Saturday, February 2, 2008

The recipe here is adapted from a food video prepared by Chef Sanjay Thumma

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Low fat - restaurant style Matar Paneer

Hello and glad to see you in the new year. Trying to stick to my resolutions (to blog more regularly) - I was ready with the draft 3 days ago, but that's when respiratory infection and bronchitis caught up with me and has kept me down for over 3 days. In Bombay, the temperature difference is well over 15 degrees between day and night, leading to an epidemic of sorts in respiratory infections. The only times in the last three days I've managed to drag myself into the kitchen, is to make a huge pot of Molagu Rasam (Clear pepper soup), and keep warming it up in the microwave, sipping the spicy liquid through the day. Apart from that, my diet has generally been antibiotics, antihistaminics, expectorants and mucolytics. Sounds like quite a spread right??

Back to the topic of the post - this is one dish that is an extremely popular Indian curry - the origins as far as I know being Punjabi in nature, the land where paneer has been predominantly used since many years. If one has paneer and frozen peas, this can be made out of the stuff you'd normally have in your pantry, bailing you out, if you got a day late in replenishing your stock of vegetables.

For a person who cooks almost 3 meals each day, it's odd that I rarely make the typical restaurant style Punjabi dishes like Malai Kofta, Makhanwala and the likes, going mostly with the more earthy simple dishes, where veggies are not drowned in rich gravies and recipes which give veggies more respect than that! However on a whim I decided to try out this matar paneer curry, also since I had nothing else in my refrigerator that evening, except for the staple onions-tomatoes-ginger and garlic.

The recipe here is adapted from a food video prepared by Chef Sanjay Thumma. You'll find plenty of his videos on rediff iShare, youtube and his own site. Ofcourse, this is a much calorie cut version of the same. You could watch his video for a richer, creamier version of the same. But hey, does the title of the post - 'low fat' 'restaurant style' sound like an oxymoron? Well, if you ever try this recipe, you'll know what I mean :)

Matar Paneer ( Indian curry with green peas and cheese )
Category - Vegetarian side to be eaten with rotis, parathas or rice
Time taken - Around 30 minutes
Serves - 3 to 4 people


1 tsp oil
1 tbsp broken cashewnuts
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic cloves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1-2 tsp coriander-cumin powder or 1 tsp each
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup frozen or fresh boiled peas
200 g paneer cut into 12 cubes
1 tsp kasoori methi - dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled into a rough powder

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed wok. Start by sauteeing the broken cashews till lightly golden.
2. Next, add the chopped ginger-garlic and onions and cook on a low flame with a pinch of salt till they soften and turn light brown.
3. At this stage, add the tomatoes with the turmeric powder. Stir well and cook for 5-7 minutes, till mushy.
4. Remove the contents of the wok and blend to a fine puree in a blender, once cooled throughly. You may use upto 1/2 cup water to aid the blending process.
5. In the same wok, transfer the fine puree. Season with spice powders (red chilli powder, cumin coriander powder, garam masala) and salt. Simmer for 3-4 minutes till the gravy is infused with the spices.
6. Add the frozen / boiled green peas to this gravy and simmer for 5 minutes, after which the paneer cubes go in. Simmer for another 2 minutes, check for salt, sprinkle crushed kasoori methi and give it a stir.
7. Matar paneer is ready to be removed in a serving bowl.

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 or a phulka as the dish is quite heavy, it is better balanced by a lighter bread. A raita on the side would be nice too, or a simple cucumber salad.

Health tips

It's perfectly okay to use store bought paneer.Using paneer made from skimmed milk at home will further reduce the calories from fat keeping the protein content intact. In restaurants, this dish is made with plenty of ghee /butter, a large chunk of nut paste (almond or cashew) plus a dollop of fresh cream added towards the end to make it even richer.

This version uses just one teaspoon of vegetable oil and the small quantity of cashewnuts are enough to provide the rich creamy restaurant taste without the added calories from fat. The key to a delicious gravy is to not skimp on the onion sauteeing and make a really fine puree using a good quality blender. The pinch of kasoori methi in the end makes all the difference in giving that 'restauranty' flavour.

Vegans can substitute the paneer with tofu or boiled-drained soya chunks (sold in Indian stores under the brand Nutrela).

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