I have been on a cooking Indian kick lately. However, this streak of Indian cooking is a desire that’s been a long time in the making. The first time I had Indian food was in a little restaurant in Provo, Utah about 19 years ago. Now, you wouldn’t think that Provo, Utah would have good Indian food but you would be wrong. This Indian food rocked my world and changed any preconceived notions I’d had about the cuisine. I was immediately in love. It was like a spice explosion for my taste buds and I became a devotee right away.
After Utah, we moved to the East Coast and we found many wonderful Indian restaurants there that we would frequent. My favorite dish was Chicken Tikka Masala. I loved the sauce. I could taste the ginger flavor but couldn’t make out what the other spices were. It just tasted so complex. It was this complexity of flavor that kept me away from trying to cook it on my own. I was far too intimidated. But, not anymore.
After arriving in Switzerland and getting used to my surroundings, I began to notice the many ethnic stores that dotted the city. This made me very, very excited. Now, I really like to try new things and I knew seeing these stores meant that I would be able to easily find the ingredients for the new dishes I wanted to cook up.
Here’s a new recipe that I’ve tried recently. It’s a famous dish but I have made a couple of changes to it for my tastes. It has the masala sauce of my favorite dish, Chicken Tikka Masala, but this is a vegetarian version. I hope you enjoy it 🙂
Butter Paneer Masala
- 1 cup of Paneer (Indian cheese) cut into little cubes
- 2 cups of tomato puree or 1/4 cup of tomato paste with a cup and 1/2 of water
- 2 tablespoons of whole fat plain yogurt
- 1/2 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons of heavy cream
- 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- 1/8 of a teaspoon of red chili powder (omit if you don’t want the heat)
- 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (this is a blend of spices including but not exclusively cinnamon, cardamon and cumin)
- 2 tablespoons of butter or ghee
- 1 tablespoon of flour
- Salt to taste
- Fresh chopped cilantro
- 1 cup of peas (optional)
Heat your pan on medium and add your two tablespoons of butter or ghee to the pan. Add your cumin seeds to the melted butter. This is called “tempering” and it extracts the wonderful flavor from the spices. You will see and hear the cumin seeds start to crackle. Now, add your ginger, garlic and turmeric powder and chili if you want it. Stir for a bit and then add your tomato puree or tomato paste and water. If it looks a little thick then add some water to help it to cook down. Now, add your paneer. Keep stirring and then add your garam masala and yogurt. Let it simmer for a few minutes covered. Add your salt to taste. Now, add your heavy cream and stir. Let it simmer for another minute or so. This last step is to thicken the sauce. I take a tablespoon of flour and add some water until it’s a paste and add it at the end to the dish. Stir in and watch the sauce thicken. I add peas to mine because it’s a somewhat heavy dish and I like the freshness of the peas but if you don’t like peas, it’s ready to serve over basmati rice topped with fresh chopped cilantro.
Another reason I love Indian food is because it’s so nutritious. Turmeric is loaded with antioxidants. Ginger is a wonderful anti-inflammatory and those are just two found in this dish. I’m particularly fond of these foods in the winter because when it’s cold outside I want to have ‘warming’ spices at home. These are the very ‘warming’ spices that ward off the cold and flu. They also happen to be really delicious.
Live well and be happy!