Sunday, December 5, 2010

Cooking for vegetarians....

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).

Achari Paneer

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
Sugar:1/4 tsp


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!


  1. Yes the Chinese are taking over but I wouldn't mind the manchu version of paneer :)

    Achari Paneer sounds really yum....infact if u were u wud have seen me going ummmm :) easy too but for the panchphoron thing...will try once I have enough milk (I like home made paneer :)

  2. Hey! Raindrop. Home made is good but the Safal one is also quite nice. Some of the old Mithai shops also sell good paneer( In Chennai homemade paneer made a big difference but in Delhi the bought ones are really good). Soaking them in warm water also softens them further.

  3. Are they?? I hardly buy here as we get sooooo much milk in ration but yes you are right Delhi will have good paneer coz ye to North India hai :) had totally slipped my mind.

  4. This one looks good. Will try it when I pick up some paneer from the Desi Groc stores out here ....I have to do with brands names "Nanak" or "Deep" :)
    They taste like they have been sitting on the frozen section for years but then, I am grateful that I can at least find them in stores stone's throw from my place....

  5. @FFT: Soak the Paneer in lukewarm water and they will be really fresh and soft. You could also add a few drop of limejuice to the same. If you making a regular gravy dish you could soak the paneer in warm milk.