When I was cleaning out my freezer the other day I noticed I had a few (forgotten) packs of paneer. Paneer, a fresh Indian cheese made with whole milk, is one of my all-time favorite ingredients. It’s a great vegetarian (not dairy-free) source of protein and can be used in many different ways.
You can make curries, salads and even incredible Indian sweets out of paneer!
The paneer you can buy from the Indian grocer doesn’t quite compare to the homemade version–which I have yet to post about–
but I’m always happy to find a package when I’m in a rush to make dinner.
I decided to make a quick curry using the paneer and some of the curry base that I had also frozen (recipe link can be found in ingredients list, below). Specifically, I wanted to make Paneer Tikka Masala.
I mixed up a yogurt based marinade for the paneer,
diced the paneer and chopped up a green bell pepper (capsicum),
added a little red food dye,
tossed it all in a bowl and mixed everything together really well. I used the red food dye because I was cooking for someone who couldn’t tolerate spicy food, so I couldn’t use chili powder. Usually I would skip the food dye and toss in some extra paprika for color, but I didn’t want to accidently go overboard…
I let the paneer marinate at room temperature for about a half hour. While I waited for the flavors to mingle I turned the oven to the “broil” setting and got started on the curry.
Because my curry base has plenty of onions and tomatoes, I didn’t have to worry about prepping either of those. Good thing! I didn’t have any onions, and really didn’t want to leave my warm house to take a trip to the store. It’s cold outside!
Before I heated the ghee in my dutch oven, I mixed together my dry spices. I always like to mix my spices together before I actually start cooking. You don’t have to do it this way, but I feel that it helps me make sure all the spices are balanced. I also find that if I mix the masala together prior to cooking I don’t have to worry about one spice burning while I’m digging through my giant stash of spices looking for the bulk package to refill my coriander powder. I’m always running out of coriander powder. Always.
Once the masala is mixed and the ghee is heated, I toss the spices into the pot. They need to “fry” for a couple minutes so that the spices have time to properly cook. I tossed in some minced garlic and ginger and cooked everything until the mixture became quite dry. It should look something like this:
At this point, I tossed in some tomato paste, curry base and a little butter.
While this simmered away on the stove-top I put the marinaded paneer on a rack which was placed on a baking sheet lined with tin foil. If you want to get all fancy about it, you could skewer the paneer and grill it. That’d be good too. But because I was hungry and didn’t want to get my hands dirty (the real reason), I just tossed the baking sheet under the broiler.
Approximately 4 to 5 minutes later the paneer looked like this:
I added the paneer tikka into the curry and let everything simmer for a good 20 minutes. Just long enough to cook up some basmati rice.
This curry was really creamy and delicious. And like most curries, it tasted even better the next day!
Restaurant Style Paneer Tikka Masala
(serves 6, generously)
- 12-16 oz. package paneer (homemade is best), diced and marinated (recipe below)
- 1 green bell pepper (capsicum), chopped into large chunks
- 1 tablespoon ghee (sub. veg. oil)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 7 cloves garlic – smashed and diced fine
- 1 inch ginger – smashed and diced fine
- 3 green cardamom pods
- 4 whole cloves
- 1 inch piece of cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoon fresh fenugreek leaves or 1 tbsp. dried fenugreek leaves (leave out if you can’t find)
- 1 1/2 tablespoon garam masala
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- red chilli powder, to taste –taste as you add! Sometimes, less is more!!!!!
- juice of 1/2 small lemon
- 3 cups curry gravy base – (recipe here)
- 1/2 c. half & half
- milk, as needed
- 1-2 tablespoons butter
- 1 handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
Paneer Tikka Marinade Recipe
- 1/4 c. plain yogurt
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- tiny pinch ground nutmeg
- tiny pinch ground clove
- tiny pinch ground cinnamon
- chili powder, to taste
- red food dye–optional
- 1 1/2 tbsp. oil
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients, except paneer and bell pepper (capsicum), together in a bowl. Whisk until everything is mixed together. Add the paneer. Leave the marinade at room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes.
- When you’re ready to cook it, you can put it on skewers and grill it–or you can use your broiler. Heat the oven to Broil. Put the paneer and bell pepper pieces on a rack over a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil.
- Put them in the oven and broil until they start turning a little black on the edges and look dry. The paneer won’t actually be dry, the yogurt in the marinade will help keep that from happening.
- Heat the ghee/oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Once it gets warm, add the cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, turmeric, coriander powder, and garam masala. Stir until everything becomes fragrant and dry.
- Toss in the garlic and ginger. Cook for about a minute before adding the tomato paste, red chilli powder and fenugreek leaves (I think fenugreek and nutmeg are *secret* ingredients). Stir everything together. It will be dry.
- Add the butter and 3 cups curry gravy base and whisk everything together. Once it’s smooth, add the lemon juice and half & half. Transfer the curry to a blender and blend until smooth (this can be skipped if you don’t mind a few little chunks). Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Add the cooked paneer and let the curry simmer for about 20 minutes. It’ll thicken slightly, use milk to thin…if you’d like. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve with rice or rotis.