I’m known to be a person who cook what I feel like eating. If I feel like eating chicken, then I buy the chicken if it’s not there at home, and then search the fridge/ kitchen cabinets to see what I can do with it. I rarely look at what’s there in my refrigerator, what’s going to go stale, and then accordingly dish out a meal. I don’t like food telling me…. “hey make me before I go stale.” I guess I can choose to be this way, probably because I live in Dubai where all your grocery is just a phone call away. You want chicken, capsicum, onion, curd, juice, cumin seeds, anything will be at your doorstep in matter of minutes (Convenience shopping sitting at home!). I know this is practically impossible if you’re residing in India/USA where you need to personally go to the nearest store to pick up whatever you need. In such cases, you can’t decide to cook something, and then see you’re missing a very vital ingredient, and run to the store to get it. Midway of the cooking, you realise there’s yet another ingredient missing…then what?!??!
Anyways, since I cook what I’m in the mood for, I don’t know what I’m going to cook when. And that’s the reason I don’t like stocking too much of anything – fish, meat, vegetables… nothing. Because I might feel like eating the day I purchase it, and will be heading home all excited to make it…and then something unexpected like guests coming home, or a dinner invite at a friend’s place or a change of the craving (the list can go on..) will eventually lead me to cook the fresh produce another day. And that’s the day I’m worried about… because never have I craved for the same thing for more than 2 hours, so forget craving 2 days back to back. And so now though I don’t want to make it, I’m forced to, else it’ll go stale. But what if I’m not in the mood to eat that?? And like all chefs tells you time and time gain…you need to put your heart, mind and soul into the food you cook and serve it with love. Surely that’s not going to happen, if I don’t feel like eating what I’m cooking.
One such item I rarely buy fresh, is Paneer (cottage cheese). Even though I cook it atleast once every fortnight, I buy the frozen packaged ones. I know the fresh ones taste better but then the frozen ones give me the liberty to cook them when I feel like, anytime in the next 6 months. I mean isn’t it better buying something frozen and using it rather than buying something fresh and then throwing it out?? But then the other day, I surprisingly fell in love with the fresh Paneer at the cheese store, and bought off a big block. Why?? Just because. I had no clue what I was going to do with it, but still picked it up. Came back home determined to cook it for dinner that night and not to let it go waste. Looked around the web world for some recipes and that’s when I stumbled upon Sanjeev Kapoor’s Paneer Butter Masala. It’s really a mouth-watering recipe and the taste just lingers on your tongue and your senses!
So this is the way I made with very slight variations from the original.
PANEER BUTTER MASALA (Cottage cheese cooked in spicy rich tomato gravy and butter)
- 500 grams paneer – cubed
- 4 onions, sliced (the recipe asks for only one onion, but since we need a lot of gravy, I increased it)
- 3 big tomatoes – pureed (the recipe calls for 5-6 tomatoes, but the husband is not a big fan so reduced it)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 cloves
- 1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
- 2 teaspoons red chilli powder
- 5 tablespoons cashew nut paste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kasuri methi
- 1 teaspoon tandoori masala (optional for color… I didn’t use!)
- 1 teaspoon garam masala powder
- salt and lemon juice – to taste
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons oil
- 5-6 tablespoons fresh cream
- fresh coriander – chopped for garnish (I think I forgot the coriander leaves!! )
Skin the onions and blanch them in hot water for 3 mins, then puree them to form a paste. Do the same with tomatoes, unless you are using tomato puree directly.
Take 3 tablespoons oil, heat in a pan for 2 mins, the saute the paneer cubes in it till golden brown.
Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a pan (I even added the oil in which I fried the paneer in). Add the bay leaf and the cloves, then add the onion paste and saute till light-brown. Add ginger-garlic paste. Saute for 3 minutes. Add chilli powder, followed by the cashew paste and fry for 5 mins.
Add tomato puree, crushed kasuri methi, coriander powder, turmeric powder, garam masala and salt. Stir and let it simmer for some time.
Add the paneer cubes and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add a small cup of water and let it cook on medium heat till you get the desired curry consistency. Remove from fire, stir in remaining butter and fresh cream.
Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve the Paneer Butter Masala with any bread of your choice, pulao or plain rice.