August 26, 2012

"Cheese"-y tricks ~ Marinated & grilled Matar Paneer

Ask any staunch vegetarian about their opinion of paneer and chances are that you might witness them profess their undying admiration for the same.Paneer or fresh cow's milk cheese holds a very special place in the appetite of Indian vegetarians. Need I mention that India is the largest producer of milk in the world? Well..that kind of explains the bias. By now you all might be aware that I am by no chance a vegetarian..and couldn't imagine being one either. So my relationship with paneer has always been more of an obligatory one. Those auspicious days when eating non-veg is a taboo..paneer or chenna is the more obvious and sophisticated choice. Its not that I am a staunch non-vegetarian either but one of my major concerns about any paneer preparation (atleast the ones that I have tasted) has always been that the flavor never penetrates well enough for the whole chunk to taste like the curry. It always seems like a blob of cheese floating in a very flavorful broth without any connection whatsoever. I guess many of you who are not blinded by "paneer- love" will agree with me on this.

So inundated with demands for paneer dishes at my place, I gave in to the pleas. Having reluctantly worked with it many a times following age old recipes, I tried my hand at treating it with more care than required. I promised to treat it with as much if not more respect as I would to any meat. Say meat, and marination becomes synonymous. Even though meat of any kind is marinated to tenderize, impart more zing and make easy the cooking process, my whole and sole reason for marinating paneer was to add more flavor to the paneer chunks so that it melds well into the gravy.

Agreeing on how I want to treat my "cheesy" subject, I marinated it with lemon juice, chili powder, little bit of ginger garlic paste and turmeric powder (how can I forget THAT! hehe). Left it to marinate overnight and grilled the chunks on a hot grill pan to achieve smokiness and of course the eye-appealing rustic grill marks. Trust was SO much better. The flavors of the marinade had percolated into the chunks and each bite tasted so much more appealing to my discerning taste buds. I have been using this trick whenever I have time at hand to marinate (which is not an absolutely essential step but nonetheless vital) and must I say ...I have been converted.

This trick I am sure is bound to please the non-paneer lovers and for ardent paneer fans, this is going to top it. Just try and let me know!

Marinated and grilled Matar Paneer

Marinated and grilled paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cubes soak in the flavors of an aromatic, spiced tomato gravy while pairing perfectly with the mild sweetness of the green peas.  A twist to the popular Matar Paneer, it can easily be made royal by adding in a dollop of fresh cream at the end. Serve it with the Pudina aau matar palau for a complete vegetarian fare. 

14 oz paneer/400g - Cut into 1 inch cubes.
For marination:
2-3 T Lemon juice
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Chili Powder
½ T Ginger Garlic paste

¼ tsp Salt

3 T Oil
1 inch piece of cinnamon
2 cloves
½ Nutmeg
½ C onion paste
2 T ginger garlic paste

½ C Fresh tomato paste

Make a paste of the following powders in 1 C water:
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp kashmiri chili ½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp Salt

1 C Green peas
Chopped cilantro for garnish (Optional)


1. Marinate the block of paneer all the ingredients for the marinade. Cover it and keep it overnight in the refrigerator. 
Note: I usually cut the paneer into cubes (1 inch) and marinate them, it leads to better marination.

2. Pour 1 T of oil on a grill pan over medium high heat and grill the paneer pieces (1 - 2 mins ) and keep aside. The pan should sizzle when the paneer is thrown in, that would ensure nice grill marks.

3. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat and add oil. Once the oil is hot, add in the whole spices. Once fragrant (~ 20 secs) add in the onion paste. Stir for about 1-2 mins till dry and then add in the ginger garlic paste and the tomato paste.

4. Stir the above mixture consistently (8-10 mins) so that it does not stick. Add in the paste made of powdered paste 2 T at a time. Let the mixture dry before adding the next 2 T.Continue till the oil separates.

5. Now add 2 C of water to the mixture and simmer till oil floats (~ 5 mins).

6.Then add in the grilled paneer cubes and then after ~ 5 mins add the in the green peas. Simmer for 15-20 mins over low flame.

Taste for salt and other seasonings and serve hot with Pudina aau matar pulau. Opt out of the matar in the rice if it becomes too much of peas in a meal.

This marinating and grilling technique was quite a revelation for me and I have wondered why it has not been done before. Is it lack of time or may be the fact that paneer is so universally loved in any shape and size that no one really bothered to think about it? Hmm..I might keep guessing till I find the answer but in the meantime if you do know the answer then stop by to let me know. Till then..

I am submitting this recipe to:
-"Desi Vidheshi food fest" hosted by Kalyani
- "Cook with spices- Cinnamon" hosted by Revathi and Anu.
- "Celebrate Navratri and Diwali" hosted by Nayna and Jagruti Dhanecha.
- "Simply Sides" hosted by Sumee.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jagruti
    Lovely blog :-)
    Glad to follow you
    Plz do visit mine in your spare time !!!

    Today's Recipe
    Vada with Sambhar


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