Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Peas N Cheese - Quirky Combo

Well, it is, if you think about it. Look, many cultures classically pair cheese with fresh fruit and great wine, right? They also sprinkle it over the top of a finished dish, or add it to some fresh vegetables drizzled with olive oil and enjoy it in its bare simplicity. And we all know that melted cheese makes my little heart flutter with glee. But what does one do with cheese when your culture demands that everything needs to be accompanied by rice or roti? You make Muttar Paneer of course! Tender peas and cheese swim together in a simple tomato-based sauce like they were always meant to be.
And who says quirky can't be lovable?! I ask you now, dear readers, doesn't every single person you know, including yourself, have at least one teeny tiny quirk? Don't look away! Let me be the first to jump into the quicksand. I talk in my sleep. A lot. Stupid, ridiculous yet complete conversations while completely unconscious and drooling on my pillow. Allegedly. *rolling my eyes at DH*

Another quirky little tidbit is that I got this very Indian recipe from the very British Nigella Lawson (can somebody please make her a 'Dame' because lord knows she deserves it!). I really admire Nigella, her fierce and vivacious personality, her simple yet full-flavored dishes, and her cookbooks are so much fun to read. This recipe is from 'Nigella Feasts', where she says that Muttar Paneer is actually her favorite way to eat peas. And since I have a real soft spot for peas, I jumped on this recipe right away. Now I can say that this dish is my favorite to enjoy paneer.
Paneer is not a melting cheese. Texturally, it's a bit like halloumi, but when you taste it, it has a pleasant, subtle sweetness. You can sometimes substitute ricotta for it. Even though this is a completely vegetarian dish, I'll bet the carnivore in your life will be really surprised how much he/she enjoys it!

Muttar Paneer
(Peas N Cheese)
Serves 6

3 tbsp oil
8-12 oz paneer, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1-inch piece ginger, finely chopped
Sprinkling of salt, per your taste
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 (10-ounce) packet frozen peas
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
2 hot green chillies, finely chopped
Upto 1/4 cup pouring cream

1. Heat a large non-stick skillet and add the paneer cubes, in two batches, and fry until they are golden. Remove the cubes and keep them aside.
2. In the same pan heat up the oil on medium heat. Saute the onions till transparent, then add the ginger-garlic and cook for another 2 mins.
3. Stir in the salt, chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala and green chillies. Then put in all the frozen peas.
4. Dissolve the 1 tbsp of tomato paste in the vegetable stock then add this mixture to the onions and spices.
5. Mix well, turn the heat up and once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium again, cover with a lid and let the whole thing simmer for 15 mins.
6. Once all the peas are really tender (don't forget to check!), put the paneer cubes back in and warm them through.
7. Finally, pour in the cream to thicken the sauce, then turn off the heat. Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro.
Just in case you're wondering, my favorite Ozzy quirk is the way he greets me and DH whenever we enter the house. He comes thumping down the stairs whenever he hears the key jiggling in the lock, and immediately stretches out at our feet, tubby little belly exposed. We must pet and coddle him before we do anything else!

See Ozzy. See Ozzy cuddle with his Moo Toy.


Anonymous said...

I love your cat. He ist beautiful and looks very friendly. Mine died almost two years ago and due to my boyfriend's allergy, I won't ever get a cat again (after 25 years of living with cats - ouch!)...
Anyhow - the recipe sounds/looks/reads wonderful. I am vegetarian, I will definitely try it. Although I don't know whether I'll get a hold of that cheese in Austria - well, I'll just use Halloumi!
Have a great day - and would you cuddle Ozzy from me? Thanks! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I made paneer just yesterday for the first time and it is delicious. My paneer's consistency is just not stiff enough to cut into blocks, must I let it hang in the fridge for longer? THis recipe looks so delicious.

Donna-FFW said...

Absolutely wonderful combination. Great photos. Just found your blog via foodgawker. I must try this, lots of my fav ingredients.

Muneeba said...

Nina, since I can't see exactly what your paneer looks like, I can only say this - take a small portion of your paneer, separate it into pieces (or if too soft, maybe roll into small balls?), then saute them in a pan coated with non-stick spray on high-heat. They might be better able to hold their shape after this stage.

Evi, so sorry abt your cat! I will happily give Ozzy a hug & kiss from you! Do let me know how halloumi fares in this recipe - am curious because it is different taste-wise from paneer.

Anonymous said...

What a great combination! Very nice recipe. Thanks!

Unknown said...

This looks great! I may actually get my carnivorous husband to eat a vegetarian meal with this!

Anonymous said...

I am definitely going to have to make this! I love Palak Paneer and bet I would love Muttar Paneer just as much. I have a very simple paneer rcipe on my blog if you ever want to make your own. They don't sell it in my area so I have to make it if I want it. Love your blog!
My Yummy Life

Cafe Pepela said...

İt looks very delicious!
Nice recipe,thank you..