Paneer Makhani: A marvelous, mellow curry perfect for weeknight dinners and celebrations alike
Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma's go-to Diwali dish, with a suggestion for simplifying it for any night of the week
This dish from Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma of Maple and Marigold is such a marvellous main — it comes together quickly (especially with her note about using a premade spice blend) and its mellow mix of spices makes for a curry that you can serve to many (it’s vegetarian too). Chhitwal-Varma points out, it’s particularly perfect for getting on the table on Diwali night, when the days may not leave much room for more involved dishes. Just be sure to save some room for sweets!
By Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma
A warming, comforting meal in many South Asian homes, Paneer Makhani is a mellow dish, and vegetarian too, that satisfies the soul!
*Instead of making your own spice blend, you could use a store-bought garam masala or a butter chicken masala blend. Use a little less if you do that, and taste as you go along until you're sure of the flavours. Every spice blend is unique.
Ground spice blend:*
- 1 tsp whole coriander seeds
- ½ tsp whole cumin seeds
- ⅓ tsp black peppercorn seeds
- 2 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 2 dried red chilies (optional)
- 1 cup roughly chopped tomatoes (approximately 3 medium-sized tomatoes)
- ½ cup roughly chopped onions (I prefer red or purple here)
- 1 green chilies (stems removed)
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1-inch piece of ginger
- 1 green cardamom pod, husks removed, seeds only
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp ghee
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 small cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp Kashmiri red chili powder, or paprika
- Salt to taste
- 400 g paneer, cut into bite-sized cubes
- 1 tsp ground spice blend (prepared in first step)
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- Pat of butter, plus more for serving (optional)
- 1 tbsp cream (optional)
Ground spice blend:
Roast all of the spices for a few minutes in a dry, hot pan. Grind the spices in a spice grinder (you could also use a coffee grinder but you will not be able to use it for coffee again as the aroma will remain); alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle. Set ground spices aside.
(Using a pan that has a lid with a steam hole, or prop the lid up with a wooden spoon and leave a small gap.) Add all of the ingredients for the sauce to a pan and cook over medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Blend the sauce to a velvety smooth texture using an immersion blender. If the texture is not smooth enough, strain the sauce before using it.
Add the ghee to the pan and heat. Add the bay leaf and cinnamon stick and let them sputter in the ghee. Add the turmeric, chili powder and sprinkle some salt in the pan and stir to mix.
Add the paneer to the pan and toss it in the spices. Cook for one minute. Pour in the blended makhani sauce and coat the paneer (note, there will be some sputtering so take care). Simmer for one minute. Add the spice blend and one cup of water, then simmer for 5 minutes.
Rub the dry fenugreek leaves in your palm to release the flavour and add to the pan. Add the butter. Stir and simmer for another minute. Add that cream and stir in to mellow the flavour.
Serve with a swirl of melted butter and a sprinkle of the remaining spice blend, alongside naan or roti. You can also serve with rice if you like.
Yield: Makes 4-5 servings.
Puneeta Chhitwal-Varma is a blogger and better food advocate behind Maple and Marigold. She writes about family, food, wellness and ways to help people form deeper connections with their food. Her blog is her love letter to India and Canada. Maple represents Canada and her family’s life here, and marigold with its significance in Indian culture, represents her roots in India. Puneeta has also launched a public awareness initiative Nourish by Numbers that is dedicated to educating and engaging people to make food choices that are better for people and for the planet. You can follow Puneeta @MapleandMarigold.