This simple recipe for paneer and peas, or matar paneer, comes from the Punjabi cuisine. It is a light dish, yet with robust flavours. It highlights the paneer, has a spicy tomato sauce and bursts of flavour from the just-cooked peas.
If there was one dish in this collection to encourage you to make you own paneer, this would be the one. If you don’t want to make the paneer yourself, avoid supermarket paneer and try to source fresh paneer from an Indian grocer. You want to find a lighter and crumbly variety.
Further, this is a recipe that tastes best with fresh peas. Whilst frozen peas may be substituted, it just won’t taste the same.
The preparation of the masala is important. You must have the patience to allow the sauce to reduce to the right consistency. If you don’t, the dish will be watery and insipid.
This recipe is similar to restaurant offerings but with important differences. The peas need to be added close to serving so they are just barely cooked. The paneer is not cooked into the dish but is crumbled over the top just before serving. If you have made the paneer it will still be hot when you do this.
As presented here it is a side dish for four or a simple main meal for two. If serving as a main meal, an ideal accompaniment would be some naan, served straight from the pan as you finish cooking them.
- 15 g raw cashews – crushed into small pieces
- 2 tsp coriander seeds
for the paneer
- 1.5 litres milk – full cream
- 200 ml pure cream
- 150 ml white vinegar
for the masala
- 1 cup coriander leaves
- Place cashew nut pieces in a cup and add enough hot water to just cover. Set aside to soak for 15 minutes.
- Grind the soaked cashew nuts into a coarse paste and set aside.
- Heat a small frypan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and toss gently until the seeds start to colour and become aromatic. Remove from the heat, allow to cool then grind to a fine pwder.
for the paneer
- Heat the milk in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Once milk has warmed, add the cream and bring to a simmer, stirring continuously.
- Stop stirring and allow to come to a boil and start to rise. Immediately remove from heat and allow to settle.
- Stir the milk gently and slowly start to add the vinegar. Once it curdles, stop adding vinegar but continue stirring. The curds will coagulate and separate from the watery whey. Add a little more vinegar if there milk solids still in the whey. Stand for ten minutes to allow it to completely separate.
- Line a large sieve with wet muslin or cheesecloth. Place over a large bowl or saucepan and pour the cheese into the sieve. Bring the edges of the cloth up over the cheese, tie off and hang to allow whey to drain. Set aside.
for the masala
- Heat the oil in a large pan or kadai, and once hot, add the onion, sprinle with salt, mix well and fry for around ten minutes, or until othe onion softens and has golden edges.
- Once the onion has softened, add garlic and ginger, mix well and fry for three minutes or until mixture becomes golden.
- Add the cumin seeds, bay leaf, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and ground coriander seeds. Mix well and fry for another minute until mix becomes aromatic.
- Add the chopped tomatoes to the pan, mix well and reduce heat to medium. Cook for another five minutes, stirring frequently until the tomatoes have softened and the oil starts to separate.
- Reduce the heat and add the cashew paste. Mix well and bring back to a simmer.
- Whilst the mix is simmering, blanch the peas by placing them in a small pot of boiling salted water for not more than two minutes. Remove from pot and rinse with cold water to stop them cooking further. The peas should have started to soften, and should be bright green in colour.
- Add the peas to the pan, and allow them to heat, but do not allow them to overcook.
- Turn the tomato and pea mix out onto a serving plate. Unwrap the paneer and crumble over the mix – being careful as it will still be quite hot.
- Garnish with the finely chopped coriander leaves and serve.
- Gingelly oil is Indian sesame oil. It is very different from the Asian sesame oil. Substitute with vegetable oil if unobtainable.