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Paneer Lababdaar


Paneer lababdaar.A rich & robust paneer curry which has bit of an influence from Mughlai cuisine in use of nuts and yogurt but the whole spices and the unique texture of the sauce from adding grated paneer sets it different. 

On those special weekends when we visited Pandara Road restaurants near India gate for dinner, this was one thing I always ordered along with tandoori rotis.The first bite of crispy ghee smeared rotis straight from the tandoor with softest paneer chunks covered in a mild yet deftly spiced sauce was no less than romance.

I was itching to write down this recipe for long and finally it happened over the labor day weekend. Such dishes are special occasion and a perfect switch up from the home style paneer curries. 

If you would like a more reddish sauce, add a bit of good quality Kashmiri chilli powder when adding other spices. Also, if you like the sauce on a sweetish side, add more sugar. Enjoy!

Recipe

For the Sauce

  • 3 tbsp oil (any neutral oil)
  • 4 cloves
  • 5-6 green cardamom
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1/4 tsp shahjeera 
  • 2 small blades javitri (mace)
  • 1 large tejpatta (indian bay leaf)
  • 3/4 cup chopped yellow/white onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 inch fresh ginger shoot, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Thai bird green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/3 cup raw broken cashews (or 5-6 tbsp whole cashews)
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee
  • 2/3 cup plain whole milk thick yogurt, beaten
  • 1/2 cup-3/4 cup water (depending on how thick/thin you want the sauce)
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional)
  • 6 oz paneer (cut into any shape you like)
  • 1/3 cup paneer, grated
  • salt to taste
  • 5-6 tbsp heavy cream (quantity can up to 1/2 cup, depending on how rich you like)
  • a generous pinch of good quality saffron (ground to fine dust in mortar pestle),soaked in 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder (fresh ground if possible)
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp golden raisins
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Method

Soak the cashews in 1/2 cup water for 10 minutes. Drain and discard the water.

In a heavy bottomed pot or kadhai, heat up the oil on medium high. Add the cloves,cardamom, mace, shahjeera, cinnamon, tejpatta to hot oil and let the whole spices crackle, about 8-10 seconds or till you smell an aroma.

Next add the onions, ginger and garlic and saute for 3-5 minutes until the onions starts to turn translucent (don’t brown them). Add the soaked cashews next along with green chillies. Saute for 2-3 minutes. Reduce the heat to very low now and add the coriander, turmeric Cook for 3-4 minutes on low heat until you see oil separating on the sides. Put the stove off, pick out the bay leaf & cinnamon, half of the cloves & cardamom and tip the contents into a blender. The mixture is going to be hot so wait for 10 minutes before you start blending it. Blend (use as less water as possible during blending).I do not make a very smooth paste, you can decide the texture of the sauce at this point).

Meanwhile, in the same pot or another pot, heat up the 2-3 tbsp ghee on medium. When the ghee is hot enough, start searing the paneer pieces on both sides. You could do this is batches. Once paneer is seared, take them out and in the same ghee, add the blended sauce. Stir around, lower the heat and add beaten yogurt.Cook for 6-8 minutes continuously stirring till you see little drops of oil bubbling.

Add the water now depending on the desired consistency  of sauce (I add 1/2 cup water) along with crushed kasuri methi. Check and adjust the salt. Let come to a slow boil on medium. Add the paneer cubes and grated paneer. Finish with cream, saffron infused milk, cardamom powder, sugar and raisins. Let simmer (not boil) for 5-7 minutes on very low heat. Once simmered, put off the heat and let sit covered for 2 hours.

Serve.

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