Posted on 09/14/2021 at 11:00 AM by Madhu Gadia
September 14, 2021
Jolie Cooks with Madhu Column:
WOW Making Homemade Paneer for Peas & Paneer Curry
Recipe within a Recipe: As I read through the directions for Pea and Cheese Curry, I found that Madhu gives the option to buy the paneer (fresh cheese) or make my own. Why not make it myself, I thought. After all, I’m on a quest to master the entire art of Indian home cooking!
After making Madhu’s homemade cheese, I realized that making paneer is baby work compared to my many unsuccessful attempts to make yogurt over the years. For paneer, you bring the milk up to a boil, add some vinegar, and watch the milk solids separate from the liquid. It’s obvious to the naked eye, no thermometer needed. Feeling rather light-hearted after this step, I continued following directions to knead the curds for a minute or two, tie them in cheesecloth, and hang them from a cupboard knob to drain.
An hour later I patted the paneer into a thin layer, rewrapped it in the cheesecloth, and weighted it down with a pan of water. The outer edges of my paneer were crumbly, but that didn’t stop me from feeling mighty proud of the results. My little homemade cubes were beautiful. I tried one: It had a mellow, creamy flavor.
Cheese and Pea Curry (Matar Paneer)
As to the main recipe, Cheese and Pea Curry, I confess that I’ve avoided it every time I’ve seen it on Indian buffets. I thought I wouldn’t like paneer even though I’d never tasted it because it looked like plain tofu. (Kids, if you’re reading this, please forgive me for telling you, “Try it, you might like it” so many times while you were growing up.)
Now that I realized I like the taste and feel of paneer, I made the dish. There seemed to be too much broth, but I’ll wait to see Madhu’s response to see if I simmered it long enough. Even so, the broth was delicious, a tasty base for the peas and cheese. Next time, I’ll make some basmati rice or try another bread recipe as an add-on.
Ted and I both gave it a thumbs up.
My son said it tasted exactly like the cheese and pea curries he’s had at Indian restaurants. The cheese has the right texture, the peas are al dente, and the spices are right. I would never have suspected you made this.
"It tasted exactly like the cheese and pea curries he’s had at Indian restaurants." - Jolie's son.
I, too, would never have suspected I made this dish before Madhu appeared on my horizon. Full of flavor, this curry has the feel and taste of down-home comfort food. And making my very own paneer deepened my satisfaction.
Jolie, you totally wowed me by making homemade paneer. You definitely went the extra mile. I used to make paneer all the time until it became readily available. Now I always have frozen paneer on hand. But, just like most things, homemade paneer has the best taste. And yes, paneer has a very different taste and texture than tofu. Tofu is a great vegan substitute for paneer; see recipe info below.
Matar Paneer (Peas and Paneer/Cheese) is one of the most popular paneer dishes. It’s considered a gourmet dish, often made on special occasions. Kids love paneer dishes. As for the extra broth, it is intentional. Indians love the extra broth (by the way that broth/sauce is what Indians refer to as tari, which was translated as “curry” by the Brits). The extra tari is great with rice or to dip Indian flatbreads. If you prefer less tari/broth/sauce, next time reduce the amount of water added.
Jolie’s comfort level in cooking Indian dishes is becoming apparent as Matar Paneer is a complex dish. She totally mastered this dish as validated by her son, "it tasted exactly like the cheese and pea curries at Indian restaurants." (By the way, my Matar Paneer recipe comparatively has less fat than the restaurants' creation. Extra bonus.)
Readers: This is Jolie’s 20th recipe. That was our goal; cook 20 recipes in various categories, read first column.
Tune in next week to see how she fared? Does she feel comfortable with Indian cooking? Did she “Master the Art of Indian Cooking?
Pea and Cheese Curry (Matar Paneer), New Indian Home Cooking, page 144
Fresh Cheese (Homemade Paneer), New Indian Home Cooking, page 52
VEGAN RECIPE: Pea-and-Tofu Curry (Matar Tofu), The Indian Vegan Kitchen, page 178
Disclaimer: "Jolie Cooks with Madhu" is an independent column. The views expressed are Jolie Zimmers's personal cooking experiences and do not represent any product or company. They are not paid or reimbursed by any third party for their viewpoints.