Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Bollywood Cooking: Mutter Paneer – Indian Cheese with Peas in a Creamy Tomato Sauce

Mutter Paneer (0041) by MeetaK   

"Oh you are so lucky!" was what everyone exclaimed when I'd give them the address of where we lived. It was always an easy address to remember, in any country we were living in at that time. Hotel & Resort xxx. The advantages of being a hoteliers daughter - not having a house to call home but a whole hotel. I did not really realize the power of this fact until I actually started school. 

Somehow having a beach, a few pools, restaurants, all kinds of sporting activities at my fingertips quickly advanced me to the top of the most popular lists in any of the schools I was visiting. I loved it - my brother not so.  I was 8-12, still impressionable and did not understand that these advantages or lists did not acquire the best or the most loyal sorts of friends one would have hoped to secure.

For my parents it was always a balance act. Now that I am a parent myself, I can imagine it must have been a difficult task to convey the message when one was living a life of double standards. On one hand we were "like every other normal child", but we just had to look around at our surroundings and saw that we were not. I did not know many normal kids who had a kitchen called Room Service.

For my brother and myself it was the most natural thing and we grew up without any expected airs of being better than others. My mother made sure of that. So, while we had our own hotel room each, we still were in charge of clearing up the mess we left. Yes, the housekeeping made our beds and made sure we had fresh towels everyday, but just like every other child it was our responsibility to pick up after ourselves. Yes, we were spoilt by the pastry chef who always had a sweet treat ready for us when we got "home" from school, but my mum also made sure that the mini bar was not ladened with chocolates and sweet drinks but with fruit and healthy snacks.

My parents did a brilliant job with those double standards, and while we knew there was something special in the way we were growing up, we were very much kept within our boundaries, in fact even more so because of our situation, by both of them.

Mutter Paneer (003) by MeetaK

I wasn’t much older than Soeren, maybe 8 years old. One day I had just returned from school, it happened rarely, but I found myself alone in my room. My mum seemed to be out and the nanny was not around. It was lunch time and nothing was ordered. So, having seen my parents do this several times, I picked up the phone, dialed room service. Just as I had seen my dad and mum, I announced my name and informed them of my room number. I then proceeded to order every item on the menu, reading the menu back to front without stopping.

A few minutes later the nanny appeared and soon there was a knock on the door, as she opened the door, she was surprised, or maybe it was shock, to see 5 or 6 waiters pushing 5 or 6 trolleys in front of them loaded with the food I had ordered from the menu! Unfortunately for us my mum came back before we could hide or eat up all the evidence.

My mother visited the room service manager that day and asked how was it possible that an 8 year old girl order the whole menu and not even one person on the entire staff object. The answer was close at hand – they were obliged to do so due to the position my dad had at the hotel. My mother was stumped! What happened to using common sense?

That day the lesson I was taught by my parents was to use my common sense despite what others think!

One of the disadvantages, and there certainly were a few, of living in a hotel was the fact that there came a point when you could not bear to look at the menu in any of the restaurants or room service. The food literally hung out of our throats. Too fine, too rich and too fancy – there were often times when we just craved the simple and the homey. At times like these it was good that my dad was in the position he was in, for my mum could simply walk into an unused part of the kitchen, get her ingredients and begin working her magic.

Mutter paneer is an all-time favorite of mine. This popular North Indian dish is often found in Indian restaurants around the world but nothing compares to the way my mother would make it.

Mutter paneer is basically a flavorful vegetarian dish made of soft homemade Indian cheese called paneer, which is lightly pan friend then added to a spiced gravy with peas and tomatoes.

In this recipe I’ve adapted my mother’s recipe over the years and instead of a thin gravy, I have created a creamier version, with an intensive fruity flavored tomato sauce, which coats the soft homemade paneer

Mutter Paneer

Printable version of recipe here

Ingredients

250g paneer, cut into cubes
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
1/2 inch thick piece of ginger, roughly cut
3 large cloves garlic
1 green chili
Canola oil
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1 bay  leaf
250g chunky tomato passata 
2 teaspoon garam masala
300g fresh or frozen peas, if using frozen do not thaw them
100ml cream
pinch of sea salt
handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Method

  1. To pan-fry the paneer cubes heat a small glug of oil in a skillet to medium and place the paneer cubes in a single layer. Cook them, turning occasionally until all the surfaces is a light golden color. Carefully remove the cheese cubes and allow the drain on kitchen paper towels. Set aside.  

