Thursday, April 30, 2020

Veg Recipes of India: Paneer Lababdar

After the disappointment that was Instant Pot Butter Chicken, I really felt the need to cleanse my palette with something cooked the traditional (more delicious) way.  But since I'd already done chicken, I figured I would try something with paneer, which may actually be more delicious in this preparation than chicken.  It's really not that more difficult to make, just a little more time, and the results are vastly more satisfying.

Paneer Lababdar
Adapted from Veg Recipes of India

For the tomato-cashew paste:
1½ cups chopped ripe tomatoes
10 to 12 cashews
½ inch ginger, minced
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green cardamom pod
2 cloves

For the paneer lababdar:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided use
1 tej patta (Indian bay leaf)
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
1 or 2 green chilies, slit
Kosher salt, as needed
¼ to ½ teaspoon granulated sugar, or as needed
7 ounces paneer, plus 2 tablespoons grated paneer
1 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves), crushed
¼ teaspoon garam masala
¼ cup heavy cream

for garnish:
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
½ inch ginger, julienned

Preparing tomato-cashew paste:
Place tomatoes, cashews, ginger, garlic, cardamom, and cloves in a small pan and add ½ cup water. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook until the tomatoes are softened. If the water dries up and the tomatoes are not softened, then add about 2 to 3 tablespoons more water and continue to cook.

Allow this mixture to cool and add to a grinder or blender jar.  Grind to a smooth paste without any cashews or tomato chunks or pieces. You may add some water if required while grinding. Keep this ground tomato-cashew paste aside.

Making paneer lababdar:
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in pan or kadai/wok over medium-high heat. Add the tej patta and sauté for a couple of seconds.  Add finely chopped onions; stir well.  Then continue to sauté as well as stir and cook until the onions become light golden or golden.  Then add the tomato-cashew paste. The mixture will splutter if there is water in it, so be careful. Stir very well.  Add cumin powder, coriander powder, and red chili powder to make a masala.  Stir and sauté this masala; you will see the masala clumping and gathering around itself.  Sauté until you see the fat leaving the sides of the masala paste.  Then add 1 cup water; stir very well.  Add green chilies.

Stir and allow the gravy to come to a simmer, then season with salt and sugar.  Add both cubed and grated paneer.  Stir and simmer the gravy for about a minute.  Then sprinkle over the kasuri methi which has been crushed along with garam masala. Stir very well again and simmer for a minute.  Lastly add the cream and butter. Switch off the flame and stir very well.

Garnish paneer lababdar with chopped coriander leaves and julienned ginger. Serve with chapatis, tandoori rotis, or naan. It also goes well with cumin rice or veg pulao.

Makes 6 servings

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