Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Matar Paneer

Dear foodies,

I did it again! I killed the second basil plant I brought home :( I had really high hopes for the second one, and it looked like it was thriving too. But I was away for the 4-day long weekend and when I got back, no amount of coaxing it back to life helped. I have now officially given up on my patio garden for this year. I am going to stick to the more robust herbs and see how far they go. The mint, thyme and rosemary don't seem to miss me at all, they went about doing their business - sprouting new leaves and growing longer and bushier. Good for them! So the basil pesto and pizza ideas are now on an indefinite hold. Just like my cable subscription. The apartment community that I live in changed their rules, no more permanent mounting of dishes on the deck. They gave us a 3 week time period to find an alternative. I had 3 different technicians come to take a look at it and none had a solution. The dish is now lying on the deck facing nowhere in particular and the TV is reduced to a black box. I am used to having the TV playing in the background from the moment I step into the house in the evening. I need the noise pollution to keep me sane, the silence freaks me out completely :( Do any of you share the feeling ?

Okay, getting back to cooking. I've been buying fresh English peas and fava beans and ramps and garlic greens and asparagus whenever I can spot them in the grocery store aisle. Thanks to the blog hopping I do, I now look for these so-far unfamiliar goods, nestled between the usual suspects in the store. The berries haven't yet arrived in full splendor, but that does not stop me from buying the strawberries. I can slowly, yet steadily taste the sweetness and the burst of flavor increasing in each batch that I buy. When at home in India, my father would buy a lot of peas in the pod from the market when in season. Once we, er he shelled them, my mom would take over and add them to every dish she possibly could - vegetable curries, sambar, mixed rice, upma etc etc I liked them, but not enough to enjoy it in everything! But just like everything else, I've come like them too and now look forward to the fresh peas in the store. The fresh ones have a bite to them and hold up to short cooking times without turning into a mush. Apart from salads, I made this quintessential desi restaurant menu item - Matar Paneer (or mutter paneer).

Matar Paneer - Indian cottage cheese with Peas
Ingredients:
  • 2 cups - vine ripe Tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup - Onions, minced ( I am currently in the 'I-love-vidalia-onions' phase :D)
  • 3/4 cup - Green peas, shelled
  • 3/4 cup - Paneer cubes, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • 1 tsp - Cumin seeds/Jeera
  • 2 nos - small Bay leaves ~ an inch long
  • 3 nos - Cloves/laung
  • 1/2 tsp - Ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp - Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp - Green chilli, minced
  • 1/4 tsp - Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp - Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp - Garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp - Red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp - Kasuri methi, crushed
  • 5-6 nos - whole cashews, soaked in warm water OR 1 Tbsp - sour cream
  • Salt to taste
  • For garnishing - Coriander leaves, sliced onions and lemon wedges
prepping the paneer : If using fresh paneer, dice it into cubes, and broil to get a golden crust OR cut long slabs and pan fry it in a non-stick pan. Drain and cut into cubes. OR if using frozen cubes, soak them in warm water for 5-10 mins and broil for 2-3mins if you desire.

Method:
  1. In a deep pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, cloves and bay leaves. Once fragrant and toasted, add the minced onions and ginger, garlic and chillies. Sprinkle some salt and cook till the onions are softened and translucent.
  2. Add turmeric, tomato paste and cook for a minute. (The tomato paste adds a nice color and tartness) The minced tomatoes go in next along with the garam masala powder. Cook this on medium heat until the tomatoes fall apart and the oil starts to separate from the edges. Stir every few minutes so the gravy does not burn.
  3. At this point, you can fish out the bay leaves, transfer the whole gravy to a blender with the soaked cashews and blend to a smooth paste. ( let it cool before blending or leave room for the hot steam to vent while grinding) Transfer it back to the pan, add the bay leaves and bring it back to medium heat with the crushed kasuri methi and peas added. Check for salt.
  4. If you are not in a mood to use the blender, start with finely minced onions & tomatoes and use a masher at this stage to turn it to pulp. Stir in a spoon of sour cream, proceed with the kasuri methi and peas, and simmer for a few minutes on low heat.
  5. Add the paneer cubes, heat it through, and add a little water if needed. Take off the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and lemon wedges on the side. Serve with pulao/jeera rice or Indian breads like naan and rotis.
*Boiled (in salted water) and cubed potatoes could be used instead of paneer to make this Aloo matar. Add it to the cooked gravy in step 4 before adding the peas, simmer for 6-7mins allowing the potatoes to soak up the flavors.
I made a quick, microwave jeera rice to go along with the curry. The bowl that you see is the one I cooked the rice in, just a cup of it. I melted a thin slice of butter in the microwave, 30secs. Add a tsp of cumin seeds and heated it for another 30secs until it sizzles. I then added the washed rice and required amount of water and microwaved it for 8 mins, and then two more minutes with the bowl covered. Let it cool, fluff it up with a spoon and jeera rice is done :)

