Monday, December 13, 2010

Matar Paneer (curried peas with Indian cheese)

Here's another recipe I felt was worthy of an update. It's very easy to make, packs a big punch in the flavor department and it's family friendly. Yes, it really is! If you're thinking this is not something your kids might like, you may be surprised. My son generally won't eat peas, but he will eat this. Go figure.

The only ingredient you may find difficult to source is the Indian cheese, called paneer. If you don't have an Indian grocer nearby, try Whole Foods. I've even seen it at a local Costco (there's a large Indian population in a nearby suburb). If you can't find paneer, you can make it yourself with this recipe. It's not hard and I encourage you to try it at least once.

Matar Paneer
Serves 4 to 6
  • 3/4-pound block of paneer, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 3-in cinnamon stick
  • 3 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 large knob ginger, sliced
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 tbs tomato paste or 3 to 4 chopped Roma tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 16 oz fresh or frozen peas
  • salt, to taste
  • splash of cream
  • chopped cilantro, for garnish

In a medium-sized Dutch oven or deep skillet, heat about 3 tablespoons oil (or ghee, if you have it) over medium heat. When hot, fry the paneer, onions, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger slices. (If you prefer, don't fry the paneer and add it towards the end. This way, it doesn't become hard when it cools). Stir occasionally. When the paneer and onions are somewhat browned, add the garlic, tomato paste or tomatoes (if using) and the ground spices. Cook for about 30 seconds to a minute, stirring to keep the spices from burning to the bottom. Add the peas and a couple of tablespoons water if it seems too dry. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once most of the liquid evaporates, add a splash of cream and cook for 4 or 5 minutes more. This rounds out the flavor and adds a slight creaminess to the dish. Top with the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately with basmati rice or your favorite Indian bread.

If you like Indian flavors, you may also like:
Chicken with cilantro and almonds
Fried egg curry
Creamy chicken curry
Vegetable smash
Smokey Indian eggplant
Pickled tomatoes
Saag paneer (creamy mustard greens)

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