Back in the day, I used to make my own paneer (it kind of resembles and tastes like ricotta) and it used to be quite the ritual of weighing the paneer down overnight with a tower of cans. Now like everyone else, I use store bought paneer.
Paneer is versatile because it absorbs the flavours of whatever sauce you are using. Mattar is peas in Hindi so this dish is peas with paneer in a thick tomato sauce. It is really nice with rotis, puris or any flatbread.
450g peas (frozen is fine)
150g onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons ghee
5cm piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
2-3 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½-1 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin seed powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
Salt to taste
For the sauce
100g onion, chopped
100g carrot, peeled and chopped
300g tinned tomatoes
1 red chilli
1 tablespoon oil
To prepare the sauce heat the oil in a small saucepan. Fry the onions and carrots for 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and 200ml water. Let it come up to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Once cool enough blitz in a food processor or a stick blender. Set aside.
Heat the ghee in a kadai or sauté pan. Fry the onions on low heat for 12-15 minutes until they are pale brown.
Pound the ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle. Toss this paste into the onions and continue frying for 2-3 minutes. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and cumin and coriander powders. Keep frying and when it starts sticking to the bottom of pan, add a couple of tablespoons of water. Fry the spice off for a couple of minutes.
Tip the sauce into the kadai and season with salt. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 8-10 minutes.
While the sauce is simmering, cut the paneer block into 16-20 pieces. Soak in warm water.
Soak frozen peas in water and change the water a couple of times. This way when you add to the sauce, they will retain their bright green colour.
At the end of cooking time, add the peas and paneer. Cook for a couple of minutes before stirring in the cream. Continue on the heat for a further minute or so.
Remove from heat and serve immediately. Serves 6.