When Dave and I first started dating, he lived next door to a great little Mexican place that we frequented all the time. A little further down the street was an Indian restaurant that we decided to try one night, even though I had never had Indian before and was not sure what I would order.
The first dish I ever selected there ended up being my favorite! Matar Paneer (or Mutter Paneer if you prefer) is such a classic, basic dish, but its so delicious. The paneer is a firmer cheese so it doesn’t melt, and its mixed with peas in a rich, creamy tomato sauce. Served over rice, with some garlic naan – this is heaven. I fell in love with Indian food that night, we went a lot more often after that! (The place we went to was India Garden on Atwood Street in Oakland – if you are in Pittsburgh and like Indian, I recommend trying it out!)
Now that we are in the Middle East, we have plenty of access to Indian restaurants, and Indian cooking ingredients (like ghee and paneer)! While we have a favorite vegetarian Indian restaurant here, its not the most convenient to get to, and delivery can be difficult since there are no street addresses here. So I decided to attempt to make some authentic Indian food at home for dinner!
I initially wanted to make every thing from scratch – matar paneer, rice, and garlic naan. However, I ended up doing this late one evening, and just ran out of time for the naan (Like all breads, it needs time to rise!). That will be a project soon though 🙂
I had a few recipes saved for Matar Paneer, and decided to use one I found on this blog called Edible Symphony, most likely from tastespotting – its where I find the majority of my recipes! Check out her blog – she has much better pictures of it than I do! It is a Nigella Lawson recipe, so I had a feeling it was going to be pretty good.
I have tried numerous times to cook rice, and it just never seems to taste like it does in Indian restaurants when we order it. I had seen a lot of people talk about a blog called Manjula’s Kitchen, that features all sorts of Indian food. If you want to make any Indian food – this blog is an amazing resource! Check out her blog for the rice recipe – it was the basic recipe for basmati rice. Simple and delicious!
So I watched some videos and learned a LOT about rice. First, you have to soak it before you cook it. Next, don’t stir it or mess with it while its cooking. Leave it alone. (This is hard for me, lol). She just added some oil, salt, and water and let it absorb all the liquid til it was nice and fluffy. I thought it was the best rice I had ever made!
It was a really delicious dinner, and Dave loved it too, so its definitely going to be added into the rotation! I think next time, I might try some channa masala, and possibly with some homemade naan. (It will definitely be a weekend project).
Matar Paneer (from Nigella Feasts) Serves 6
3 Tbsp Oil
8-12 oz Paneer (cut into 1/2 cubes)*
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (I used a garlic press)
1-inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon tumeric
1/2 tsp chili powder (more if you like things spicy)
1/2 tsp garam masala (I omitted this since I thought I had some, but didn’t)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (I added this after reading Manjula’s Matar Paneer recipe)
1 10-ounce package of frozen peas
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
2 hot green chilies (I omitted this)
up to 1/4 cup of pouring cream (I used heavy cream – I think its the same)
Cilantro, optional for garnish (I omitted this)
1. Heat a large non-stick skillet and add the paneer cubes, in two batches, and fry until they are golden. Remove the cubes and keep them aside.
2. In the same pan heat up the oil on medium heat. Saute the onions till transparent, then add the ginger-garlic and cook for another 2 mins.
3. Stir in the salt, chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala and green chillies (I added the cinnamon here too). Then put in all the frozen peas.
4. Dissolve the 1 tbsp of tomato paste in the vegetable stock then add this mixture to the onions and spices.
5. Mix well, turn the heat up and once it comes to a boil, turn the heat down to medium again, cover with a lid and let the whole thing simmer for 15 mins.
6. Once all the peas are really tender (don’t forget to check!), put the paneer cubes back in and warm them through.
7. Finally, pour in the cream to thicken the sauce, then turn off the heat. Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro.
8. Serve warm with rice and naan, if you have it! Enjoy! 😀
* In the US, I could usually find paneer at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or a local Indian grocer if you have one of those!
The finished product!