  2. Pulse together onion, garlic, ginger and chili in a food processor until finely pureed.

  3. Pour a drizzle of oil into a saucepan and heat to medium-high. Sprinkle the black cumin seeds and bay leaf and cook for approx 6-8 seconds, until the cumin seeds are fragrant and turn slightly brown.

  4. Add the onion-garlic mixture and stir-fry for approx. 6 minutes until the mixture takes one a reddish golden color.

  5. Pour the passata and mix. Lower the heat to medium, then add the garam masala and salt. Allow to simmer covered for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and simmer for another 5 minutes, until the sauce becomes thick.

  6. Add about 50ml of water, then the peas and stir. Simmer for another 8 minutes or until the peas are tender. Keep an eye on the consistency of the gravy. If you find it is becoming too dry add a few tablespoons of water.

  7. Fold in the cream, then finally add the paneer and allow to simmer for another 5 minutes.

  8. Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves. Is perfect with naans or pitas and even better with a light pilaf.

 

The Food Guide Tips:

- Make your own homemade paneer

- Find out everything about the Indian spice kitchen

 

 

 


Verdict

 Mutter Paneer (0038) by MeetaK

While my mother’s version is based on the classic Punjabi style of making mutter paneer, what I like about my version is that the gravy is thicker and heavily coats the paneer, so each bite of the cheese is accompanied by a plethora of incredible flavors. Paneer itself is fairly bland and flavorless, but with a rich and full bodied tasting gravy it adds a heavenly highlight. The sauce itself is fruity and tangy and wonderfully aromatic and must be wiped clean with morsels of rotis.

This is a perfect side dish and can be accompanied by any of your favorite Indian flatbreads. It works well with a creamy butter chicken for a more elaborate meal. 

Delicious Indian curries from WFLH:

Coconut Potato Curry with Basil & Cashews Chicken Tikka Masala Egg Curry in a Creamy Coconut Gravy

 


All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2010 Meeta Khurana unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First

54 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing this amusing, yet instructive, memory with us: it is very interesting to read about an uncommon education and childhood as yours. And thanks for this beautiful and flavoured recipe: I whish I could find paneer here in Italy, but I don't!

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  2. Meeta I am so 'J' of you...living in hotels...wow..but I agree it must have been a pain having to eat restaurant food everyday..my hubs as a bachelor did that so much that we barely eat out now as he prefers my home cooking...I think I did a similar thing of ordering room service coffee like my dad used to as a kid while on holiday at a hotel..
    Sometime I dont even fry the Paneer..just soak them in hot water for a min or two to soften them and add it to the gravy..Paneer seems to absorb the gravy better this way..Will have to try your thicker creamier version though.

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  3. Thanks for sharing your memory, quite fun to read. And your mutter paneer looks absolutely scrumptious!

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  4. Love mutter paneer & really enjoyed reading the story behind your recipe. So amusing that you ordered everything on the menu & it actually got delivered to your room, lol.
    @Onde99 - paneer is super easy to make. Just google recipes for paneer/cottage cheese.

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  5. Thanks so much for the comments. Yeah it was not the "normal" way of living and it had it's ups and downs too. Glad you are all liking the recipe here

    @onde99 in the post i have linked to the homemade paneer recipe i use all the time. in germany we too do not get paneer so i make double portions and freeze it. perfect for whenever you get a craving for dishes like this!

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  6. A fabulous dish! I've never eaten paneer, but I bet it tastes heavenly.

    I loved your short story!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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  7. Nice one and i loved the write up, especially where u ordered the whole items on menu!!!LOL....But as us said, it is quite difficult to eat fancy foods all teh time. Even though they are great and fancy, we just feel bored, dont we?...My hubby always prefer my home madwe food over anything..

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  8. What would we do without mums and dads who keep our feet firmly on the ground :-)

    Love your richer version of the popular matar paneer- a firm favourite in our house too. I add the paneeer without frying, towards the end.

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  9. Mutter paneer looks fantastic. Tongue tickling clicks :) And its always a pleasure reading your posts :)

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  10. Meeta - what an interesting post! I would have loved to grow up living in various resorts and hotels... I think... at least for some time... thank you for taking us into your world! And thanks for sharing your Mum's recipe - I am sure that someone has grounded as her would have excellent and practical recipes.

