Top marks for paneer butter masala

Mallika Basu - Top marks for paneer butter masala

Posted 18th July 2007

paneer-butter-masala.jpgMy little sister is little no more.

I had the great pleasure of attending her university graduation ceremony yesterday. As she strode up the stage a confident, pint-sized princess in a flowing gown, I couldn’t help wonder what happened to the bald midget that used to eat mangoes in her knickers what seems like only a few years ago.

Now officially homeless and jobseeking, the Bollywood starlet is spending her days looking for meaningful employment. All under the strict tutelage of her older and somewhat wiser sister (that would be me) and a much older and wiser mother.

It’s not just the career direction I’m taking an interest in. Her diet too swings like a crazy pendulum, from a crash course of GM to a bag of gluten free, butter rich biscuits.

I made this paneer butter masala for her – a thick and creamy Indian cheese curry. Normally, this is a fatty North Indian feast awash with cream and butter. I managed to tone it down a little, without losing its essence, using Greek yogurt and a butter substitute.

This one’s great when you want to impress – hungry students and other very important people.

This recipe serves 4:

250 gm paneer, diced into one cm wide and two cm long pieces

2 garlic cloves

1 inch ginger

1 heaped tsp coriander powder

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp tomato puree

4 tbsp natural Greek yogurt

Half tsp garam masala

Half tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp chilli powder

1 tsp kasoori methi, soaked in a tsp of hot water

10 cashewnuts, ground to a fine paste with a tbsp of hot water

1 tbsp of low fat butter substitute (anything that tastes like butter but isn’t as fattening)

Salt to taste

1 tbsp sunflower oil

Mix a quarter teaspoon each of the chilli and turmeric powder into the cubed paneer, along with a little bit of salt.

Puree the ginger and garlic to a fine paste. In a pot, heat the oil on a high flame. When hot, add the masala coated paneer and fry for five minutes until pale brown.

Remove the paneer pieces and in the same oil, add the bay leaf. Within seconds the bay leaf will start sizzling. When this happens, add the ginger and garlic puree and stir gently until it turns translucent.

Now add the chilli, coriander and turmeric powder, and tomatoe puree, stirring vigirously on a high flame until the pungent smell of masalas go (about two minutes).

Then spoon in the yogurt, lower the flame, and simmer for five minutes. You will see the colour of the yogurt change from pale white to a rich red as the masalas blend into it.

Now stir in the paneer pieces, the pureed cashewnuts, and the garam masala. Simmer for five minutes and then add the kasoori methi, along with its water, and salt to taste.

The kasoori methi and garam masala are added to cut the tangy taste of the curry and make it a more balanced creamy one. Give them a good two minutes to do their magic.

To finish, stir in the butter substitute and enjoy piping hot with some aromatic pulao.

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