamoms, Cinnamon, Cloves and saute for a few seconds.
Add the Onions and cook till almost caramelized.
Now add the Tomatoes, cover and cook till mushy.
Remove from the heat, cool and grind to a smooth paste.
Bringing it all together
Heat Butter/Ghee in a pan and add the caraway seeds.
Add the Sauce we prepared earlier and let it simmer on a low flame till the butter/ghee starts to separate from the sides of the pan.
Now add all the spices except and cook for a minute before adding the Paneer and gently mixing it in the gravy.
Cook for 5 minutes before adding ½ cup of hot water. Sprinkle the Fenugreek leaves on top and cook till some of the water has evaporated. We are looking for a thick consistency for the gravy. Also keep in mind, Paneer doesn’t need cooking, so try and not overcook the dish.
Serve hot with anything you desire.