Paneer Makhani or Butter Paneer is yet another well known north Indian classic. Cubes of succulent home made cheese are simmered in a creamy, tomato sauce. Anyone who is familiar with Indian cuisine, would not have missed this rich flavorful dish.
Ah! yesterday was one of those joyous days of all times. Over the years I have slowly moved out of the “Cricket Fever” that we all suffered from while we were growing up. I even refused to watch the match at 4 am, although I did manage to see some of it later in the day. Call it the distance or the lack of time, the crazy times when I used to feel that my heart would pop out of my chest any moment while we cheered, screamed and tore the house down, are over. But yesterday was different. India WON the World Cup after many years and in our homeland too!! Yes! it could not have been a happier day. To see the men in blue run and score and fight while the crowd and everyone else rooting for them sat with pulsating hearts, tense eyes, tightened jaws and the prayers in the lips got all the nostalgia, flutter and the deep feelings back. The Indian Cricket team made us all proud.
Well the big win calls for some celebration and here I am with one of the classic recipes of India - Paneer Makhani.
Paneer Makhani goes by different names; Butter Paneer, Paneer Makhanwala, Paneer Butter Masala and a may be a few more. With nuts and raisins added to the Paneer Makhani converts it to another royal dish called Shahi Paneer. But what ever name you chance upon, the basic paneer/cheese, tomato, fresh cream and herbs remains the same in the ingredients list.
The spices might differ from region to region and even from one household to another. Some like to fry and brown the paneer, while some use it raw. I like to marinade mine in some herbs and broil them before simmering the cubes in the sauce. The marination flavors the paneer, while the quick broiling prevents the cheese from crumbling in the sauce without making them stiff from frying and browning.
Every few weeks I end up making this dish; it hits the right spot at home or at a party. There are a few dishes, like this one do true justice to Paneer – the all flavorful sauce being soaked up by the cheese, tender and succulent make it truly delightful. If you are making it for a party, remember to make some extra and sneak some in a bowl in the corner of the fridge, for this usually has almost no leftovers in my home. If you have the base sauce already done and frozen, and the paneer ready, this dish barely takes any effort or time. This is one reason I love this as a party dish, besides the fact that everyone loves it.
I have posted the Murgh Makhani, which is indeed a fantastic dish. And the Paneer Makhani stands at par and is straight substitute for the Murgh Makhani/Butter Chicken for the vegetarians out there.
Paneer Makhani – Butter Paneer
Ingredients: (serves 6-8)
- 14 oz paneer, (homemade or store bought)- cubed
- 2 tablespoons thick drained plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder * /paprika/cayenne
- 2 teaspoon kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
- 1 tablespoon oil
Note: If you are using store bought paneer, I would advise you to briefly soak them in salted hot water. The store bought paneer is usually very stiff and tight. To do the above, heat 1.5 cups of water for about 2.5 minutes in the microwave/stove top. The water should be boiling hot. Add a teaspoon of salt to the water and plunge the paneer cubes. Drain after a couple of minutes. You will see the cheese softened and it is ready to use.
* Kashmiri Red Chili Powder is a red pepper powder which is rich in color, but low in heat, similar to the commonly used Paprika.
For the Sauce:
- 2 cups Makhani Sauce (without the cream added to the sauce)
- 2.5 cups water
- 1.5 teaspoon oil
- 1 small onion, cut into chunks
- 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup heavy cream or half and half
- 1 tablespoon almond or cashew paste (soak the nuts and grind them to a paste)
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves, crushed
Whisk yogurt, salt chilli powder, kasuri methi and oil in a large non reactive bowl. Add paneer cubes to the bowl and toss for the marinade to coat the paneer. Let is sit for about 15 minutes. On an oven proof tray, place aluminium foil. Place the paneer cubes with the marinade clinging to them in a single layer on the foil. Bake for 7 minutes in a pre heated oven at 350 degree. F. Then broil the paneer for 3 minutes; turn them over and broil for another couple of minutes. Set aside.
Heat 1.5 teaspoon oil in a pan. Saute the onion and pepper at high heat for about 2 minutes. The vegetables should be still crisp. Do not over cook. Set aside.
In deep pan, add the Makhani Sauce; add 1 cup of warm water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat, add the sugar, kasuri methi/dried fenugreek leaves, chopped onion and bell pepper. Partially cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes at moderate heat.
Uncover, add the paneer cubes, and the almond or cashew paste and stir gently for the spice mix to coat the paneer. Add 1.5 cups of warm water, cover partially and simmer for 15 more minutes over moderate over heat.
Reduce the heat and allow the temperature of the pan to come down. Add the cream and gently stir it in the pan. Simmer for another 5 minutes.
The Paneer Makhani is ready to serve.