SPICE IS THE VARIETY OF LIFE
The other day I was going through old photos and came across my friend, Anita’s, wedding photos. It was a large Indian wedding, although she promised me it was moderate sized as far as Indian weddings go. It was a grand event, so different from what I know of weddings. It was full of energy and colour, dancers and delicious Indian food. It was a real honour to attend the celebration and, of course, see my beautiful friend marry the love of her life.
These pictures reminded me of the many times she has shown me how to make chai and all the home-made samosas I have eaten at her house. One day I, too, will perfect the chai and samosa making processes and when I do, I will be sure to blog about it. I was beginning to crave a delicious, vegetarian, spiced meal. The wedding had served up many fresh veggies, naan, roti, curried dishes and one of my favourites, paneer.
Paneer is a very mild, firm cheese that doesn’t really break down when heated. It is perfect for the flavourful sauces and spices of Indian cuisine: curries, turmeric, cumin and all the other masalas that are used. Paneer can be prepared in many ways. I have tried stuffed paneer pakora which is deep fried. Anything deep fried is good in my opinion. Mattar paneer is made with peas while saag paneer is mixed with a creamed spinach of sorts. Amongst all the other ways to prepare this cheese is shahi paneer. This is my absolute favourite and so I headed to the local grocer and picked up a few things with the hopes of making this at home.
It was a success. The base of a good sauce is to toast the spices in some form of fat. Ghee, a type of clarified butter, is often used but I only had regular butter on hand which worked just as well. I wanted to start simple with this recipe so I used fresh garlic and a piece of hot chili. This made a good base. The next time some great additions would be cumin, onion, turmeric and coriander.
One of the things I like most about shahi paneer is that it is tomato-based so I added 1 C of organic tomato sauce to my spice mixture. This would work well with fresh or canned diced tomatoes as long as they were cooked down. Some recipes refer to shahi paneer as having a cashew sauce but I have yet to try it that way at a restaurant. Because I am lucky to live in such a multicultural area, I was able to find shahi paneer sauce spices already prepared. If you are unable to find this mix, you can try this garam masala recipe from epicurious to add to your tomato and milk base but there are so many unique spices involved that you may need to experiment a bit.
The cashew version gets its creaminess from the cashews. I simply followed the instructions on the package which was to mix the spices with 1 C of milk. I have tried versions with buttermilk and also with cream and even yogurt. They are all tasty but the point of this recipe was to try and reproduce a version at home that was simple and tasty using things that could easily be found in the grocery store.
I cubed and quartered small, white button mushrooms and cooked them in the sauce before adding my paneer. I wanted all the pieces to be approximately the same size. I have some frozen peas, corn and carrots in the freezer that I would try in future recipes. It is traditionally a vegetarian dish so you could modify it with whatever vegetables tickled your fancy. I topped off the recipe with some fresh, chopped cilantro tossed into the saucy mushroom paneer.
400 g paneer (cubed)
1 Tbsp butter
piece of chili pepper (to taste)
2 garlic cloves (minced)
50 g (1/2 pack) shahi paneer mix
1 C tomato sauce
1 C milk
1/4 C cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste
16 small, white mushrooms (quartered)
1. Fry chili and garlic in butter for a few minutes.
2. Add tomato sauce and stir until it begins to simmer.
3. Stir in shahi paneer mix and milk.
4. Add quartered mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes until they begin to soften.
5. Toss paneer and cilantro in sauce.
Protein 23.73 g