Paneer Masala

9:22 PM

It's funny how with just a change of time makes things feel precious to us. The other day the husband came home feeling triumphant with a block of our favourite paneer. I am not much of a paneer lover yet the sight of new ingredients made us happy. Though not on her usual track, life sure has found a new normal to carry on.

Staying home all the time is not easy but what I am loving most is the support that we are getting to experience at this time. When Online networking is the only way to socialise, this bond between people seems like a blessing from heaven. So when Somedutta of My Friday food swings asked me to post a recipe for her weeknight curry theme, I thought of using this block of paneer.

I learned this simple Dhaba style Masala Paneer recipe (cottage cheese in spicy gravy) long back on a highway trip. It was much past lunchtime, the Dhaba ran out of food. but seeing our misery they agreed to serve us this paneer and some tandoori rotis. While the cook made it from scratch on open fire I watched and wondered how some simple pantry staples could result in such a delectable curry. In an ideal world, I would have loved to smoke this dish to mimic the woodfire fire aroma.  but I have run out of charcoal.

This was served with some sourdough tandoori roti. If you want my tandoori roti recipe go HERE.

Make it if you get some paneer during this time. It sure will satisfy you.

Dhaba Style Paneer Masala
(4-5 servings)

Paneer: 400 gms
Onion: 2 medium; finely chopped-2/3 cup
Ginger garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Tomato: 2 big; Pureed-1/2 cup
Green chilly: 1
Besan/ chickpea flour: 1 tbsp heaped
Coriander powder: 1/2 tsp
Chili powder: 1/2 tsp 
Kashmiri chili powder: 1/2 tsp (for colour)
Kasuri methi: 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder: 1/2 tsp
Bay leaf: 1
Peppercorns: 5-6 
Oil: 2+2 tbsp
Ghee: 1 tbsp

Cut the paneer in 1/2" cubes. 
Peel and finely chop the onion. 
Wash and make a puree of the tomatoes in your mixie. This is advisable as it yields a very smooth gravy.
Warm 1+1/2 cups water, add a pinch of salt to it and keep it ready before you start frying the paneer.
Take a pan or kadhai and dry roast the besan on low flame till it smells nutty (5-6) minutes. Take out.

Clean the pan and add a tbsp of oil. Heat and place half or one-third of the paneer. They should be in one layer, not crowded or overlapped. Fry for a minute on each side (medium flame) and take out the pan and place them in the warm water. This will make them soft. Fry the rest of the paneer and place it in the water.

Heat the rest of the oil and when it starts to smoke add the bay leaf and roughly crushed peppercorns.
Stir and add the chopped onion. Sprinkle some salt and both types of chili powders in it and cook on medium flame. Stir and cook till they are browned and start to ooze oil on the sides (6-8) minutes.
Add the ginger-garlic paste and chopped green chilly to it. Cook for another 4-5 minutes and then add the turmeric and coriander powder. Mix and cook a for a minute and next add the tomato paste. Cook on medium with a cover till the tomatoes are cooked through and the juice dries out. 

Now add the water from the paneer and mix. Sprinkle the Kasuri methi and check the seasoning. Adjust by adding more sugar/salt or chili powder. Once it starts to boil add the fried paneer. Mix. Cover and let it cook on medium for 6-8 minutes. 
Mix the besan with 2 tbsp water and pour in. Mix immediately and coil it on high for a few minutes or till the gravy is thickened.

Mix in the ghee and the garam masala. Cover and switch of the flame.

Let it stand for 10 minutes and then serve with roti/ paratha or some sort of pulao.

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