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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Shahi Paneer - Cottage Cheese in a Delicious, Rich, Sauce

Shahi paneer is a very delicious curry/gravy preparation. The curry is a rich sauce, made with cashewnuts. "Shahi" means royal and it is truly a dish fit to be served to a king. It is a very popular dish and generally found at most Indian restaurant. The gravy is milder than a brown/red curry preparation and has a slight sweetness due to the use of cashwenuts. It has a light orange color and the authentic preparation is generally colored using saffron, though most of the versions that you find in restaurants are colored a deep orange with food color.

It is a dish that will always be a hit with your guests. Serve it hot with naan or tandoori roti.

2 cups cubed paneer
2 tbps oil
1 tsp ghee or butter
5 black peppercorns
1 2 inch cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 bay leaves
1 large red onion, cubed (else use 2 medium red onions)
1/4 cup raw cashwenuts
1/2 cup water
3 garlic cloves
1 inch ginger
2 green chillies, to taste
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup cream
1 pinch saffron
1/2 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
3 green cardamoms

Boil the onion in some water till it is cooked and pink, then drain the water. Alternately, you can microwave it for about 2 mins, till the onion is softened. Then puree it in a food processor or mixer. Then make a paste of the cashewnuts. Add about 1/2 cup of water to grind the cashews.
Whisk the yogurt so that it is smooth.
In a non-stick pan, add the ghee then shallow fry the cubed paneer pieces till the paneer pieces are lightly browned. Grind the cardamom seeds to a fine powder.

In a deep pan, heat the oil and to this add the cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves, and peppercorns. Cook for a couple of minutes till the spices are fragrant and  then add the chillies and the onion puree. Cook for a few minutes. Meanwhile make paste of ginger and garlic and add it to the pan and cook the mixture for a few minutes. The raw smell should disappear, but the don't over cook the gravy. The color of the gravy should remain pinkish white. Cook on low heat, so that you don't burn the gravy or down brown it.   Next add the whisked yogurt to the cooked onion gravy and cook for a couple of minutes till it gets incorporated into the gravy. Next add the cream and a pinch of saffron to the gravy. Cook it all together for a minute and then add the garam masala and cook for another minute. Then, add the cooked paneer pieces and cook it all together for a minute or so.

Sprinkle the cardamom powder over the curry before serving.

Soak the cashews for a few hours. Then it will be easier to grind them into a fine paste. It is important that your gravy doesn't smell like raw onion or garlic, else it will not taste good. If you don't have a non stick pan to cook the paneer, then add a little more ghee to the pan so that the paneer pieces don't stick to the pan and disintegrate. You can skip this step entirely, if you prefer to have your paneer in its original softer form. You can use readymade paneer or make paneer at home. The recipe can be found here.


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