Last week I went with my husband to his company’s awards dinner. The venue was new to both of us– the new National Harbor across the river (Potomac, that is) in southern Maryland. Although it was dark when we got there, we could tell it had potential to be an entertaining destination with lots of shops and restaurants. We’re definitely going to do a weekend get-away when it gets warmer; we’ll be far enough to be by ourselves, yet close enough to get home quickly if there’s an emergency with our son Ken or my mom.
The drinks and hors d’oeuvres reception showcased a variety of Indian dishes. One that we especially enjoyed was the chilli paneer– fried cubes of paneer (Indian cheese) enrobed in a sweet and sour tomato-based sauce with a bit of heat. I’ve only paneer in a spinach sauce (palak paneer), so this was quite different!
When we got home, I decided I wanted to learn to make another paneer dish; however, I knew the chilli sauce might be too much heat for Ken (“I can’t eat this”), so I looked for something milder online and found a paneer butter masala recipe that would fit the bill. The recipe is from a fellow blogger whom I’ll start following because her recipes are all Indian vegetarian. You can check out her blog and the recipe here. It’s one of those Indian dishes, like the Nigella Lawson chicken Mughlai that Ken, who refuses to go to an Indian restaurant after a single bad experience with a bowl of soup, finds hard to believe is real Indian fare. Of course, I plan to make some garlic naan!
The dish is pretty easy to pull together and doesn’t have a ton of spices; I omitted the fenugreek leaves because I didn’t have any. I also didn’t quite follow the cooking instructions simply because I accidentally skipped a step. In the end, no harm, no foul! The sauce is the same rich creamy sauce in Indian butter chicken so make sure you serve lots of naan or rice to soak up all that sauce. If you don’t like or can’t find paneer, feel free to substitute with cubed chicken– just make sure you fully cook the chicken, not just brown it!
Here’s how I did it:
Coat the bottom of a pan with oil (I used olive oil) and brown the cubes of paneer. The cheese spatters a lot, so you may want to use a spatter guard. Remove when browned to a plate lined with paper towels and set aside to drain.
Add more oil to the pan if needed, then add chopped onions, season with salt and pepper and saute until brown. Add the garlic and ginger and saute another minute or two.
Add the spices and mix well into the onion mixture:
Ideally, you want to add the tomato paste and ketchup next so they have a little time to brown, but I added the milk next by mistake, so…
I quickly plopped in the tomato paste and ketchup and lowered the heat.
I didn’t need to simmer the sauce; everything came together quickly, probably because I used a big pan!
Add the paneer cubes and pour in the cream. Stir well to combine all ingredients.
Correct seasoning and simmer for 3-4 minutes:
and serve with your favorite garlic naan. Kurt said it was the best paneer dish he’s ever had– creamy, a bit of sweetness tempered with an underlying kick of heat from the chilli powder!