Shahi paneer is a perfect example of what Indian curries can be like. Its all about subtle spices, delicate aroma and a creamy scrumptious gravy that will make you want it with roti,naan, pulao or even bread! I know I have done that the morning after. Bread and Shahi Paneer for breakfast. Now THAT was a good day 😛
“Shahi” paneer – For the longest time this word used to conjure up the strangest images in the food silly head of mine. I remember when I was eleven years old and just starting to fall in love with food, we used to go to this nice restaurant one night a week. Growing up our parents were a tad strict where our diet was concerned. And if you happen to be lucky enough to know my parents you will understand how silly the terms “strict” and “my parents” sound together. They sound almost foreign. Alien. But here’s the thing : “My mum who is a fabulous cook used to make whatever we wanted at home..Typical mornings began with aloo paratha, or poori subji, mithai in some form or the other, curd and fruits. My lunchbox was always the most sought after in class (In fact, there was this friend of mine who used to eat half of it while the rest of us were at prayer!!) ..after school lunch was a wholesome affair with 5 curries (dal, 2 curries,1 bhujia of some sort, 1 saag dish),green salad, roti and rice. Evenings were spent eating delicious bread pakodas, egg bhurjis,uttapams, upma, pakoda, poha, shakes and so much more. And then there was dinner. And as you all know she worked full time as a professor.
Lets just say, I think my mom was..is a saint for doing that for thirty yrs. God Almighty!! I make one curry and take a break for the next two days!!! She still makes 5 types of things for lunch even though its just dad and her at home now.
So what I was trying to say before I totally lost myself in the delicious memory of my mom’s cooking was – – we didn’t eat out too regularly.
So the first time we ordered Shahi Paneer, I almost expected to see paneer dressed in purple robes and a dazzling crown!! Hey..dont judge!! I was all of eleven and had a remarkably active imagination. Fine. The word you are looking for is “weird imagination”. Happy?? 😉
Imagine my dismay when the waiter lifted the cloche and revealed what looked like the paneer with cashew gravy mom made at home!! Only noticeable difference?? Their’s was redder in color. And had “varq” or silver foils on it. HUH. BIG FAT SHAHI letdown.
After that night, I realized things don’t become shahi just coz you call them that or stick some shiny thingy on it. The one I had at my unroyal, simple home was just as “Shahi” or royal as the one they served in the restaurant. Major difference?? The restaurant made a big hue and cry about it being the chef’s special, served it in a vintage cloche and with flourish. My mom on the other hand served it straight out of the handi, with no extra unnecessary varq on it, no flourishes, no garnishes.. simply called it paneer and said “dinner is ready, come before the rotis get cold”.
True royalty has never needed artificial flourishes..and I realized it then. All of eleven and I had just gotten my first true example of understated elegance. My mom. And this incredibly simple curry.
Naturally I preferred the one at home coz my mom’s was creamier, milder and had an aroma that could invoke certain feelings in me. At that time I didn’t understand the importance of aromas..but now, paneer and that deliciously heady yet delicate fragrance of kasuri methi and kesar are forever entwined in my head with the image of a happy home cooked meal. The best shahi paneer is the one I am sharing with you today. Needless to say, I have my mom to thank for that..
And give my dad a big giant hug *again* for saying that this was the BEST paneer dish he had in his entire life.
Reason for my happiness??
It took me a royal twenty minutes to make it!! Imagine that..20 minutes !! 😉
Easy peasy, takes a tad bit of planning..and you will definitely need a blender, but apart from that its all about sauteeing the masala just right..and letting the royal things be ..The gravy is the hero here. Its a tomato and onion masala sauteed with fragrant kasuri methi and a few spices. Later on, a rich thick paste of blended cashew nuts and kesar soaked cream is added to it and the paneer pieces left to simmer in it till it reaches creamy perfection.
Serve it up to your prince or princess… heck even your king when you want them to have a Royally delicious Dinner… or a Shahi breakfast like I do.
