What was on the menu today? Paneer Matar Masala (Cottage Cheese with Peas)! 5 years back if you had told me that, I, would be making and eating paneer matar in my kitchen, I would have laughed!
Paneer (Cottage Cheese), Matar (Peas) and Palak (spinach), were food items that I didn’t care for, all my life. As for my siblings, I don’t know about Paneer and Palak because mom never made either of these at home, but they detested peas too. However, I now hear, my older brother now eats peas! While, the younger one still accumulates all his peas to the corner of the plate. And everytime when my mom makes kheema matar (minced meat with peas), he has one question “Why can’t you make kheema matar without the matar ?? Good question, I the silent spectator would be thinking. My mom would reply “because then it wouldn’t be ‘Kheema Matar’“. Point! To which my brother would immediately say, “don’t call it that then. Just call it ‘kheema Curry'”. Point! 🙂
And then when mom would make Vegetable Fried rice, she used to use the ready-made packaged frozen vegetables. And there’s no points for guessing what was the main vegetable in it. Peas! The fried rice would have less of carrots, beans, corn, but have peas swimming in it. So when mom would announce, it’s Veg. fried rice for lunch today… you could hear someone grumble in the background… “argh…that means peas, peas and more peas. It’s peas fried rice, not vegetable” grumbles my brother.
Anyways, once the peas land in your plate, there’s no turning back. There’s no hiding it. There’s no throwing it. That’s because dad had a policy…..you don’t choose what you eat for dinner. You eat what we (the parents) choose for dinner. Ya!
So the trick would be to take as less peas as feasibly possible, from the serving dish and then Option 1: either finish your dinner before everyone else even sits on the table, especially Dad so that he doesn’t see, that the little amount of peas that somehow managed to land on your plate, has not been eaten (this was not a good option because dad was particular we all sit together for 1 meal atleast. So if you’re gonna have an early meal, you better have a good excuse). Option 2: eat as slowly as possible, till dad finishes dinner and gets up from the table so that he doesn’t know that you’re not planning to eat the peas(that’s what I think my brothers did).
Well, I wasn’t that bad. I used to eat my peas because I was daddy’s little girl and did everything possible to impress him (every girl is her dad’s princess, right?). And so eating it all would mean, praises from my dad in front of the other siblings. And so though I wasn’t a fan of peas, I never voiced it. I just ate it all pretending that dad had a gun on my head.
Look at how the world is twisted…I fell in love and married a man who loves his peas and spinach, and likes paneer too. And that would mean Paneer Matar, Palak Paneer (spinach with cottage Cheese), Dal Palak (lentils with spinach) are his favorites (like duh!). And the son I gave birth to….a total chip off the block. Looks and food habits too! He loves his peas and paneer too. Spinach I’m not sure because I rarely cook it.
And since both them men in my house, love peas so much, I use it a lot in many dishes. Slowly, I’ve adapted my palate to eating peas too. And now, I can have them without visualizing my dad with a gun in hand. But still, there’s a limit of how much I can take in.
As with Paneer, I first tried it when we went to Shimla for our honeymoon, 5 years back. My husband would order daily for lunch Paneer Bhurji, while I made faces at him and ordered something different for myself. Finally, I gave in and tried the bhurji. Love! Fell in love from the very first bite. And from then on, there was no turning back. Atleast not toPaneer bhurji! But I couldn’t believe myself, that I would like paneer. At home, my mom never made paneer because dad’s not a fan of dishes that has dairy products. So I wondered if it was dad’s genes that passed on directly to me, or was there another reason why I hated it all along. Thought hard and finally it dawned upon me…the very 1st time I had paneer was in a dish called Palak Paneer!! HA! And everytime, I was offered paneer, it was only in the form of Palak Paneer. Just because the poor paneer was swimming in palak gravy, I detested the paneer too for no fault of its. And to date, if at a buffet table I see palak paneer, I skip. Never thought paneer in a different dish could be so good.
So that’s my story on how I got about liking peas and paneer. Today I present to you Paneer Matar (Cottage Cheese with Peas), a recipe that belongs to my mother-in-law. She claims it’s this dish that got her kids to love both paneer and the peas. I would think she’s right. Because I, a former detester of both, love this dish so much that we have it for dinner atleast once in 2 weeks.
PANEER MATAR MASALA
- Paneer, cubed – 200 grams ( you can add or reduce according to your preference)
- Peas – 100 grams or 1 cup (again, add/reduce)
- Onion – 3, chopped
- Tomato – 1/2
- Turmeric – 1/4 teaspoon
- Chilli powder – 2 teaspoons
- Coriander powder – 2 teaspoons
- Garam Masala – 1/2 tespoon
- Coconut, grated – 1/2 cup
- Cashewnuts – 4 nos.
- Khus khus – 1 tablespoon
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Oil – 3 tablespoons
- salt, to taste
- Coriander leaves
Heat oil in a pan, and add the paneer cubes. Fry till it’s a slight golden brown. Remove the paneer from the heat and transfer it onto a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil. Keep aside.
Meanwhile, grind together the coconut, khus-khus and cashewnuts. Keep aside.
Take the same oil you fried the paneer in, add the onions and saute till it’s golden brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and saute for another 2-3 minutes till it gets mushy. (If you used a small frying pan to fry the paneer, transfer the oil into a bigger sauce pan because you’ll now be cooking the peas and paneer and you need a bigger pan)
To this add the turmeric, chilli, coriander and garam masala powders. Saute for another minute, making sure not to burn them. Add curry leaves too.
Now to the masala, add the paneer, peas and salt. Saute them together in the masala for a good minute or two, so that the masala coats the paneer and peas well.
Next, add 2 cups of hot water and let it simmer on medium flame, for about 10 minutes, till the peas and paneer cooks. Check salt.
Reduce the heat to low and add the coconut-cashew-khus khus paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Take it off the flame.
Garnish with coriander leaves and a dollop of butter.
Serve Paneer Matar Masala hot with rice, chapatis, or naan.