Muttar Paneer

October 2, 2011 § 2 Comments

E: Paneer is something I first tasted in college. I don’t think I really knew what it was until one of my good friends (yes Aditya, if you are reading this, that means you) cooked with it for an Indian dinner we had. Yes it is very dense, and the texture can be a little rubbery, but we are talking about fried cheese here. How could it not be good?

spices, vegetables, and fried cheese . . . who could argue?

So when we saw that Nigella Lawson, the goddess of food, had a recipe for muttar paneer we simply had to try it. From some of the comments it seemed that her version was a bit plain, so we upped the spicing a little bit (and could probably have afforded to go even a little further). But as it stands it was warm if not spicy, and definitely had a good flavor. It isn’t even that hard to make, though frying the paneer can be messy. I tried to fry it dry but wasn’t thinking properly and used a plain skillet, which it subsequently stuck to. Adding some oil helped to fix that problem, but meant getting spattered with grease. I’d tentatively suggest using a non-stick frying pan that you can cover with a grease screen if necessary.

If you can’t find paneer at whatever grocery store you usually go to, and don’t have an Indian grocery store in your area, Whole Foods probably has it. Ours did. If you can’t find it anywhere, you could make this with tofu. It wouldn’t be made with fried cheese (so, you know, why bother?) but the dish would certainly still be tasty.

So here goes:

8 oz. paneer, cut into small cubes
2 Tbsp. canola oil (+ more for the paneer, if necessary)
1 onion, finely chopped (or food processed)
2 cloves garlic, minced (or food processed)
1 inch of fresh ginger, minced (or food processed)
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika or cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp nutmeg
16 – 20 oz. frozen peas
2 tsp. tomato paste/puree
1 C. vegetable stock
1/4 C. heavy cream (or to taste)
Salt and cracked pepper, to taste

If you want to copy what we did, start off by measuring off your cup or so of vegetable stock for the main dish, and use the rest to get some rice going in a pot. You could use water, but we always end up with excess stock that goes bad so we figured this was a good way to use it up. We added powdered ginger, lemongrass, lime zest, and a little salt to the rice. Feel free to leave it plain or go wild.

just a pot of rice

Now, handle the vegetables and paneer. Cut the paneer into cubes and set that aside to fry. Choose to either mince the garlic, ginger, and onion (the onion pieces you can leave finely chopped) or just chop roughly and pulse them in a food processor. We chose the former and I actually think it took less time than cleaning the food pro afterward.

standing by

Fry the paneer! Either use a nonstick pan with no oil (if you dare), or any kind of pan with some oil. You want the cubes evenly golden brown. If you are like my aforementioned friend you can even go farther and make them dark and crispy, but I was sick of getting splashed with hot oil at this point:

hail to the cheese

You can re-use some of your oil for the next step if you’d like. Otherwise, add 2 tablespoons or so of canola oil to a large skillet (probably your largest, as this makes a lot of food). Place the onions in and saute them for a few minutes until they start to get translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger, and fry for another few minutes on medium heat. You want to make sure the onion is palatable before you move on, so it should be translucent and basically cooked (about 5-6 minutes total).

just about ready for the next step

Add in your spice mixture, and cook the onions and garlic and ginger with that mixture for 2 minutes or so.

mmmm spices

Now you can add in the frozen peas. Dissolve the tomato paste in the cup of vegetable stock, and pour that over the mixture in the pan. Stir, turn down the heat, and let cook covered for 15 minutes or so (according to the original recipe). We didn’t cover ours as we didn’t have anything large enough to cover it with, so we just added some more stock to make up for the moisture lost in the process.

bubbling away

Once the 15 minutes are up, it is time for the final touches. Add the paneer cubes in and make sure they are re-heated to temperature with everything else. Stir in the heavy cream to make everything tastier, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve alone (if you dare) or over rice.

I honestly want more of this now just looking at it


P.S. Aditya, if you’ve gotten this far, how would you fry up paneer? Does it cook alright dry in a nonstick pan? Is there a secret I don’t know about? Or do you just use oil, and endure the spitting of oil everywhere?


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§ 2 Responses to Muttar Paneer

  • Aditya says:

    Thanks for the shout out! OK, here are my tips:

    – Paneer cooks up fine and crispy in a non-stick pan that is sprayed heavily with Pam. No oil splatter!

    – If you hate Pam (and who could blame you) I would just shallow fry the paneer. Coat the bottom of the pan liberally with oil, heat the oil over low heat, throw in the paneer and put a lid on it. Let the cubes of paneer cook for a couple of minutes on each side.

    – You also don’t have to get the paneer golden brown. It actually tastes great just cooked through. You can use very little oil, and take the paneer off just before it starts to brown. If you have good paneer, it should be creamy instead of rubbery. Unfortunately, a lot of store bought paneer can get rubbery.

    – If you can’t get paneer, it is the easiest cheese to make. Bring a gallon of whole milk up just below a boil, and teaspoonful by teaspoonful add lemon juice while slowly mixing. Try and add as little lemon juice as possible. Eventually (and it will be pretty cool) the milk fat will separate from the liquid (we call this “breaking the milk”, I am not sure what it is in English). Then pour the contents of a pot through a cheese cloth (or any clean kitchen towel, though cheese cloth is best) and let it drip overnight or put a weight on the cheese cloth and let it drain for an hour.

    Keep up the great blog!!! I read every entry!!


    • nombudsman says:

      Thanks Aditya! I had hoped you would weigh in with some of your superior experience. I’ll definitely try one of your methods for cooking it next time, see if I get better results with less mess/pain. And we’ll try making some paneer ourselves and let you know how it goes, or maybe even put it up on the blog.

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