Showing posts with label paneer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paneer. Show all posts

Mar 16, 2016

Tips & Tools: Preparing Paneer

Paneer is a fresh cheese made by coagulating hot milk with lemon juice or vinegar. The whey is then drained from the curds and gathered in a cheesecloth or muslin bag before being pressed into blocks for ease of use. This versatile cheese does not melt and so may be prepared many different ways. I'm going to do a brief overview of four ways that paneer is commonly prepared in South Asian cooking: crumbled, simply cubed, cubed and fried, and a possibly "never before seen on the internet" exclusive- Kashmiri style "tsaman."

Three methods of preparing paneer:
1) Crumbled- Paneer can be crumbled and used a a garnish atop dishes or pan fried with spices to make a "bhurji." I don't really care for using paneer this way so I don't have a photo for you.

2) Simply cut into cubes- Just slice the paneer into cubes. The paneer can then simply be stirred into a sauce or gravy. Cubes of paneer can also marinated before skewering and broiling like a kebab for tandoori paneer or paneer tikka.

Plain, cubed yummy paneer.
3) Cubed and fried- For a bit of extra flavor and texture cubed paneer can be shallow fried to a create a delicate golden brown crust. This can also be useful if your paneer is particularly crumbly and or falling apart. Be sure to heat the oil for 7-9 minutes before you fry the paneer or the cubes will stick to the pan. A teaspoon of salt sprinkled into the hot oil will help prevent the paneer cubes from sticking also and give the paneer a bit of a flavor boost by forming a salty crust.

Get that oil really, really hot and add a teaspoonful of salt before you start to fry the paneer cubes.  If you don't get the oil hot enough the paneer cubes will stick and you'll have bhurji!
Lovely golden brown shallow fried paneer cubes. Well, at least some are cubes anyway.

3) Kashmiri style paneer or "tsaman"- I have never seen this technique shown online and only once in a cookbook. "Tsaman" is the Kashmiri word for paneer. Kashmir is too high in altitude for water buffaloes so the cheese is made from cow's milk and can be a bit rubbery or crumbly in it's plain state due to the lower butterfat content. Kashmiris prefer a spongy, soft texture in their paneer. To get this texture the tsaman is boiled with a bit of turmeric then drained. The cheese contracts and melds together when boiled which results in this unique texture. The turmeric in the water renders the outside of the tsaman a brilliant yellow hue. Then the tsaman is shallow fried in salted oil to give it a bit of a crispy salt crust on the outside. The delicately crisp crust contrasts beautifully with the soft, sponge-like inside. This is where a lot of restaurants and recipes get Kashmiri tsaman dishes wrong, they don't boil the paneer first to get the authentic texture. Kashmiris also cut their tsaman in rectangular blocks rather than cubes, almost resulting in a "paneer cutlet" of sorts.

Slice the paneer into rectangles about 2 inches long by 1&1/2 inches wide by 3/4 inch thick.
Drop the tsaman into water in a large stock pot with 1/2 teaspoon turmeric. Make sure the tsaman is covered by at least 2 inches of water. Heat until water just begins to boil. 
When the water just begins to boil the tsaman will float and look like this. See how it has contracted and shrinks up a bit? Remove the tsaman from the liquid and allow to drain while you heat the oil.  As the cheese is quite soft at this stage I usually put it in the refrigerator on a plate to firm up and make it easer to handle. Don't throw that turmeric/whey water away! You can use it like stock in other recipes or even to fertilize plants.

Shallow fry the tsaman in hot, salted oil to a golden brown.
Your tsaman is ready!
As you can see the tsaman turned a beautiful bright yellow hue from being boiled with the turmeric. The shallow frying gives it a delicately crisp browned crust. Inside, the tsaman is quite soft and spongy from being boiled. If you look closely you can see the tiny holes where the butterfat has melted together with the whey, that's what causes the textural change. Yes, this is a tedious extra step. We usually buy a kilo of paneer about once a month. I cut it all up, then boil and fry the entire kilo at once. I store the prepared tsaman in an airtight, sealed container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Whenever I want to make a dish, I simply take out as many tsaman pieces as I'd like to make dishes such as tamatar tsaman, or haak tsaman. 

That concludes my brief survey on preparing paneer. If you have any questions about the above techniques please feel free to ask in the comments below.

Curry on,

Mar 8, 2016

Shahi Paneer

Shahi Paneer Indian cheese curry spicy recipe mughali mughal

Shahi means royal, or fit for a king. Paneer definitely gets the royal treatment in this delicately spiced and decadently rich dish. Ground cashews and heavy cream make this velvety gravy resplendent and definitely regal. The paneer is left soft and uncooked in the gravy creating a smooth and sumptuous blend of flavors and textures.

Shahi Paneer Indian cheese curry spicy recipe mughali mughal

I don't want to hear any whining or moaning about the use of heavy cream and ghee in this dish. This dish is for a vizier, sultan, shah, caliph, maharaja, maharani, emperor, empress, or even a khan. The gravy should be as satiny and silky as if it were made upon the finest looms of Benares! (If you really can't handle all this heavy cream and cashews I'd substitute coconut milk and coconut cream.)

