Friday, May 04, 2018

Veg Recipes of India: Paneer Makhanwala (Paneer Butter Masala)

I love paneer butter masala.  LOVE. IT.  This is pretty much all I order at Indian restaurants.  Well, this and saag paneer.  See a theme?  But I've never actually made it at home, which is a bit of a shame.  So I turned to my trusty favorite Indian food blogger because she never lets me down.  And this recipe was no exception.  A little spicy, incredibly flavorful, and perfectly comforting.  I may not have grown up eating Indian food, but this makes me as happy as chicken and dumplings.

Note: Try to find Kashmiri red chili powder, because that's what gives the red coloring to this dish.  If you can't find it, you can use a mixture of paprika and cayenne.  An Indian bay leaf is different than the bay laurel leaves used in western cooking, but if you can't find the Indian version, the regular one works just fine (as an aside, they only had bay laurel leaves at the Indian grocery I visited, which I found slightly baffling).

Paneer Makhanwala (Paneer Butter Masala)
Adapted from Veg Recipes of India blog

For ground makhani paste:
¾ cup roughly chopped onions
1½ cups roughly chopped tomatoes
½ inch ginger, peeled and chopped
3 to 4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
2 single strands mace
2 to 3 green cardamom pods
1 (1-inch) cinnamon stick
2 to 3 cloves
10 to 12 whole unsalted cashews

For finished dish:
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
1 Indian bay leaf
1 to 1½ teaspoons kashmiri red chili powder
1 green chili, slit (such as serrano or Thai)
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
1½ cups water, or as needed
1 teaspoon honey, or add as required as per your taste
1 pound paneer, at room temperature, cut into cubes
¼ cup heavy cream
¾ teaspoon dry fenugreek leaves, crushed
¼ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon cream, for garnishing
Chopped coriander leaves, for garnish

Making makhani paste: Mix onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, mace, cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves, and cashews with 1 cup water in a medium pot. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, until the tomatoes and onions soften, about 14 to 15 minutes.  Allow the mixture to cool, then pour it into a good blender and grind to a smooth paste.  There should be no small pieces of cashews or spices; everything should be ground very well until smooth.

Making paneer makhanwala:  Melt the butter in a large pan.  Add the Indian bay leaf and sauté for a few seconds, then add the ground makhani paste. Stir well.  Sprinkle the chili powder over the mixture; stir well and sauté the mixture over medium heat.  Keep stirring often, as you will sauté the mixture until most of the water has evaporated, the mixture darkens, and you see the butter leaving the sides. This takes about 20 to 22 minutes over medium to high heat.

Add slit green chili, salt, and water.  Stir well and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, then add honey or sugar and stir again.  Add the paneer cubes and simmer for 2 minutes.  Add the cream, fenugreek leaves, and garam masala.  Stir and turn off the burner.  Check the taste and add more salt, honey, or red chili powder as required.  Serve paneer makhanwala garnished with cream and coriander leaves, hot with naan or rotis.

Makes 4 servings

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