I’ve always wanted to enjoy paneer but have found the paneer dishes at restaurants to be… not so great. It’s an unusual cheese, sort of like cottage cheese in flavour – which is to say incredibly mild – but it’s dense and closer to tofu or halloumi cheese in composition. The delicate flavour and robust texture goes well with this lightly, spiced tomato sauce because you can actually taste the paneer, it’s not just a vehicle for other flavours. I called my friend and she recommended this recipe which uses an MDH masala mix called Shahi Paneer. I prefer to use only a small amount of chilli powder because the flavours are so delicate that too much heat will dominate.
Lightly fry the cheese first and keep aside before you begin if you’d like those lovely browned surfaces, but it’s not essential. And you can of course use almond meal in place of crushing your own cashews. You can pick up paneer in any supermarket, but you can also make it yourself. That’s next on my list, but for now, I’m happy with the store-bought variety. At this time of year, always use baby plum tomatoes; they have the best, sweetest flavour in the off-season.
Matar Paneer Recipe
1 packet of paneer, cubed
1 cup of frozen petit pois
1 large, or handful of baby plum tomatoes, diced
1 tbs butter
1 tsp tomato puree
1 handful cashews
1 onion, diced
1 inch of ginger, minced and 2 cloves of minced garlic, or a heaped tsp of ginger/garlic paste
1 tsp chilli
1/2 tsp coriander (spice)
1 tsp Shahi Paneer masala spice mix
Lightly fry the cubes of paneer in some oil, and set aside.
In a saucepan, saute the cashews, onion and tomato for about 5 minutes.
Then blitz this mix in a small processor or with a stick blender.
Fry off this tomato paste and the ginger, garlic, tomato puree, chilli, coriander and masala spices in some butter for a couple of minutes.
Add about a cup of water and simmer for a few minutes.
Add the paneer and peas and keeping simmering for 5-10 minutes.
Season to taste and add a little bit of cream if you want a creamier sauce.
Serve with naan or steamed rice, or on its own.