Again “Dont judge” 😛
Serving Suggestions: Roti, naan, Rice, Pulao or even bread A mild and cooling raita or lassi is all you need to drink with it.
- Paneer/ Pressed Cottage cheese - 250 gms. (Use fresh paneer for best result)
- Onion - 1 chopped fine
- Tomato - 2 medium, chopped fine.
- Cashew nuts - ½ cup
- Ginger Garlic Green chillie paste - 2 tablespoon (I make mine)
- Fresh cream - 100 ml
- Saffron - a pinch
- Kasuri Methi - 3 tablespoon
- Kashmiri red chillie powder - 1 teaspoon
- Turmeric - ½ teaspoon.
- Salt to taste
- Garam masala powder - ½ teaspoon
- Whole Spices:
- Green cardamom - 2
- Cloves - 3
- Cinnamon - ½ inch stick
- Black cardamom- 1
- Jeera or Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
- Oil - 2 tablespoon
- Water - 1 cup
- Coriander leaf and cream for garnishing
- Start by soaking the paneer and the cashew nuts in lukewarm water 30 minutes before the cooking time.
- Make the ginger,garlic and green chillie paste by using fresh ingredients and blending them.
- Chop up the onion and tomatoes really fine.
- After 30 minutes, blend the cashew with just a tad of water into a completely fine paste.
- Cut the Paneer into desired sized pieces, I prefer to keep them a little long; 2inch.
- Soak the kesar in 2 tablespoon of warm cream and keep aside. The rest of the cream should be at room temperature.
- Now, once the prepping is done, heat a cauldron. Add 2 tablespoon oil and let it heat up.
- Add the whole spices and let it pop.
- Add the cumin seeds after it and let that pop too.
- Next, add the ginger,garlic chillie paste and saute till the raw smell leaves, about two mins.
- Add the finely copped onion and saute till fragrant and pink,do not brown.
- Add the spices to it and the tomatoes, saute well.
- At this point of time, I like to add ¼ cup of water and let the masala cook in it. This ensures that I dont need to add more oil. Keep stirring and frying the masala till really cooked. Almost ten mins. The masala should leave oil at the sides. At no time should you think of cutting back on this. The masala is the most important and tricky bit.
- Next, crush the dried fenugreek in your hands and add that to the masala..Mix well and let it cook for 2 more minutes.
- Add the paneer pieces and mix well. Add salt and mix.
- Cover and cook on sim for 10 minutes. Stir in between to make sure its not sticking.
- Add ½ cup water. And boil it.
- One the gravy has thickened considerably, add the cashew nut paste to it and let it cook for 5 mins. Do not cover anymore.
- Add the kesar /saffron infused cream and the remaining cream to the gravy, give a thorough stir..
- Cook for two minutes and take it off the flame.
- Garnish with coriander and a drizzle of cream before serving.
- Serve hot.
Soaking it makes the paneer soft which is really recommended for frozen paneer. If using fresh paneer, skip the step.
Similarly,soaking the cashew in the warm water makes blending it into paste much easier and results in really creamy paste.
You can avoid the cream if desired, it is still good,I have made it both ways and its delicious.
In a time crunch, you can use ready made ginger garlic paste and simply add chopped green chillies to the masala. Have done that on crazy hectic mornings too.
Frying the masala is of paramount importance to a curry. Please do not rush it. Do not burn it. You have to check it, stir it, add splashes of water (as opposed to oil) if you feel its sticking.
I use a non stick ceramide pot for my gravies so I have never needed more than 2 tbsp. But you can change that as required.
The paneer pieces may be sauteed lightly before adding to the gravy, However, I have never liked fried paneer and I tend to prefer the softness that unfried paneer lends to the curry.
Letting the paneer cook in the masala ensures that the paneer doesn't remain bland, rather it soaks up the masala.
I never measure my ingredients as I eye ball them. So adjust acc to taste, and use your better judgement.