The battlefield sizzled as a pungent odor rose in the air. White smoke bellowed up as the translucent knights charged again at the green army, lashing around till it was hard to separate the two - it was red everywhere. As the heat rose and the ground bubbled, the soft white maidens descended into the melee - bringing equilibrium to the boisterous mix. Okkk, enough imagination :) I took a deep sniff to bask in the aroma as I looked down into my sizzling pan at the almost-ready Kadhai Paneer (Cottage cheese & green bell pepper stir-fry). As I came back to reality from my daydream - the translucent knights transformed to onions, the green army turned to green bell pepper slices, the white maidens became cottage cheese pieces, all quivering agitatedly in the red tomato broth. Ah! It is so hard to resist getting dreamy when cooking my favorite Paneer dish - simply because I love preparing it just as much as my husband and I love digging into its tasty goodness.
We Indians have a thing for Paneer (Cottage cheese) - Kadhai Paneer, Palak Paneer, Matar Paneer, Paneer Bhurji... the list goes on. And all of them rank as the favorite items on any Indian restaurant's menu. With good looks, great aroma, and an awesome taste, Kadhai Paneer is a supermodel amongst Indian dishes. Its name derives from the utensil in which it is prepared - Kadhai / Kadai is the Hindi (India's national langauage) term for "Wok". Unlike its other super-popular Paneer counterparts, however, Kadhai Paneer stands out as it satisfies an Indian's Paneer fetish to the hilt - simply because it does not drown the Paneer pieces in gravy, but rather glorifies them in extra-large sized triangular pieces with the other ingredients playing a supporting role. The soft Paneer pieces complement and mute the crunchy, spicy taste of the sauteed capsicum and onions in the spiced tomato sauce. Again, because of the lack of gravy, the flavors of individual ingredients stand out in sharper relief as compared to other dishes - so make sure the veggies and Paneer are fresh, and the spices are of good quality to get a great taste. Simply the aroma of this great dish is enough to attract a crowd - I would recommend sealing your doors and windows before preparing this dish if you have jealous neighbors ;)
KADHAI PANEER RECIPE
1 1/2 cup sliced Onions
2 cups pureed Tomatoes
1 cup thinly sliced Green Bell Pepper (Capsicum)
1-2 Green chillies or to taste; destemmed and finely chopped
1 tsp minced fresh Ginger
1 tsp minced fresh Garlic
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Garam Masala powder; available in Indian Grocery stores
1 tbsp crushed Dried fenugreek leaves (Kasuri methi); available in Indian Grocery stores
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Cilantro (Coriander) leaves
For dry-roasting & pounding:
1 tbsp Coriander seeds; ; available in Indian Grocery stores
1 tsp Cumin seeds
How to make Kadai paneer
- Heat a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add dried red chiles, coriander seeds & cumin seeds. Dry-roast for 2 minutes while stirring constantly. Remove the pan from heat. Once the spices cool down, pound them coarsely using a mortar & pestle. Keep aside.
- Heat oil in a non-stick pan on medium heat. Add minced garlic & ginger & sauté for 15 seconds.
- Add onions & sauté till the onions are translucent.
- Add tomatoes & sauté till the oil separates from the tomatoes.
- Add the pounded spices, salt & sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of water. Mix well.
- When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat. Cover & cook for 10 minutes.
- Increase the heat to medium heat, add bell pepper and sauté till the bell pepper is cooked but crunchy.
- Add dried fenugreek leaves, green chillies & cilantro leaves. Stir for a minute.
- Add cottage cheese. Stir gently till the cottage cheese pieces are fully coated with the mixture. Adjust seasoning to your taste.
- Transfer into a serving bowl. Serve hot with rotis, naans, kulchas or paranthas.
- Dry Red Chillies add hotness to the dish, so add according to your taste. But do not omit it completely as this is one of the main ingredients of this dish.
- You may skip adding Green Chillies to this dish if Red Chillies are hot enough for your taste.