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Khoya Paneer Kali Mirch


This north indian paneer dish is not as popular as the tomato based creamy curries but it is such a great switch up from regular curries. Fresh ground kali mirch(black pepper) is the main flavor here and the peppery sauce of browned onions and yogurt is just so delicious. To make it tad more indulgent, I add crumbled khoya & hatful of makhana to this dish and it is so good with doughy naan, especially garlic naan.

If you have browned onions ready to go, this dish takes hardly 15-20 minutes or so. I usually deep fry onions at home and keep a stash but you can use any store bought brand that you like. Refrain from using too much onions else the gravy will become sweet. I recommend using fresh ground black pepper but don’t add too much at a once, the gravy is mellow with subtle hints of spice. All in all the dish is mild, faintly sour and creamy and such an indulgent addition to any festive menu.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 50 grams raw cashews
  • 6 oz paneer, cut in chunks or triangles
  • 1/3 cup makhana (foxnuts)
  • 100 grams sliced onions
  • Oil to fry the onions, about 1/2 cup
  • 2-3 thai bird green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 2 tbsp +2 tsp ghee
  • 2 inch cinnamon
  • 3 cloves
  • 4 green cardamom
  • a small twig of mace
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns, pounded in a mortar pestle
  • 1.5 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder (not roasted)
  • 1/2 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp thick plain full fat yogurt, whisked
  • 1 tsp sugar (or more if you like a sweetish gravy)
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup – 3/4 cup water (depending on consistency of gravy you like)
  • 1/4 cup grated khoya/mawa
  • 3-4 tbsp heavy cream
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp rose water or kewra water (optional)
  • Chopped cilantro

Method

Soak the cashews in 1/2 cup warm water for 10 mins. In a pan, add 2 tsp ghee and fry up the paneer slightly. Once done, take out in a plate and add the makhana to the remaining ghee and very light toast them for 1-2 minutes. Take out in the same plate and set aside.

Add oil for frying in a wide pan and heat it up. When the oil is hot but not smoky, add sliced onions to it. On medium heat, fry up the onions to a deep shade of brown, but don’t make them too brown. Frying in a wide pan in a single layer will avoid the onions from becoming soggy. Keep an eye and keep on stirring them. Once done, drain on a paper towel in a single layer and let cool down, they will crisp up a bit. This step can be done 2-3 days ahead. Use the oil for making any savory curry if you wish.

Add the soaked cashews (without water), onions and green chillies to a blender and blend to a smooth paste. Use little water if needed.

In a pan, add 2 tbsp of ghee and warm up on low medium heat. Temper the ghee with all the whole spices – cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and mace. Saute the spices for 30 seconds and then add the ginger and garlic paste. Saute for 30 seconds taking care that they don’t burn. Add a splash of water if you feel that the pan is too heat when you add the ginger garlic.

Next, add the onion paste to the pan along with all the powdered spices- coriander, cumin, fennel and red chilli. Also add the black pepper powder. Saute the onions and spices on low heat for 4-5 minutes until you see little oil bubbles on the surface and sides. You will have to stir it continuously since the cashews will tend to stick to the bottom of pan.

Once sautéed, take the pan off the stove. Add the yogurt and sugar, immediately mix it with the onion masala. Keep mixing till it is nicely combined. Return to a low stove and keep on continuously mixing till the yogurt is heated through. This will ensure that the yogurt won’t curdle. It will take 5-6 minutes.

Continue to cook and when you see little bubbles of oil on the sides of the pan, add 1/2 water to the pan. Add the salt. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar high now.On low medium heat, let the gravy simmer, do not let boil. Once the gravy is simmering, add the mawa, heavy cream, paneer and makhana. Let everything simmer on low heat for 4-5 minutes. Finish the curry with garam masala. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes more. Switch off the stove and mix in the rose water if using. Gently mix everything. Cover and let the curry sit for 20 minutes before serving.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and a pinch of black pepper powder. Enjoy with naan or jeera rice.

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