Friday, March 05, 2010

Recipe : Mattar Paneer (Peas and Cottage Cheese)

A Respected Professor who has taught both of us was visiting last evening. I wanted to cook a meal at home as he had been on the road and eating out a lot. The only worrying thing, was that because of this move and the prolonged stay at the guest house, I hadn't cooked for almost 3 months. My kitchen is still a hotch potch of ingredients shoved into recesses by the 'un'packers and finding even something like salt is like embarking on a treasure hunt.

So I decided to cook an extremely simple meal that required minimum number of ingredients, with a focus on fresh ingredients that could be easily bought in the market.

This being winter season, fresh green peas are abundantly available and neither frozen nor dehydrated peas can compare in flavor. The sweetness and texture of fresh green peas is unmistakable in a dish. The recipe can be made with frozen peas. But fresh peas are highly recommended where possible.

Most "Mattar Paneer" dishes that you may have tried in a restaurant would be more of a gravy. But this is a dry dish (I will also give you directions on how to turn it into a curry). This version may not taste exactly like what you are looking for, but as I have mentioned before, most Indian dishes have as many variations as barbeque rubs and marinades if not more.

1/2 kilo paneer (cottage cheese, fresh is better than frozen)
1/2 kilo fresh green peas - before shelling (300 gms frozen/shelled peas)
1 medium onion
1 medium tomato
2 green chillies (you can ignore it completely, if you don't want it spicy, or increase the chillies, if you want more heat)
1/2" piece of ginger (1/2 tsp of ginger paste)
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp corriander powder (dhaniya)
pinch of cumin seeds (jeera)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp of oil
fresh corriander to garnish

Preparation: (10 minutes)
Fresh paneer has a much better texture than frozen paneer. But you can use frozen if fresh isnt available.
Chop paneer into cubes.
Rinse shelled/frozen peas
Thinly slice the onion and tomato.
Slit the chillies in half lengthwise. (Remove the seeds if you don't want the heat)
Roughly smash the ginger with a mortar-pestle or a heavy instrument (like a mallet)

Method: (15-20 minutes)
Put a pan on the fire. When hot, add the oil.
When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds. When the seeds sputter, add the ginger.
When the ginger starts to smell cooked (2 minutes), add the onion, chillies and tomato. Fry lightly for about 5 minutes. Then add the powders.
When the onions and tomato have turned soft, add the paneer and the peas. If you are using frozen paneer, cook it for 2 minutes before adding the peas.
Cover the dish and let it cook in its own liquid for 5-10 minutes. Check in between and add a little water at a time if it is turning too dry.
When cooked, garnish with fresh chopped corriander and serve hot with rotis and dhal or rice and dhal.

To turn this into a curry:
You can double or triple the amount of onions and tomatoes and puree them together. Add this puree, after the ginger is cooked. Saute the paste till it is cooked, before adding the paneer and the peas.

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