The gravy tasted fabulous, if I say so myself. I made it twice in the last 3 weeks, the first time was the lazy me, not touching the blender and using low-fat sour cream for the creaminess. The fresh home grown tomatoes I found at the store were bursting with juices and added a nice tang. The peas held their shape and tasted really good in the gravy. I could not take the photos as soon as the curry was done, and so the peas seem to have lost the bright green they had. I consciously stayed away from using heavy spices in this curry because I wanted to taste the peas and keep it simple/mild. The kasuri methi in the end enhances the flavor of the gravy and gives it a very nice flavor. The second time I made it was this weekend, when I had friends visiting. This time I brought out the blender and used cashews to add richness to the gravy. It tasted great both ways and I don't think I can pick one over the other, it comes down to your convenience.

33 thoughts:

Vani said...

I never find vidalia onions in my store for some reason. They're sweeter, right? Matar paneer looks gorgeous!

anudivya said...

You are lucky compared to me when it comes to cultivating herbs. All of mine inevitably die on me. :(

Turning off the TV esp when having dinner is very effective. More family time, less noise from people trying to sell you stuff that you don't need. And moreover it makes you conscious of what we put in our mouth and appreciate and savor every single bite.

Kalai said...

I agree that I like to have TV noise in the background except for dinner time! I managed to kill a basil plant and a thyme plant. Go figure! Matar paneer is one of my favorites. Looks awesome, Priya! :)

Varsha Vipins said...

That looks so tasty..:)

Nags said...

yet to cook rice in the MW. got to try soon as soon as i get hold of a good bowl to do it in :)

i have a very similar white bowl, btw :)

Sharmilee! :) said...

Looks nice creamy...should go very well with rice and rotis!

Pavithra said...

This is great combo priya..both looking gorgeous and comforting meal...great clicks too.

Parita said...

Oh i completely understand..i too turn on some music the moment i step inside the house..silence is freaky...btw matar paneer looks mouth watering..as usual nice clicks :)

Nirmala said...

The curry and rice looks such a great match! As usual with the stunning pics. I have never been alone in an appartment for sunce years and I don't have anything to shae on that. Alternately I am drying to get a sense of how a noiseless house would be as at home with the kids around and TV wailing, and all other family members talking there is no silence till everybody sleeps :)

Suparna said...

so true... t.v, music system are the two things I really can't live without ;) I need music or some kind of blabber when I'm doing the household chores...if it weren't for music I would've really gone bonkers..silence really haunts...
neways matar paneer looks simply superb!do I need to say abt the gorgeous clicks?!;)

Jaya said...

Looks lip-smackingly delicious.. I am SO going to try to make paneer at home today. :D

Prathibha said...

That matar paneer looks absolutely gorgeous..Perfect for roti's..Ncie color..

Priya said...


Vani, yes, they are a bit sweeter. I usually use red onions, but I found the vidalia onions for 99cents a pound and could not resist.

Anu, I still have time to kill the rest :D Family time over dinner is a really good habit. Paying attention to what you eat cuts cravings and also makes you eat healthy. I live by myself here, so I would look stupid staring at a blank TV while eating :D hehehe

Kalai, glad I have company :) I really don't know whats up with my basil plant, I was away for 3 days and it decided to kill itself! Well, we've been having crazy weather - frost, sunshine, rains and cold winds have been alternating over the last few weeks.

Varsha, yes it was. I was surprised how easily we can make it at home without the truckloads of cream and grease.

Priya said...


Nags, the white bowl shud work too then :) My rice cooker is the one I used as a student, its a huge one and the 1-1.5cups of rice that I need, ends up as a burnt layer in it. So the microwave works best for me.

Sharmilee, yes :) I was too lazy to make roti's and so made the quick rice. Phulka's would have made an ideal combo.

Pavithra, I was having pasta's and salads all that week, and this a was truly a comfort treat that night :)

Parita, yes, silence totally freaks me out, specially later in the evenings when all the animals/insects/bugs are out! So TV or music is a must :D

chakhlere said...

Amazing Snap Priya!!
Looks so tasty!

Priya said...


Nirmala, hehehe, lets exchange places for a few days. Just like the silence is deafening here, the noise in Chennai is going to blast my eardrums :))

Suparna, thank you :) I've been listening to music too, usually its that or the TV. I don't really sit and watch TV, but it needs to be running as I go around doing some cleaning or cooking. Have gotten so used to it that now I can't imagine any other way.

