Growing up, this has hands down been my favorite Indian dish ever. There have been arguments at restaurants over whether we will order palak paneer or mutter paneer. So what exactly is it? Literally: peas cheese. Gross, right?
In 3rd grade, a student was selected each month to be ‘Student of the Month’ and you got a poster put up with your picture, as well as a feature in the class newsletter. If you were the student of the month, you’d fill out a form and answer questions such as: “favorite color” and “favorite subject” and “favorite food.” When it was my turn to be Student of the Month, I was thrilled. But I had no way of describing mutter paneer. I mean, I was in 3rd grade, so I wondered: “how will people know what mutter paneer is?” My sweet Dad came to the rescue. He told me to write: “cottage cheese and peas.” NOT much better. But I bought it and wrote exactly that. SO. I hope to paint a much more beautiful picture of what mutter paneer looks like, and I hope that you’ll also try to recreate this flavorful north Indian dish in your home.
For those of you who are new to paneer: your life is about to change. Richer than tofu, lighter than mozzarella, paneer is made by collecting milk fat and straining it. You can find paneer at Whole Foods if you don’t have access to an Indian grocery store.
- 3 tomatoes
- 5 green chillies
- 3 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- ¼th of a white onion, chopped
- 2 bulbs shallots, chopped
- 360 grams (12.7 oz) of paneer, cut into cubes
- 2 tablespoons yogurt
- 3 heaping tablespoons tomato paste
- 6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
- 2 cups of water
- 1 cup frozen peas
- 1 teaspoon asafoetida
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoon red chili powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1½ tablespoons salt
- 1 small chunk of jaggery OR 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 teaspoons dried kasthuri methi (optional)
- 4 tablespoons heavy cream (optional)
- a handful of freshly chopped coriander for garnish
In a deep saucepan, add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. When hot, add the cubes of paneer. On medium-high heat, brown the cubes of paneer. This will take around 15 minutes. Keep moving the cubes around so they brown evenly on all sides. When done, remove from saucepan and place all the cubes on a paper towel lined plate.
In the same pan, add the remaining three tablespoons of vegetable oil. Make sure the heat is on medium-high heat. Add the asafoetida, cumin, and red chilli powder. Stir around for a minute and then add the onion and shallots. Cook the onion, shallot, and spice mixture for 10 minutes until the onions have softened. Some of the spices and onion pieces will stick to the bottom of the pan, so scrape all of that up with your spatula as you mix everything.
Next, add the chopped green chillies, grated ginger, and chopped tomatoes, garam masala, coriander powder, and salt. Cook everything for 20 minutes on medium high heat. The tomatoes will “melt” and turn really soft.
At this point, add the 2 tablespoons of yogurt and mix well. Cook for another 10 minutes. Now add 2 cups of water, peas, jaggery (or sugar), and add back in the paneer. Mix everything together and turn the heat to high. Cook for 10 more minutes until the peas are done.
Finally, add the cream and dried kasthuri methi (if using). Garnish with fresh coriander, and eat with roti/naan, rice, quinoa, couscous, or as is!
I really hope you try this recipe. I know the list of ingredients is extensive…but so worth it!The richness of the spices and tomato really comes through because you cook everything together for so long. It’s unbelievably awesome 🙂
And to end this post, I’d like to share a corny but hilarious joke with you:
What did one pea say to the other?
Nothing, they just muttered! 🙂