Paneer is our absolute favourite weeknights’ dinner. If I feel exhausted after a long day (which kinda happens every day though), I prefer to whip something quick and healthy which doesn’t involve any long chopping session. I try to avoid making rice dish though since we always end up over eating if its rice for dinner. So to accompany simple rotis, I like a dish which is not completely dry yet does not stand for a rich curry. Paneer is always the first thing that comes in my mind, but mostly I manage to side line my voracity and cook thick lentil dishes sometimes or I go for vegetables’ sides.
Nowadays in many health magazines, I see its advised not to have paneer at all, it being high in fats. In fact, they advise against full fat milk altogether. I think otherwise though. Did you know that in order to absorb proteins from your food, its essential to have soluble fats and complex carbs. In simple terms, you need fat from the milk and carbs from your roti and rice so you can actually make use of all the proteins you consume. Without these two nutrients, your body will have to work harder to breakdown amino acids present in proteins and hence your metabolism will not gain strength. Basically, you wont be able to acquire full benefits of being on strict diet. So, whats the point of starving, eh!?
Yes, you need to be cautious with the consumption of fat and carbs. So you eat small portions of both. But you don’t neglect them completely. So when you ditch paneer simply because you don’t want fat in your diet, I am sorry to say but you are making a fool of yourselves. Paneer i.e. Indian cottage cheese is one of the healthiest variety of cheese available in the market. Of course, if you don’t add too much cream into the making and simply use full fat or even semi skimmed milk if too concerned about it. And it has a good mix of fat, calcium and proteins… all three of them very good for you. But again, remember, moderation is the key my friend! 🙂
I have made Paneer Tawa Masala today, a restaurant style paneer dish that is simple and really takes no time or hassle to get ready. It has got this name since the entire dish is made on a tawa/tava – a concave shaped round pan used in Indian homes for making various Indian flat breads like rotis, Paratha, cheela, dosa etc. I have used a kind of tawa (griddle) which has rounded edges but you may also use the one which is concave at the centre and has no edges. The idea is to cook the vegetables (paneer in this case) without covering, an a medium-high flame to give them a slight burnt taste and aroma. Usually veggies like aubergine (brinjal/eggplant), zucchini (courgette), capsicum (bell peppers), Okra (lady finger) etc. are roasted on the tawa and served in weddings etc.
Ideally and traditionally, these tawa dishes are cooked in lots of butter to get that amazing flavour. But I have used just 2 tbsp of butter with some oil so we don’t get overloaded with fat. You may increase the quantity of butter to 3 tbsp if you like, that will definitely enhance the taste manifolds. The star spice is dry mango powder (amchoor/khatai) which imparts that typicaltangy flavour to the dish.
- 250 gms Paneer – cubed
- 2 large onions, finely chopped
- 1 medium capsicum, chopped small
- 3-4 medium tomatoes, chopped roughly
- 4-5 garlic pods, minced or crushed
- 1 small piece of ginger, grated
- ½ tsp turmeric powder, red chili powder, cumin powder each
- 2-3 green chilies, chopped small
- ½ tsp carom seeds (ajwain)
- ¼ tsp pomegranate seeds (anardana)
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp Garam masala
- ½ tsp Dry mango powder (amchur/khatai)
- 2 tbsp butter + 1 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 1 tsp salt (or as per taste)
- A handful of fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) to garnish
Finely chop the onions and capsicum/green bell pepper and keep aside.
Crush the ginger, garlic and green chilies in a mortar-pestle to a paste. Keep aside.
Blend the chopped tomatoes to make a smooth puree And keep aside.
Melt butter on a tawa or skillet with 1 tsp of oil. Add the carom seeds and fry them for a few seconds or till aromatic. Add the chopped onions and sauté till translucent. Add the ginger-garlic-green chili paste and capsicum pieces and sauté for about 3 minutes. Then add all the spices to the paste, mix and cook for about a minute. Stir in between.
Finally, add the tomato puree and salt, stir well and cook till you see the butter releasing from the sides and the masala has thickened a bit. This would take about 8 to 10 minutes on a low flame. Keep stirring in between to avoid the paste getting stuck at the bottom. You may add a few drops of water to avoid the same.
Once it has reached your desired consistency, add the paneer cubes and fold gently so the masala coats the paneer cubes evenly. Cook the paneer for about 3-4 minutes, gently shifting/folding it on the tawa. Add crushed fenugreek leaves and mix one last time. Turn off, garnish with fresh cilantro and serve hot
Accomplishments: Roti/Paratha with chilled raita and onion salad seasoned with lemon juice.
Every recipe is different, you may add or omit any spices of your choice but I would recommend keeping cumin powder and dry mango powder in the same. Anardana (pomegranate seeds) also play a major part in getting the flavours right. The right quantity of salt is also very important to get that sharp taste of tang. If you keep the amount very low, tawa recipes wont taste as good.
The entire dish takes no more than 20 minutes to get ready if you do it right. Like I chop off the garlic, ginger, onions and chilies first. And then while these are getting cooked, I puree the tomatoes and chop peppers. And while that is getting done, cut paneer cubes. While paneer gets cooked, I chop onion rings, prepare quick raita etc. So all that is done in flat 20 minutes and you are in for a delicious and relatively healthy meal in a short while.
You may of course skip the butter and use 2 tbsp oil instead. Skip the extra 1 tsp in that case. I am so intrigued to see how does using ghee instead of butter changes the taste.
I am going to try and post more tawa recipes shortly, the basic recipe remains the same though so you can use the inspiration from this post and create the magic.