Some days ago I had a discussion on a food group on FB about the excess of Paneer dishes in the menus of Indian restaurants and wondered if more seasonal veggies can be incorporated for the vegetarian clientele. There was a heated protest in favor of Paneer. Now, I love paneer but don’t really like the rich gravies or masalas in which it is prepared and served in the restaurants. A personal choice.
This is my variation of Kadai paneer though unlike the restaurant style recipe this doesn’t have a semi dry gravy and green capsicum. I love sweet bell peppers but I dislike the green capsicum. I use a lot of sweet peppers in various dishes, add them to sauces, salads, stir fry and this version of kadai paneer or paneer stir fry is not only delicious but healthy too. Different colored bell peppers taste different and have dofferent nutritional values so using them all makes the dish more healthy. Red bell peppers have the highest amount of Vitamin C and many phytochemicals and twice the amount of beta carotene than the green capsicum. The yellow one is slightly sweet, orange one a bit more and the red one is the sweetest. I roast, char, grill, saute the bell peppers as per the requirement of the dish or just use them raw. Bell peppers taste wonderful when slightly roasted or warmed. It really brings out their smoky flavor. Look up my recipe of a Warm Salad with Peppers and roasted potatoes.
I seldom buy Paneer from the market and prefer to make it at home. The whey is used to kneed wheat flour or cook daals etc. Sometimes I just add a little lemon or sugar and drink a cup full. It tastes good and is full of healthy nutrients too.
Fresh paneer is creamy and light and can be incorporated in many dishes even salads.
Here’s how I make the cottage cheese or paneer at home.
Full fat milk – 1 liter
Juice of a lemon – 2-3 tbsp
Heat the whole full fat milk in a pot and just as the top layer begins to wrinkle and the boiling stage starts turn the flame low and slowly add lemon juice little by little. Keep stirring constantly as you add lemon juice till you see the milk curdle and the greenish whey will separate from the cheese curd. If the liquid is still white you need to add a little more lemon juice till all the cheese curd separates from the whey and the whey is clear. Turn off the flame. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
Keep a strainer covered with cheese cloth ready on a pot and transfer the contents slowly so that the whey gets drained and you are left will sticky soft cheese curd or chena. Give it a rinse under filtered tap water to get the lemony taste out.
Press it a little with the back of a ladle to remove excess liquid and then transfer it to a cheese cloth. Squeeze a little and give it a shape with a flat spatula and then press it with a heavy object. Remove the excess water and once done keep it in the fridge to set for an hour or two. Take it out and remove on a plate from the cheesecloth. Cut into cubes to add to any vegetable, salad or curry.
You can use the crumbled cheese or chena if making a filling or scrambled paneer burji.
You can refrigerate the paneer block in an airtight container or in a bowl of cold water for 2-3 days.
Always use full fat milk for best results. You can use white vinegar or curd as a souring agent. Each agent will constitute its own taste. Rinsing always gets that out of the paneer and it can be used to make even the sweets like sondesh, rasgulla etc. I have the nolen gurer sondesh recipe for you.
Once the paneer is ready use it for this recipe of Kadhai paneer or cottage cheese stir fry.
Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers – 1 each (Medium size)
Homemade cottage cheese / paneer – 200 gm (approx)
Red Onion – 2 medium size
Plum tomato – 2 ( I deseed it)
Salt – as required
Ginger julienne – from 1/2 inch fresh ginger
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Whole red chilies – 1-2 broken pieces
Asafoetida powder – a pinch
Kasuri Methi – 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Freshly crushed black pepper powder – 2-3 pinches (Optional)
Fresh coriander leaves ( chopped fine with tender stems) 1 tbsp
Olive Oil – 2 tbsp or Ghee -2 tbsp ( I love its flavor more)
Wash, deseed and dice the bell peppers into cubes. (Cutting them in strips makes them cook faster. If you cut them in strips make sure to do that with all the other veggies and paneer too)
Dice the tomatoes into same size cubes.
Cut the medium size onions into four cubes and gentle peal the layers.
Dry roast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and broken whole red chilies till they begin to give out a nice mild aroma. Coarsely grind them with mortar and pestle. Keep aside.
Heat a little Olive oil / Ghee in a thick bottom kadhai or wok and add asafoetida and slit green chili along with the onions. Stir fry the onions on high flame till lightly browned and translucent but crisp then add the bell peppers and give them a nice stir so that they are lightly roasted and warmed but not soft. Add the tomatoes and stir. Don’t over cook them. Add the dry ground masala, turmeric powder, kasuri methi, salt, crushed peppercorns and ginger julienne. Stir properly. We need to keep the crunch in the veggies so do not overcook. Add freshly chopped coriander leaves and stir.
Add the paneer cubes and gently toss so that the paneer retains its shape. Once the paneer is coated with the masala properly, garnish with more freshly chopped coriander leaves. Turn off the heat and keep it covered so it absorbs the flavors from the peppers and other veggies.
Serve hot with chapatis, lachcha paratha, naan or use it as a topping on toast. I use this as a filling for a roll too.
You will love the delicate sweetness of the bell peppers and the spicy flavors from the fresh masalas. The paneer gives the soft creamy flavor to the dish which is absolutely divine. I can bet that this will taste much better than the usual kadhai paneer we make. Do try this recipe and let me know how did it come out for you.