My Favourite Matar Paneer

matarpaneerdinner

Peas and home made Indian Cheese in a flavorful tomato sauce…  Pure comfort food !  I’m sure Saag Paneer (spinach and paneer) which is a standard in Indian restaurants in most “western” countries, is more well known. This dish is made with peas instead of spinach and the cubes of paneer (fresh Indian cheese) are cooked with the peas and a tomato sauce which has a beautifully light, silky texture. Because of the way the spices are cooked into the dish, it has an elegant and complex flavor. Serve with rice and, if you like a couple other veggie dishes such as a nice Dal and a spicy potato dish to make a full Indian vegetarian feast !

mataronions

I’ve learned quite a few interesting techniques through Indian recipes.  One being the way to start the dish off with onions and usually garlic and ginger.  Instead of just “sweating” or “browning” for a few minutes, the onion mixture is cooked slowly for about 15 minutes and each time they start to stick you add a couple spoonfuls of water.  The final results give you a very deep flavored, almost caramelized base for your dish.  I now often use this method in other European dishes.  This is explained in the below recipe.

Matarpaneer

For the Paneer, or Indian Cheese, you could either buy it or make it.  Once I made this for the first time, I was hooked and its a regular event in our house….  So so easy.  Boil milk, curdle milk, strain curds…. Just minutes after the boiling point…. and Voila !  you have Paneer.  Here’s my RECIPE

Matarpaneer2

When we get our hands on some fresh raw milk we often just fry up some Paneer and eat it as an aperitif with drinks.  The cubes can be dipped in cumin or sesame seeds before frying then sprinkled with sea salt.

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I know this recipe looks long and complicated, but it really isn’t….  TRUST ME 😉  Its a question of sitting down with a cup of tea and reading it through then getting all the ingredients out on the kitchen counter before starting.  After that, you’ll be done in about 20 minutes !  You could use fresh peas, but anyone who grows peas know that they are best popped immediately into mouths after picking.  Peas are the only frozen, shop bought veg, you will find in my freezer, and I LOVE THEM !!

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Matar Paneer


  • 3 small garlic cloves
  • 1 1/8 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup canola (rapeseed) oil
  • A ½ of a cinnamon stick
  • 6 green or 3 black cardamom pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 12 to 15 black peppercorns
  • 4 whole dried red chiles (leave these out if serving kids or non “chili heads” and add at the table)
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 bay leaf (fresh if you can)
  • 1½ medium onions, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • A 4cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 500g tomatoes (about 3 medium), very finely chopped (in the winter I used my own canned tomatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1 cups water (add more near the end if you prefer a thinner sauce, I like mine thick !)
  • 500g frozen peas, unthawed
  • 1/8 teaspoon garam masala
  • A handful of chopped fresh cilantro/coriander

Heat ½ tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add as many squares of paneer as will comfortably fit and brown the squares on all sides. Drain the cheese on paper towels. Continue this way to brown all of the paneer, adding ½ tablespoon more oil as needed. Set the paneer aside.

For the sauce, combine the garlic and 1/8 teaspoon of the cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or an electric spice grinder and grind to a paste.

Put the oil, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, and peppercorns in a large, deep pot over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until the cinnamon stick unfurls, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the chiles, the remaining 1 teaspoon of the cumin seeds, the coriander seeds, and bay leaf and cook, stirring, until the seeds turn golden brown, about 1 minute.

Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions turn a uniform golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Keep a cup of water beside the stove as the onions cook. As the onions begin to stick, add water, about 1 teaspoon at a time, and scrape the bottom of the pan with the spoon to pull up the browned bits and keep the spices from burning. Do this as often as necessary (five or six times) until the onions are well browned.

Add the ginger and cook, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes, adding water as needed to keep the onions and spices from sticking. Stir 1 teaspoon of water into the garlic paste. When the ginger has cooked, add this garlic paste to the pot and cook until the water has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and about 1 tablespoon water and cook until the mixture begins to dry out and stick to the bottom of the pan, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and cook until they begin to dissolve, 3 to 4 minutes. Then turn down the heat and cook until the tomatoes have completely melted into the sauce and the oil is starting to pool around the onions, 2 to 3 more minutes.

Whisk the yogurt until smooth in a small bowl. Stir in a spoonful of the hot sauce to temper the yogurt and then return the mixture to the pot. Add 2 cups of water and the peas. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook until the peas have thawed, 4 to 5 minutes.

Adapted from the book “Indian Home Cooking” by Suvir Sarah and Stephanie Lyness (great book !)

Bon appetît !

Lunch today…..  Matar Paneer, Spicy Potatoes, Coconut Dal, Steamed Basmati and our good friend Olivier (who happens to be half Indian so even our guest fit right into the “theme”) ❤

matarpaneerplat

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One thought on “My Favourite Matar Paneer

  1. Pingback: Crispy Cauliflower – GOOD food from the good life . . .

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