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  11. I am still laughing at you ordering every single item on the menu! :)

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  12. Wow, You lived in a hotel??? That is one uncommon experience. but with all the yumm food, I sure it had its disadvantages too. Like missing home food and "home" feel. Matar paneer is my fav too!

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  13. Great story Meeta - no wonder you ended up so sensible! I can remember as a kid staying in hotels on holidays and the sheer joy of that knock on the door and someone proffering a tray of breakfast outside. Only time we could have whatever we wanted.

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  14. Great story! So what I want to know now is how many plates did you finish that day?

    The mutter paneer looks gorgeous! I can't wait to try it!

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  15. Growing up in a hotel!! Hmm.. that must have been some experience.. a princess's life :))

    Mutter paneer is one of my favorite veggie dishes too :) Even though the paneer is tasteless, i find somehow, it makes the dish :)

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  16. Thank you very much Meeta, I had not seen the link in your post. I wrote paneer recipe down and as soon as I get good whole milk I am going to prepair it!

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  17. Meeta, beautiful presentation. Delicious looking curry :)

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  18. :-) I envy you for getting to grow up in a hotel, yet sometimes I don't. If that makes any sense

    Mutter paneer is an all time favorite here. I don't fry the paneer. The sauce looks thick & I love the way they coat the fried paneer.

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  19. Living in a restaurant sounds fascinating. I love all things paneer and this recipe's creaminess would do perfect justice!

    I have been on your site several time - it is so inviting – wonderful photos and recipes. I plan to make your recipe of Dulce De Leche cheesecake this weekend since my husband is coming back and its one of his favorites. I will leave a comment on that post when I get through it. Hope it turns out good - wish me luck!

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  20. I love this story, Meeta. :-) What a delightful glimpse into your unusual childhood. :-) You made me smile today.

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  21. This looks awesome Meeta! The photos are gorgeous. It doesn't help that it's way past dinner time here and I am STARVING.

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  22. Just wow! Don't want to say any further.
    Just discovered your blog and 'm loving it!

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  23. I haven't had a good mutter paneer in ages. I love how you convey your childhood memories and how they relate to food. Thanks for the recipe Meeta!

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  24. I love your stories about living in a hotel. I ran a hotel for a few years, and even as an adult living there was often pretty funny. And I totally craved real, homey food. This recipe looks wonderful!

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  25. Earlier today I had posted my version of Mutter Paneer too. Yours has more Paneer than peas and mine vice-versa.
    Growing up in a hotel must have been an interesting experience. Eating rich food day in day out, no matter how good it tastes must have been boring.

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  26. mutter paneeer looks delicious, n very beautifully photographed

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  27. This gravy is perfect for rotis luv it!!

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  28. What a fascinating childhood you must've had - seeing all the guests coming & going. And room service on tap? Bring it on. Had to laugh at you ordering the entire menu, isn't that just so typical of a child? I want it all, and I want it now! ;-)

    Great recipe too - I fell in love with paneer last year.

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  29. Thanks everyone for all your comments! Glad you are liking this post! There are several stories I have to tell!

    I fry the paneer because it holds up better in the sauce than when it is not fried. I also prefer aroma of the paneer when it is lightly pan-fried.

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  30. Beautiful recipe and interesting read as always. Love to be here, your site radiates a true innocence and freshness every time I visit.
    And I visit more often for your clicks and then for the recipes.
    Both are irresistible!

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  31. What a funny story! I too love paneer, and this dish sounds comforting and delicious.

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  32. Awww I loved that story. You could totally write a book on your childhood :) Not to mention, the mutter paneer looks amazing. Definitely adding it to my list!

    Sues

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  33. Spice chica, this is beautiful. I have made paneer once, but the texure was not yet perfected. Will try again for sure!!

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  34. I love Indian cuisine!
    This meal looks really mouth-watering, I bet it's amazing!

    Thanks for the Paneer recipe, I'll try make it myself :)

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  35. Haha! Meeta! The story was so cute. See, you were destined to be a foodie :))

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  36. What an extraordinary childhood you had!
    Your mother sounds like a very reasonable person and looks like she passed on to you some amazing recipes.
    I love these type of dishes. I'm going to try this and I'll also give homemade paneer a shot.
    Magda

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  37. Awesome clicks and very tempting mutter paneer meeta.. looks gorgeous.

    Pavithra
    www.dishesfrommykitchen.com

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  38. I've finally made it back to comment - That's soooo funny!!!!!!! I love the image of trolley after trolley being wheeled in for you and your mother being baffled where it had all come from!

