This is not a curry that was made at home during my childhood, but there still is some nostalgia associated with this dish, as, occasionally, we ate this dish when we went out to eat as a family. Also, since this is a popular paneer dish, it was also a popular choice for social gatherings, weddings etc. I like this dish as it is simple to make but at the same time the peas and the paneer taste brilliant together. There are many versions or ways of making this dish, it really depends on how you want the gravy, the spice levels etc. I personally like a more creamy (but light) and mildly spiced curry sauce with soft paneer and matar (green peas). I do not fry the paneer before putting it in the sauce, as I feel the texture is best soft and creamy rather than fried and firm. But again, that’s personal preference and one can adapt this dish according to one’s taste.
I am a firm believer that adding too many spices (whether whole spices or spice powders) can overpower a dish and really take away from the taste of the ingredients. It’s almost like the main ingredient/ingredients is masked and one can only taste the sauce or the spice in the gravy. So, when I make this dish, I try to use spices that will complement the dish and let the taste of paneer and the peas come through. It has a tomato base which is spiced with cumin, green and black cardamoms, some mace and bay leaf, along with turmeric, coriander and a little bit of chilli powder. The creaming agent is fried and caramelized onions with some raw unprocessed cashews. The final touch to this dish is a nice dusting of dry fenugreek leaves (‘kasoori methi’ in Hindi). There is truly something special that this does to the curry, almost adding an earthy flavour to the curry.
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Prep time:15 minutes
To make this dish you need:
- Paneer- 250 gms, cubed
- Peas/Matar- 1 cup, frozen or fresh (if its fresh, it needs to be cooked till soft before adding to the sauce)
- Onions- 2 medium, sliced finely
- Tomato- 1 large
- Turmeric powder- ½ tsp
- Coriander powder- 1 tsp
- Red chili powder- 1 tsp
- Ginger- 1 inch, roughly chopped
- Cashews- 12 pieces
- Bay leaf- 1 large
- Green cardamom- 3 nos
- Black cardamom- 1 nos
- Mace- 1 small strand
- Cumin seeds- 1 tsp
- Butter- 2 tbsp (oil/ghee can be used)
- Oil- ½ cup, for frying the onions
- Salt- as per taste
- Kasoori Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)- 1 tsp, crushed between fingers
- Fresh coriander leaves- for garnish (optional)
- Fry the sliced onion in oil on medium-high heat and set aside on a kitchen towel to drain excess oil. This will take about 7-8 minutes.
- While this is happening, blend the tomato and ginger in a blender and set aside.
- In a sauce pan, pour the remaining oil from frying the onions, and add the blended tomato-ginger mixture, butter, cumin seeds, green and black cardamoms, bay leaf and mace. Stir well and cook covered for 4-5 minutes.
- When you feel the tomato is almost cooked, add the turmeric, coriander and red chili powder. Sauté till the spices are cooked through and the oil has started to leave the sides of the sauce pan. This will again take about 1-2 minutes.
- At this point, you can add the frozen peas and the salt and cook covered for 2-3 minutes or until the peas are almost done.
- Once the peas are done, you can add the paneer and cook covered for 8-10 minutes.
- While the paneer and peas are cooking, blend the fried onions and the cashews into a thick paste and set aside.
- Add this paste to the sauce pan and mix well. The gravy at this point should be nice and thick. Check for seasoning and remove from heat.
- Add the crushed fenugreek leaves on the dish and cover for some time. We do this step so that the flavour and fragrance of the fenugreek leaves is better absorbed in the dish. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander leaves if desired. Done!
The taste of the curry is mild, the sauce is creamy and delicately spiced. You may find that the sauce is a tad bit sweet and that is due to the addition of the cardamoms, tomato and also the caramelized onion-cashew paste. The sweetness in the dish is quite subtle but if you don’t prefer it, you can add slit green chilli/chillies towards the end to reduce it.
This dish is best eaten with Roti, Paratha or Naan. You can also have it as a side dish to a rice meal. Enjoy!
Please try this dish and let me know if you liked it!