1 C onions, ground to fine paste
1/3 C ghee or cooking oil
1 tsp salt
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 tej patta/cassia leaves
1/2 C heavy cream (or coconut milk)
8 oz paneer, cut into 1&1/2 inch cubes
Grind to smooth paste for masala gravy:
1/3 C ground cashews (or 1/4 C coconut cream)
1/2 C yogurt/dahi
2 tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp cayenne plus 1 tsp paprika)
1 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp coriander/dhania, ground
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi
3 green cardamoms
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do: 
1) Grind onions to smooth paste in mixie, food processor or blender. Heat oil or ghee in pressure cooker, kadhai,  or heavy bottomed skillet. Fry onion paste and 1 tsp salt until beginning to brown, this should take 9 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently. If onions begin to stick or scorch add 1 TBS oil and reduce heat. Add garlic, ginger, and cassia leaves/tej patta, stir well and fry for 3 minutes more.

The mixie grinds onions!
2) Heat oil or ghee in pressure cooker, kadhai,  or heavy bottomed skillet. Fry onion paste and 1 tsp salt until beginning to brown, this should take 9 to 10 minutes. Stir frequently. If onions begin to stick or scorch add 1 TBS oil and reduce heat. Add garlic, ginger, and cassia leaves/tej patta, stir well and fry for 3 minutes more.

This is what the onions should look like right before you put the cassia leaves/tej patta.
3) While onion paste is frying, grind ingredients listed under "masala gravy" to smooth paste in mixie, food processor or blender. Add this paste plus 1/2 C water to the fried onion paste and cassia leaves/tej patta. Stir well. Seal pressure cooker and allow to steam over medium heat for 3 whistles. If using skillet or kadhai bring mixture plus 1 C water to a simmer over medium heat. Allow to simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until most of liquid has gone, and the mixture forms a gravy that pulls away from the sides of the pan.

Ready to seal up the pressure cooker.
4) Remove pan or pressure cooker from heat. Allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes. Stir heavy cream and 1/2 C water into mixture  Return pan to burner over low heat and bring to simmer. Salt to taste,  stir in cubed paneer and garnish a dollop of heavy cream is desired. Your dish is ready to serve!

This is what the masala gravy should look like before you add the cream & paneer.
See how the oil has separated and the gravy has thickened & pulls away from the pan.
Helpful Hints:

If you don't want to use the 1/3 C cashews substitute 1/4 C coconut cream. If you don't want to use the 1/2 C heavy cream substitute 1/2 C coconut milk. Cream and cashews can be hard to find in Nepal sometimes so I've made this with coconut cream and milk and it is just as yummy.

This is a posh dish that doesn't reheat well with the paneer in it. If you want to make this dish ahead of time for a dinner party or a special occasion, just make the sauce without stirring in the paneer. Then right before serving bring the sauce to a simmer over low heat  and stir in the paneer.

Jan 7, 2016

Mattar Paneer (Peas & Cheese)

"Mattar" means green peas and "paneer" is a deliciously soft and mild cheese. In this popular Punjabi vegetarian dish peas and delicate paneer are simmered in a richly spiced yogurt and tomato gravy. Protein rich and sumptuously savory this entree pairs well with naan, rice, rotis or parathas.

This classic combination is always a family favorite. With very little preparation this dish comes together in about twenty five minutes. The peas we have here in Nepal aren't like the tender peas found in Western countries, they require pressure cooking to soften them up. If you are using the tender green peas found in Western countries just stir them in at the same time as the paneer so as not to overcook them.

1 C onions, sliced finely into half moons
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1&1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
3 TBS oil or ghee
1 C green peas/mattar, fresh or frozen
1 C water
1 C paneer, cubed & fried
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 C full fat yogurt/dahi
1/2 C onion, chopped roughly
2 tsp Kitchen King masala (If you don't have Kitchen King masala see the "Helpful Hints" at the end of this recipe for a good substitute.)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
2 tsp ground cumin/jeera
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/2 tsp cayenne)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 C tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 tsp salt
Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under masala in mixie, food processor, or blender to a smooth paste. Set aside.

2) Heat oil in pressure cooker,  kadhai, or heavy bottomed skillet and fry the thinly sliced onion until translucent & beginning to brown.  Add ginger, garlic, and cumin seeds, fry for 2 minutes.

3) Add masala paste from step 1 to mixture in pan and fry for 5 minutes or until oil separates from sauce. Stir in peas. Seal pressure cooker up and allow to cook for 3-4 whistles or until peas are tender. If using a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai add 1C water or stock, bring to simmer and cook until peas are to desired tenderness. (The peas here in South Asia aren't tender like the peas you get in Western countries, they are a bit tough and require a lot of cooking. If you are using the tender green peas you might just want to stir them towards the end with the paneer and just simmer them a bit.)

4) Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool. When pressure cooker has cooled open it. If the sauce is too thin for your liking continue simmering uncovered until it is of desired thickness. If the sauce is too thick for your liking continue add water until it is of preferred consistency.

5) Stir the cubed, fried paneer into sauce. (If using tender green peas stir them in now) Bring dish to a simmer again uncovered over medium heat for at least 3 minutes to make sure the paneer is heated through. Salt to taste & serve.

Helpful Hints:
If you don't have Kitchen King masala use this combination of spices- 
 1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 

Don't have any yoghurt? Use full fat milk or coconut milk.
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