When Tahmina over at Kolpona Cuisine posted her recipe for muttar paneer, I knew that the minute shell peas came into season, I was going to make it. Before I started reading her blog, I always felt so intimidated by South Asian cooking. Long lists of spices — some ground, some whole — would freak me out so much that I would end up making something French or Italian-inspired instead.
But what I love about Tahmina is how accessible she makes Bengali, Indian and South Asian cooking. Don’t have a spice grinder for garam masala? No problem. Garam masala is better with whole spices anyway — just count how many of each thing you put in, and fish them out with your fingers while you eat. Don’t have paneer? Take that 2% milk you have lying around the house and make cheese!
This is the second recipe from Tahmina that I have cooked (the first being kale paneer), and I loved the results. The serrano peppers and chopped cilantro added near the end of cooking give the dish a wonderful freshness. The peas are also such a pretty contrast to the sunny yellow sauce. It’s really, really good.
I think that by the end of the summer, I will have succeeded in making everything that she posts!
I hardly changed Tahmina’s recipe with the exceptions of using freshly shelled peas, substituting ginger-garlic paste for actual ginger (I didn’t have any) and garlic, and using store-bought paneer. Tahmina recommends making your own paneer — something that I would totally do if I didn’t keep forgetting to watch the clock. I never seem to be able to factor in enough time to let the cheese drain! She also advocates making your own ghee, which is also on my cooking to-do list. I keep forgetting the fenugreek leaves too . . . I need to replace that Post-it pad in the kitchen!
I did have to French up this recipe a little bit by using some fancy crème fraîche in the place of heavy cream 🙂 Oh la la!
And the absolute best part about cooking from a friend’s blog? You feel like they are right in the kitchen with you, even when they are hundreds of miles away 🙂
For the her recipe, click here.
For the tomato-onion base:
2 tablespoons of ghee or vegetable oil
1/4 cup of raw cashews
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of red chili powder
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
2 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
For the Garam masala:
Ghee or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon of cumin seeds
5 green cardamom pods
5 whole cloves
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
For the final dish:
1 cup of freshly shelled peas
2 serrano peppers, chopped
8 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) of paneer, cubed
1/2 cup of cilantro leaves, chopped
1/4 cup of crème fraîche
How to prepare:
1. In a large saucepan, toast the raw cashews in about two tablespoons of ghee or oil over medium heat. When the cashews begin to color, add the onion and sauté everything together until the onion begins to turn golden around the edges. Add the ground spices and fry them until they are nice and fragrant. Be sure to stir the onion mixture frequently so that the spices don’t burn. Add the ginger paste and the chopped tomatoes. Cook them until the tomatoes begin to break down. Adjust the seasoning.
2. Purée the tomato-onion mixture in a food processor or blender.
3. Using the same saucepan, heat the whole garam masala spices in about a tablespoon of ghee or vegetable oil over medium heat. When the spices are fragrant and the cumin seeds begin to pop, add the puréed tomato-onion base back to the pan. Let the it simmer for a few minutes so that the garam masala spices infuse the tomato-onion mixture. Add chili peppers and the peas and cook them until the peas are just start to become tender, about 4 minutes. Add the paneer, the chopped cilantro leaves and the crème fraîche. Continue to simmer everything together for 3-4 minutes more. Adjust the seasoning for a final time.
Serve with rice or, as Tahmina recommends, chapatis.