Monday, 30 April 2012

Strictly Veg Butter Chicken, aka Paneer Makhani

Strictly Veg Butter Chicken, aka Paneer Makhani
Yes, here we go again with the curried oxymorons.  This time, not only is there no chicken in this dish, there’s also no butter!  (Which does not mean this recipe is low in fat, by the way.) 

Sometimes when I’m looking at my blog stats, I see the search terms that hapless souls have entered to arrive at my blog.  One such soul was looking for chickenless butter chicken, and found my I can’t believe it’s not butterchicken post.  I felt sad for this person, who must have left my site all forlorn and disappointed.  So this vegetarian butter chicken recipe is for that earnest searcher, whoever you are.

The Masala

I would have preferred to use these!
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon fennel seed
2 flakes mace
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns 
1 black cardamom, husked
4 green cardamoms, husked
2 cloves
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seed
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
1 large cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon smoked ground paprika 

Place all of the above (excepting the last two ingredients) into a large non-stick pan, and gently roast on medium heat.  As soon as they become fragrant, and let off the smallest wisps of smoke, remove from the heat and place in a spice grinder along with the turmeric and paprika.  You can leave the cinnamon in the pan, as it doesn’t need to be ground up.  Grind everything else to a powder.

The rest

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (you could use ghee, but I was thinking of my arteries)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 inch ginger, chopped
5 fresh garlic cloves, chopped
½ habanero pepper, chopped
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped 
½ cup plain yogurt
1 cup paneer, aka Indian cheese (I used homemade)
½ cup cream (I used 17%)
sprigs of cilantro, chopped 

In the same pan, add grapeseed oil, with heat on medium.  Add the onions and ginger, and sauté along with the cinnamon.  When the onions have caramelised and softened, add the garlic and chile, and cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the masala, and cook a few more minutes.  Add the chopped tomatoes, and cook about 30 minutes.  You will need to stir occasionally.  The idea here is to cook the water out of the tomatoes.

Use an immersion blender to puré the tomato mixture.  (If you don’t own one, buy one; otherwise, load this into a food processor and puré and then pour back into the pan.)  Stir in the plain yogurt.  Add the paneer, with very little stirring.  About five minutes before serving, gently add the cream to let it heat through.  Add the chopped cilantro, reserving a few leaves for decoration.  I stirred too much and broke up some of my paneer, which somewhat saddened me, but it was still insanely delicious! 

I served this with a vegan subji, (mixed vegetables) as I was feeling guilty about all that cream, and the vegetables balanced this very rich dish off beautifully. 

So my wistful vegetarian friend, wherever you may be, I hope you find this dish as delicious as do I. Let me know what you think of it, and whether your paneer holds together better than mine!


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  4. This sounds so good. Thanks for sharing this. Definitely giving it a go.