If you have vegetarians coming for a meal you can be sure that Paneer/cottage cheese will be a part of the main course. More so if they are from the Northern part of India where paneer is eaten as curry dishes. When I think of paneer I am reminded of my early Chemistry class, " takes the form of whatever it is added to" or the popular Hindi song( from my era) which goes: "Jisme milao tu usi ke jaisa". Paneer can take any shape or form and therefore the list of paneer dishes is really endless. In fact there are cookbooks dedicated entirely to Paneer. You have the regular Palak Paneer/Methi Paneer/Butter Paneer/Malai Paneer which jostle for space among their "international counterparts" like Chilli Paneer, Paneer Manchurian( Yes, the Chinese have taken over our lives in more ways than one, I am told Mandarin will now be introduced as a language in our schools), grilled paneer, paneer in white sauce, paneer moussaka etc.
In the East the use of paneer(referred to as chhena) was earlier restricted to sweets.When making sweets, Paneer is drained but not pressed, so that some moisture is retained, which makes for a soft malleable consistency. Now of course Paneer curry dishes know no boundaries. All pervasive.
While some vegetarians I know are tired of being served Paneer this one I promise is a little different. It uses very few ingredients and gets done real quick( under 10 minutes).
Paneer: 200 grams
Onion: 3 Medium sized onions, sliced fine
Panch Phoron: 2/3 tsps( saunf, mustard, nigella, jeera, methi in equal proportion)
Hing: A pinch
Oil: 1 tsp
Curd: 3/4th cup
Maida: 1 tbsp
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Turmeric powder:1/2 tsp
Black salt powder: 1 tsp(I used Roopak Shikanji Masala instead of black salt)
Salt to taste( go easy on the salt as you are also using black salt)
Corriander leaves: 1/2 cup
Cut the paneer into cubes and soak for sometime in luke warm water(this helps soften the Paneer, a must if using Paneer that has been stored in the refrigerator for a few days).
Heat the oil, add the Hing once the oil heats up. Then add the Panchphoran and let it sputter. Add the onions and fry till they are glassy. Add the paneer, chilli powder, turmeric powder and black salt. Mix the spices. Next beat the curd with 1 tbsp of Maida( to be on the safe side I add a pinch of sugar, prevents the curd from curdling). Add to the dish. Mix together taking care not to mash the paneer.
Add finely chopped corriander leaves and serve hot.
Goes best with hot rotis.
With leftover Achari Paneer you can make paneer parathas. They taste yumm!
Bon Apetit and Happy cooking!