They say you can rarely go wrong with it. As long as it is fresh, I’ll add to that. I always make paneer at home. It is simple enough. Here is how I do it. I wanted to try a recipe different from the regular Butter Paneer Masala, the super quick Paneer Tikka Masala or Chilli Paneer that I usually make.
Wanted to go the Kashmiri way as the monthly challenge at ‘Chefs Across Boundaries’ was the cuisine of this beautiful state. The challenge was set up by the very talented Nidhi S Raj. Thanks for this opportunity Nidhi 😀 It was a learning experience and lots of fun!
As I knew nothing about this cuisine apart from the famed ‘kehwa’, I sought help from a buddy who belongs there. A big Thank you to my dear Nasima Singh for referring this khazana of a book to me.It is called ‘Taste of Kashmir’ and was easily available on the iphone app store and now I can try several new things from this wonderful cuisine!
Chamani Qaliya ( A cousin of the rich Shahi Paneer, I say)
Here is what you need
500 grams paneer/cottage cheese
½ cup milk
The following ingredients to be boiled in milk and water :
A small piece of broken dry ginger/saunth/can use fresh grated ginger if dry not available)
½ tsp aniseed/saunf
A pinch of asafoetida/heeng
¼ tsp turmeric
10-12 cashewnuts and almonds each
A medium sized onion,cubed (skip to make jain style)
4-5 cloves garlic (skip to make jain style)
Dry Masala powders
A pinch of ginger powder
A pinch of garam masala
½ tsp Kashmiri lal mirch/ red chilli powder
½ tsp coriander/dhaniya powder
Salt to taste ( I add a tsp)
¼ tsp sugar (skip if not desired)
A pinch of cinnamon powder ( or an inch piece of cinnamon)
A pinch of black pepper powder
2 Tbsp ghee
1 bay leaf/tej patta
¼ tsp caraway seeds/Shah jeera
2 green cardamoms/elaichi
1 black cardamom/badi ilaichi
½ cup of thick, well beaten curd/yogurt at room temperature
4-5 strands of saffron/kesar ,rubbed well in the mortar and pestle with a few drops of milk
Cut the paneer pieces into cubes and fry/shallow fry. I personally don’t like to fry them so I just add the chopped pieces to the gravy at the end.
In the mortar and pestle, run and grind the saffron with a few drops of milk or water till the colour and aroma is released well. Leave soaked while you prepare the gravy.
In a heavy bottomed pan/kadai take the milk and add half a cup of water, dry ginger piece, aniseed, onions and garlic (if using), cashews, almonds, turmeric powder, asafoetida and bring to boil. Lower the flame and boil for 10-12 minutes.
Strain and save the soup/stock to be used later for the gravy.
Remove the dry ginger piece from the sediment and grind it to a paste.
Heat the ghee in a pan/kadai and add the whole spices- bay leaf,cinnamon stick,black cardamom, green cardamom, cloves and caraway seeds.
Roast in ghee on low heat till they release the aroma.
Add the cashew and almonds paste,
Add salt, chilli powder, coriander powder, ginger powder, garam masala powder, black pepper powder,cinnamon powder, ( if using) and sauté covered on low heat till the ghee is released.
Add the strained soup saved from before and curd (make sure curd is at room temperature else it will split in the gravy) and cook for another 10 minutes on low heat.
At this point, I remove the large pieces of sabut /whole masalas (bay leaf, black cardamom etc as I don’t care for the big pieces in the gravy while eating)
Stir in the saffron and the paneer and mix gently so that the gravy coats the paneer well.
Serve hot with rice or, like I did, with butter nan and roti.