Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Paneer Butter Masala

When you have guests over for a lunch or dinner, what is the common dessert that comes to your mind? What did your Mom make? Let me simplify this even more. If you are a Maharashtrian, and you have guests coming over, what did your mom make  for dessert? 
We had Gulab jamun, mostly. 
Oh mom knew many desserts, but our hot favorite was gulab jamun to be sure.
Mom and  Dad ( team work)  made a great fruit custard and that was specially in summer  ( Mom makes the custard and Dad chops the fruit and gives me  little bits every now and then- specially mango-   coz I am daddy's  best  little helper).

But mostly Mom made Gulab jamun. Deep fried goodness, soaked n warm golden syrup  tinged with saffron. it was a favorite with children and grown ups  and there was nothing but a bit of syrup left over after the party. 
Not that Gulab Jamun has anything to do with this post..... I merely mention it to give you the background  as to why rasgulla or other related mithais never made it to our table when I was younger. 

In fact my first impression of paneer was , 'rubber'! My well meaning neighbor once came over in the afternoon and handed over a bowl of rasgulla'. I was puzzled. I had no idea why the gulab jamun was white, why it was floating in water. I was then in  the first grade. I asked her, " he kay ahe?" (what is this?). She said "Rasgulla, try it" and went  back home. I tentatively stabbed at a rasgulla and  put a piece in my mouth. For the next few minutes all I remember was a piece of eraser somehow had gotten entangled between my teeth and tongue and kept going round and round in circles. The sugar had played its part and journeyed on and now all I was indestructible, chewy rubber. I spat it out. Put the bowl in the fridge. That night I asked mom what rasgulla was  made of ( I still had my doubts about it being edible or in fact if the neighbor by saying try it had meant something else other than eat). Mom said paneer.  I hated it.  I vowed never to eat it and kept at it for a long time. 

I don't remember how or when I converted to a paneer lover, but I guess natural curiosity and a sweet tooth led me  to this glorious path! 
I am not particularly fond of those brick like bars of paneer in the store and  prefer making my own at home. 

To make Paneer at home:

Boil 1 gallon of whole milk. Keep stirring frequently so that it does not scorch at the bottom. 
When  the milk is at the boiling point, add about 1/4 cup of Vinegar ( regular vinegar that you get at any store for about $1). 
Keep a colander lined with a cheesecloth  ready  to strain the cheese. ( I keep a stock pot under the colander to collect the whey) 
Stir gently and keep an eye as the milk curdles and the cheese separates from  milky (a very, very pale green tint) whey.
Carefully tip the cheese and whey into the colander. Let the whey drip down and cheese rest in the cheesecloth.
I usually keep  the colander standing for a few minutes, then carefully collect the edges of the cheesecloth and twist it tightly round the cheese to remove all whey.
Place the cheese ( with cheesecloth twisted round it) in a container of your choice and place a heavy object on top ( like a can or a bottle of water) for anywhere up to 3 hours. This will firm up the paneer. 
Remove  the cheesecloth, use or place the paneer  in the container.
Paneer freezes well. Cut cubes and freeze if not using immediately. Thaw in the fridge  before using.

With my first batch of home- made paneer I made Paneer Butter masala. For the recipe I turned to Vah Chef who is very popular in India. 
The recipe is simple, quick and absolutely delicious!  A keeper! Try it.

You need:
1 tsp  Coriander powder
1/4 to 1/2  tsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp  Chili powder
1/4 tsp Kasuri Methi
1 tsp Tomato  ketchup
1 tsp Tomato Paste or 2.5 Tbs Tomato Puree
1 cup Milk
3 drops red food color (optional)
Paneer Cubes ( I used about 20-  2 inch cubes)
Fried onion (2 tbs if using store bought, or 1/2 large onion if making at home)
2 tsp Ginger Garlic paste
In a bowl add the coriander powder, garam, masala, chili powder, kasuri methi, ketchup, tomato paste/ puree , milk and mix it to make a slurry/ milk sauce
Heat pan, add a pat of butter, add ginger-garlic paste, add fried onions ( store bought or home made) 
Mix in the  'milk sauce' made earlier. Stir continuously while adding the sauce.
Cover and simmer for 3 mins ( slow flame)
Add salt to taste.
Cook well till oil separates
If the gravy is too thick, add milk slowly and mix immediately, ensuring it does not curdle. (you can use cream instead of milk to make it richer)
Add paneer pcs. bring to a boil. 

Serve with Naan / roti.

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