Paneer Makhani (Butter Paneer) is as famous and equally delicious as its non-vegetarian counterpart, Murgh Makhani or Butter Chicken. Paneer is an essential component of Indian cuisine, especially in North Indian or Punjabi dishes. It is a mild cheese made usually from whole milk, similar to a Farmer’s cheese. It has a firm texture and is a non-melting cheese that can withstand prolonged cooking times and still have the ability to retain its shape, texture and flavor.
Home made paneer has a wonderful fresh taste and is also easy to make but store bought paneer is just as good and is easily available in any Indian grocery store. You can also substitute extra firm ricotta cheese (brick form) or extra firm tofu as well. Feel free to use organic milk and make your own home made organic paneer.
PANEER MAKHANI (Paneer Makhanwalla or Butter Paneer)
3 cups paneer cubes (1” or so in size)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 large garlic clove, finely minced
2-3 small green Thai chilies, slit in half lengthwise (to taste)
1 large tomato, finely diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
˝ tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp garam masala
˝ tsp red chili powder (to taste)
salt & pepper, to taste
pinch of freshly ground cardamom
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1 cup cream (you can use ˝ &˝ or even yogurt)
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter) or regular butter
1 tbsp oil, canola or vegetable
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the ghee or butter. Also, add the paneer cubes and fry on all sides until golden brown. You may need to do this in batches. Remove to a plate or bowl and set aside until needed.
In the same large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil if needed. When hot, add the onion. Let fry until the edges are just lightly browned and add the ginger, garlic and green chilies. Next add all of the spices (turmeric, ground cumin powder, garam masala, red chili powder, salt & pepper). Stir and let the spices fry in the oil until fragrant. Next, add the Kasoori methi and bay leaf. Now add the tomatoes, tomato paste. If needed, add a ˝ cup of water or so. Let the curry simmer for 5-6 minutes and remove the bay leaf.
This curry is usually very smooth so at this point you can allow the curry to cool off a bit. Then blend the curry either using a hand held immersion blender or transfer to a regular blender. Return the smooth blended curry back to the heat and bring to a gentle simmer. You can add the bay leaf back as well but this is optional. Finally, add the golden brown paneer cubes, the cream, the freshly ground cardamom and the freshly grated nutmeg. Gently stir and let simmer for 8-10 minutes or so. Garnish and serve with fresh rotis and fragrant Basmati rice.