Jaya, awesome! you represent the ideal audience :D can't wait to see what you cook up with it, in a few hrs perhaps :)

Prathibha, yes. this would pair fabulously with roti's. And it isn't as painstaking as I thought it was to make either.

Pavani said...

ah poor basil plant.. My basil plant is growing, I can't say its thriving but doing ok. But my tomatoes & squash have overgrown the pots they are in and I'm in no mood to buy new pots or more potting soil for this year. So I'll see how they do and may be buy bigger pots next year.
Instead of tv, try hulu.com, they have all the shows except for a day or two late.

Soma said...

Priya, if this will make you feel good, my basils are doing very poorly. They are not growing at all, & look half dead, even tho' i tend them much more than their friends. when we went out for a trip, i got them in, so they would not get the scorching heat.. For the past month, they are still at 10 leaves! nothing after that... i had planted seeds at home, they came out so nice & healthy:-( my dreams of pesto is dying with them too...

Matar paneer looks DELICIOUS. i am not too much of a paneer fan, but like this subzi, & the taste paneer imparts.. but eat mostly the peas. Both my DDS LOVE matar paneer. they spoon off a big bowl each.
And I do not need TV.. I already have too much noise at home. so if i ever get a chance when i am alone, i like it all quiet.

Priya said...


chakhlere, thank you :)

Pavani, I bought a tomato plant too, and its only growing longer by the day, no flowers as yet. I have one pot empty from all the dying plants, so will move the mint to that one, so it can spread.

I watch a few shows on Hulu, but well, I am a lil weird in the way I operate. I usually have the TV playing while I browse on the laptop :-P So now I play music and browse :D I have 30days to return the DVR box, and have been watching the previously recorded shows now. Planning to wait a while before I get a new subscription.

Soma, I had them indoors too, all of last month. We have frost until the Memorial day weekend every year, I did not know that until I asked my colleagues. The second plant looked healthy but the 3 days of no watering killed it I think. I have no plans of getting a new one now. Will tend to the ones that want to live instead :D
I adore paneer, and thank God for that. I would have no other options while eating out otherwise :D When family is around, its really tough to have periods of silence around you I guess. It was like that when my parents were here, or when my frnds visit me. It just felt weird the last few days due to the unplanned cableless'ness :-P

Renuka said...

Matar paner looks delicious ..it has nice color.. and that too with jeera rice is heavenly..

meeso said...

That looks rich and delicious!

Pooja said...

heavenly dish... i'm waiting to have dinner and looking at this has increased my appetite !

Bong Mom said...

I used to put the TV on whole night and that too at Weather Channel when D would be traveling in my early days here. Now there is enough cacophony without the TV and I don't need TV any more :)

Matar Paneer looks glamorous

Bhawna said...

Matar Paneer Looks divine and delicious. Its a very popular dish, but recipe makes a lot of difference. Very nice color.

Poornima Nair said...

Matar paneer is mouthwatering...really tempting. I love your page header, its beautiful.

Vij said...

Hey priya!
I jus bought a basil pot from Savemart and it does sprout new leaves. How sh I plant them in my garden? or Can I leave it like dat in the pot itself?

Yummy curry. Niceclicks too!

TBC said...

Priya, I made your matar-panner today with a few changes- and that's only because I can never follow a given recipe completely and have to do something differently. ;-)
While it looked nothing like yours w.r.t. color and texture, it tasted good. Thank you for the recipe.

Shobu said...

The M/W jeera rice is a must try.. so easy.. will try it out for sure..

pelicano said...

Hey...my ex had the same problem with a dish and an apartment which wouldn't allow mounting on the exterior wall. We came up with a solution: we mounted the dish on a metal pipe of which the lower end we submerged in a concrete-filled bucket and placed on the patio/balcony. Don't know if that helps, but anyway...

I've been daydreaming of matar panir lately- it was the one dish which finally made me like green peas! But I like the alu-matar idea: the real yumminess is in the gravy anyway, right? :-)

sunita said...

Now, that's an all time favourite.. I just cube the paneer and add it to the gravy :-)

Miri said...

Thanks for that super easy way to make rice for one person, would have never thought of it!

I don't like TV in the background - prefer music,but do love to watch any one show in the evening after dinner....so would definitely resent the TV becoming a black box! How do the other people cope? dont they watch TV or do they have some hi tech way of mounting their dishes??

Miri

Ashwini said...

matar panner looks awsome... i luv mild music for dinner but not tv noise... first time to ur blog.. got good recipes..

if u have time, pls Check out my blog!!

Kavya said...

Hi Priya!

you've got a really nice blog ! I'm a complete foodie and a blog on food is long pending !

your mutter paneer looks yummy !! Just wat a hungry student needs at the end of the day!1:) I wish I cud reach inside my screen and grab it ! :)

Keep up the awesome work!

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