Here is a quick and easy recipe for paneer with the invigorating flavors of mint.
This fast growing herb is used liberally in Indian cuisine, especially in northern regions and especially during the summer months. You will find generous specks of green mint with the refreshing smell in drinks, yogurt, salads, marinades, curries and desserts. The cooling effect is more than just for flavors. It is almost medicinal when the heat wave strikes.
My family loves Paneer Makhani. The husband who is not so fond of paneer otherwise, finds delight in mopping up every bit of it with buttered Naan. Since the Makhani is a time consuming and rich dish, I have had to get creative and cook paneer which somewhat simulates the creamy sauce in texture and look, but these are much quicker to make. Each one of them comes in different flavors.
fresh mint paste.
Masala paneer, methi paneer(yes I will post those too sometimes), paneer in fennel tomato sauce are a few to mention.
With the mint growing in abundance at home, I wanted to try out using them to flavor this light tomato sauce. It worked out beautifully. I have used both fresh and dried mint here. But there are really no rules. Use whatever is available and however much you want to use. You will find a subtle balance of the tomatoes, mint and honey in this sauce. It is light yet creamy, fragrant and really easy to make.
Tie up fresh mint in a bunch and hang dry. Store for later use.
Paneer in Tomato Mint Sauce
Ingredients: (serves 3-4 as a side)
- 1.5 -2 cups cubed Paneer* (+ 1.5 -2 cups of hot water if you are using store bought paneer)
- 1.5 – 2 cups (8 oz cup size) grated fresh tomatoes (about 2 large vine ripe tomatoes)
- 2 tablespoon oil/ghee/butter
- 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 hot green chili pepper, slit (adjust to taste)
- 5-6 tablespoon of finely chopped onion (skip the onion for satvic recipe)
- 2 teaspoon dried mint powder + 2-3 tablespoon dried mint powder (adjust this to how strong you want the mint flavor to be)
- sugar or honey to offset the tart/sourness of tomatoes (adjust amount)
- 1 teasoon paprika/cayenne/red chili powder (adjust amount to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- salt to taste
- 2 -3 tablespoon fresh mint paste (use more or less)
- 6-8 raw cashews, soaked (optional: for a creamy sauce)
- a dash of heavy cream (optional)
- fresh mint for garnish
*Note: Use Extra Firm Tofu for vegan version. Use sugar or any other vegan friendly sweeterner. Skip the cream. Almond milk maybe used.
Cube the paneer.
If you are using store bought paneer (Skip this step if you are using homemade paneer):
Heat the 1.5 cups water to boiling hot (stove top or microwave). Add a pinch of salt and some crushed dried mint. Add the paneer cubes and allow them to sit for about half an hour.
Grate the tomatoes (I always use a box grater).
Heat oil/ghee in a pan. Add the cumin seeds and the slit chilli pepper. When the seeds start to sizzle, add the onions and cook at medium heat until they soften and just start to brown at the edges. They should not turn all brown. Add the grated tomatoes. Toss them, add the red chilli powder/cayenne/paprika, fresh mint paste, and the dried mint and then cover and cook until volume has reduced and the tomatoes are all cooked and they release the oil on the sides of the pan.
Remove cooked tomatoes from the pan and place it in a blender/food processor. Strain out the paneer and add this water to the blender. (if you have not soaked the paneer, just use equal amount of warm water with the tomatoes). Add the cashews if you are using. Blend/process everything together to a smooth consistency. You will have a smooth and silky yellow-orange sauce.
Now in the same pan, add the cinnamon powder and allow it to heat up. Add the blended sauce in the pan. Add salt and the paneer cubes. Bring it to a simmer and cook on low to medium heat for about 7-10 minutes. If you think you would need more sauce, add some water, a little at a time. If you need less sauce, simmer of the liquid for a longer time. During this time the consistency of the sauce gets adjusted and everything cooks together for the flaors to blend. The consistency of the sauce should be such that they coat the paneer and still have some extra to be mopped with bread.
Add needed amount of honey. The honey should not make it sweet. It is only to balance off the tart/sourness of the fresh tomatoes.
Finish off with a dash of heavy cream if you want.
Switch off the heat. Garnish with more dried and fresh mint if you wish and keep covered until ready to serve. Serve hot with Naan or on rice.
Preparation TIme: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Difficulty Level: Very Easy
Serves: 3-4 as a side
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