Matar Paneer (Cheese and pea curry)

Cheesy pea curry ( Matar paneer)
Paneer is a fresh, unsalted white cheese. It requires no ageing or culturing, and is very easy to make at home. It is very versatile, and an all-time favourite ingredient from my time growing up in India.

Paneer is an important food in south Asian countries, which is unsurprising considering milk is a prominent part of the cuisine. It’s also vegetarian, which suits the meat-free diet of many in India, and makes paneer a very popular ingredient for curries, particularly in the north.

Paneer has a mild, milky flavour and a dense crumbly texture that goes beautifully well with strong spicy flavours used in many classic Indian dishes. Because it won’t melt like other cheeses, chunks of it can be stirred into soups or curries and remain intact. It is a star ingredient in some of my favourite dishes like saag paneer (spinach), shahi paneer (cream, tomatoes and spices), and mattar paneer (peas and tomatoes).

Serves 4

Ingredients
3/4 cup boiled green peas or frozen peas
2 1/2 cups paneer cubes
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi)
2 cups fresh tomato purée
salt to taste
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup fresh cream
1 tsp cornflour dissolved with 2 tbsp water

To Be Ground To A Smooth Paste
1 cup roughly chopped onions
2 tbsp broken cashew nuts
5 to 6 garlic cloves
2 tsp roughly chopped ginger

How to make paneer( the cottage cheese)
Ingredients
2 liters whole milk
1 lemon
To make the paneer, line a sieve with a large piece of muslin and place over a bowl. Heat the milk in a large heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
Gradually add 4 tablespoons of lemon juice, stirring continuously so the curds and whey separate. Carefully pour the mixture into the sieve so the curds collect in the muslin. Place under cold running water to get rid of any whey, then gather up the muslin and squeeze out the excess moisture. Keeping the muslin bundle in the sieve, cover it with a plate and top with a few heavy weights (a couple of tins work well). Place in the fridge for 1 hour 30 minutes to set.
Once set, cut the paneer into 2cm chunks. Heat a lug of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat, add the paneer and fry for 5 minutes, or until golden, stirring frequently. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a double layer of kitchen paper to drain.

Method
1. Heat the butter in a broad non-stick pan, add the prepared paste and cook on a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
2. Add the chilli powder, cumin seeds powder, garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and ½ cup of water, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 1 minute.
3. Add the tomato purée and salt, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
4. Add the honey, milk and fresh cream, mix well and cook on a medium flame for 2 to 3 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
5. Add the corn flour-water, mix gently and cook on a medium flame for 1 minute, while stirring continuously.
6. Add the green peas and paneer, mix gently and cook on a medium flame for 1 to 2 minutes, while stirring occasionally.
7. Serve hot with flat bread or rice