    I love mutter paneer, I haven't had it for ages. I have made the cheese myself once but need to look up what I did - something to do with muslin cloths and sieves as I recall!

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  39. Well, it sounds like you were awfully spoiled to me! Especially compared to the life I had and with a mom who hated to cook! LOL! But seriously, I know for a fact that you have turned out to be a kind, generous, giving, lovely, unspoiled adult, as unspoiled as anyone I know and I am honored to be able to call you Sister! And this Indian dish looks fabulous, luscious, perfect. My kind of food! Lucky you to have grown up with the food influence you did. xo

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  40. Um, still waiitng for that chocolatey goodness that u mentioned on FB!....Just cant wait enough!
    Shabeena aka Shabs.

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  41. This looks and sounds amazing. I've been meaning to try making mutter paneer for a while now so this has given me a much needed prod - soon.

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  42. Thanks so much everyone for your comments. Hope you all come back and tell me how it went and tasted when you make this.

    Jamie - haha! We were anything but spoilt! On the contrary my parents were often stricter. Touched by your sentiments here. Love having you as a sister too!

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  43. Darling, you have no idea how much I've enjoyed this post been part of the Hospitality *family* ourselves too.

    Regis and I always fight to make sure our expat package insures us independent accommodation (even thought sometimes we have to say no to such magical places like Mumbai!!)so we can turn our little flat into a true home away from home.Is just make things easier don't you think?..

    About your 8 yrs old episode with Room Service? Oh, I also have that problem too(at my thirty something yrs old..) every time I join my hubs on a business trip I can't help but to order half the menu!....

    Thanks for sharing your life with us, and thanks for that mutter paneer recipe, is one of hubs favorite side dish.

    besos and Go Germany

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  44. Oh Meeta, I'm so excited you posted a Mutter Paneer recipe! I love that dish!!!
    And, I can't imagine what it must have been like growing up in a hotel! That's crazy. Made me chuckle to think that whilst most of us grew up in "Hotel Mama", you actually got to live in a proper hotel. Maybe that's the reason for your interest in home cooking? Either way, I'm just in love with your pictures and will have to try out this recipe!
    Hugs, Anne

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  45. Just like those kids from your childhood, I am oh so jealous of you, Meeta!! Sounds like you had an amazing childhood!

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  46. This meal looks really mouth-watering, I bet it's amazing!

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  47. I like it....Great recipe.. thanks :)

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  48. Your story is so interesting and reminds me of one. I have a friend whose father was the General Manager of the Washington Hilton Hotel. His funny story was when he was in Kindergarten and the teacher was reading a farm story to the kids. She showed them a picture book with lots of farm animals in a barnyard and asked "where does milk come from?" My friend's hand shot up and without waiting to be called on, he shouted "from room service!" He said his parents were so embarrassed that they spent many subsequent weekends in the "real world" to avoid more gaffes in the classroom. Thanks for the lovely post.

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  49. Hi Meeta,
    Happy to read your childhood memories. Mutter panner recipe is very nice. Plz visit my blog http://www.jayzkitchen.blogspot.com/ for vegetarian recipes.
    love,
    Jayanthi

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  50. i would love to have lived in a hotel like you :)
    the mutter paneer looks great, and it's actually one of my favorites too(especially with naan), except I've never really tried making it, and i may just try out your recipe

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  51. I have seen your Mutter Paneer recipes for a couple of times, they look amazing. I would really love to try them.

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  52. Meeta, I'm glad to have found a mutter paneer recipe on your blog. Your Punjabi aloo gobi has been in my repertoire for years now. I grew up in Madhya Pradesh and all my life secretly wanted to be born a Punjabi for the delicious food. The homestyle curries in my Punjabi friends' dabbas were always better than what was served in North Indian restaurants and I still crave them. My Maharashtrian mom's channa was never the same. I am wondering if you'd care to post your mom's mutter paneer? I love the way the paneer cubes soak up that thinnish tomato gravy. Or if there's just a slight difference in the two versions, would love to hear what that is. Thanks from the bottom of my displaced-desi heart. :-)

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Thank you for visiting What's For Lunch, Honey? and taking time to browse through my recipes, listen to my ramblings and enjoy my photographs. I appreciate all your comments, feedback and input. I will answer your questions to my best knowledge and respond to your comments as soon as possible.

In the meantime I hope you enjoy your stay here and that I was able to make this an experience for your senses.

Hugs
Meeta