Matar Paneer Masala

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Once in a while after long 13 hour work day, I find myself in need of a very simple recipe and a quick dish that I can get on the table in 30 minutes or less. I want minimal chopping, uncomplicated prep work and as little clean up as possible. When making Indian food, I spend plenty of time prepping & chopping vegetables. After multiple attempts, I have made up quick, easy and healthy Matar Paneer recipe. I call it healthy because I am not loading it with cream, butter and cashews.

Matter paneer is an all-time favorite of mine. Matter paneer is basically a flavorful vegetarian dish made of soft cheese called paneer, which is lightly pan fried then added to a spiced gravy with peas. I like to add variety of vegetables such as green beans and potatoes at times just to jazz it up! Much like soup, matter paneer tastes better a few hours after it’s prepared, or even the next day, as a short sit allows the ingredients and spices to meld together.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 cinnamon stick

1 black cardamom pod

1-2 red dry chilies

2-3 serrano or thai chilies

2 medium yellow onions, chopped and puréed

3 medium tomatoes, chopped and puréed

1 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp paprika powder

2 tsp garam masala powder

1 cup of frozen green peas

1 cup of french green beans (optional)

1-2 cups cubed paneer (can also substitute with tofu)

Method:

Pan-fry the paneer cubes in little olive oil. Cook them turning occasionally until all the surfaces is a light golden color. Carefully remove the cheese cubes and allow the oil to drain on the kitchen paper towel and set aside.

Pour drizzle of olive oil into a saucepan and heat to medium-heat. Sprinkle the cumin seeds, red chilies, cardamom pod, cinnamon stick and serrano chilies. When cumin seeds began to change color, add onion puréed. Sauté onion puréed until slightly brown and then add tomato puréed. Sauté till the oil starts to separate.

Add coriander powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder, garam masala, salt and ginger-garlic paste. Mix all the ingredients and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add water and keep stirring until gravy comes to a boil.

Add frozen green peas, and french beans, and other vegetables (optional). While stirring occasionally, cook all the vegetables in the gravy for another 4-5 minutes.

Add paneer cubes. Stir the mixture properly and cook on a medium heat for about 2-3 minutes. Garnish the dish with chopped coriander leaves (optional). Matar paneer is ready to serve. Serve hot with rotis, parathas, naan or plain steamed rice seasoned with cumin seeds. I personally prefer to have this with a plain tandoori roti as the dish is quite heavy; it is better balanced by lighter bread.

Tips:

It is perfectly okay to use store brought paneer. If you are health conscious you definitely can make paneer from skimmed milk at home. That will further reduce the calories from fat keeping the protien content intact. In the resturants, this dish is made with plently of butter/oil, a large chunk of cashew paste plus a dollop of fresh cream added towards the end of make it even richer. This recipe avoids the extra calories, which you can add if you like before you add all the vegetables in the gravy.

Vegans can substitue the paneer with tofu or boiled soya chunks.

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