Thursday, August 04, 2011

Paneer Makhani

I have quite a long "bucket list" as far as recipes go, things that I love to eat and that I want to learn to cook properly in my lifetime. This past weekend was an unusually productive one, because I learned how to make not one, but two of them.

One of the recipes was for idli- steamed pillows of frothy lentil and rice batter. There are decent idlis, which I can make, and then there are the sort that are impossibly lightand meltingly soft- the latter always seemed elusive for me. V's aunt and uncle were visiting us for the weekend and this aunt has a reputation for being a fantastic cook. Let it never be said that I let a good opportunity be wasted- as soon as the aunt offered to cook one of her specialties for us, I requested a tutorial for idli and sambar. But that's a story for another post.

I wanted to put together a nice dinner for this aunt and uncle on Friday night and turned to a recipe that I had long bookmarked- makhani gravy from eCurry. The makhani curries are a staple of Indian restaurant menus, and for years I have wondered about the secret to nailing down that characteristic flavor and aroma. This recipe lives up to its promise; the aroma that hits you as the curry bubbles away is proof enough. I did mess with perfection and altered the recipe a little to meet my needs. And it is freezer friendly- making it easy to pull off a fancy meal on a weeknight.

To go with the curry, I marinated and broiled some paneer. I used Anita's recipe with some modifications, such as adding a little chickpea flour to form a crust. Ordinarily, I would have added a few vegetables- chunks of onion, peppers, tomato- to the tikka platter but I used paneer on its own this time because I was serving other vegetable dishes on the side. The quality of the paneer matters a great deal- we love the richness and soft texture of Nanak brand paneer from Canada. For those in St. Louis, I am able to buy this brand of paneer in Seema stores (two locations, on Page and Manchester). The paneer tikka can be marinated in a few minutes in the morning, and the broiling takes 15 minutes in the evening- again, a perfect recipe for a festive weeknight meal.

Paneer Tikka
(adapted from this recipe from Anita's blog, A Mad Tea Party)

1. In a large bowl, whisk these ingredients together to make a marinade
  • 4 tbsp. thick plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • 2 tsp. besan (chickpea flour)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tsp. Punjabi garam masala
  • 2 tsp. ginger garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
2. Cut a 14 oz block of paneer into bite size cubes. Mix the paneer cubes with the marinade and refrigerate for 4 to 10 hours. 

3. Pre-heat the broiler. Line a broiler baking tray with foil and drizzle with oil. Place the marinated cubes in a single layer on the tray, drizzle with a little more oil and broil the cubes until they acquire a nice crust (10-15 minutes; watch the broiler tray like a hawk). 

Makhani Gravy
(adapted from this recipe from Soma's blog, eCurry)

1. In a heavy pan, heat 2 tbsp. butter and 2 tbsp. ghee.

2. Add the following and saute for a minute
  • 2 black cardamoms
  • 1 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • 1 heaped tbsp. ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder (or more to taste)

3. Add the following
  • 1 tbsp. kasuri methi
  • 1 tsp. "magic masala" (blend of green cardamom, cinnamon and cloves)
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes in juice 
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • Salt to taste
4. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes on low heat; using a splatter guard is recommended. 

5. Fish out the black cardamoms and discard them. Use an immersion blender to blend the tomatoes into a smooth sauce. Simmer for 10 more minutes. 

6. At this point, the sauce can be cooled and frozen, or used right away. 

I used half a portion for a curry and froze the rest. The frozen sauce is what I thawed and poured on the paneer tikka to make the paneer makhani. One could add some cashew paste or dairy cream to finish the dish. Garnish with lots of fresh cilantro.

So that's another edition of "Eating Out while Eating In" on One Hot Stove. The weekend is almost here and I hope you have a good one! 


  1. Loving the color already... Simple yet exotic..

  2. Must try this gravy!
    Its time to make Paneer as well. Guess this is on the menu next week ( specially as M is working from home) .
    Thanks Nupur :)( plus all tips she can give to make PERFECT idlis)
    Take care of ur health, hugs to Dale dada!

  3. Please share the tutorial for making perfect idlis soon, I am eagerly waiting for it. I have lost hope of ever getting the idli right. Is there a way to standardize the process of getting the thickness of the batter right, something like a formula. I think my idlis fail because the batter is not as thick or as thin as it should be. I am not going to post this comment under my usual name. I am so ashamed of my idlis. :)

  4. That paneer makhani looks absolutely delicious. Love the color and broiling paneer sounds interesting. Will be making this dish soon.

  5. Thanks for the link Nupur and happy that the recipe lived up to your satisfaction:) I like it that u blend after .. i guess with fresh tomatoes it gives a smooth professional feel to the sauce. The methi seeds do the magic to the flavor here:)

  6. wow, that looks delicious and how easy to make. I like to idea of freezing the sauce for later use :)

  7. Lip smacking. Looks truly delicious :)

  8. Looks like my comment got garbled, the latter part was: waiting for the delicious Idli recipe thru V's aunt.
    my laptop has gone a bit crazy ever since S poured a glass of rose milk all over it :( new laptop too!)Sigh....
    Take care and enjoy ur weekend!

  9. Paneer turns any ordinary dinner into a 'shahi' dinner. I love paneer makhni with a dash of cream - you are consuming so many calories already, might as well ;).

  10. Hi Nupur,
    Lovely recipe..Paneer is my all time and anytime favorite dish to cook and eat :)) So promptly bookmarking this recipe... The gravy is looking great in color and texture...The paneer tikkas look too tempting and inviting..I was drooling over the pics for a long time :) One question..instead of broiling is there anything method of doing the tikkas?

  11. My recipe is slightly different, using fresh paneer, not broiled or fried, except as a garnish. I make the sauce with ginger-garlic, cinnamon-green cardamom-cloves masala, powdered kasuri methi, but use a mixture of blanched fresh tomatoes (seeds and skins removed), a tbsp of tomato concentrate for the colour (or a little deghi mirch). Let it simmer and thicken, add a bit of cashew+cream paste (very little), finely cubed (like little dice) fresh paneer. Garnish with a drizzle of fresh cream and tiny dice of paneer fried. Goes down a dream.... I'm going to make your paneer as an appetiser, sounds delish! Bon appetit, Ujwala

  12. Adding chickpea flour is a good idea...Bookmarked!

  13. And how big a can of tomatoes do you use, please?

    Thanks, and thanks for all the good reading and eating, too,

  14. The crusty paneer and luscious gravy looks so good, left me with a craving for this classic dish.

  15. Krithi's KItchen- Thanks!

    Manasi- If you try the recipe, do let us know if it works for you. And yes, I'll definitely post the idli recipe but the truth is that you gain a lot from observing the grinding process, it is much harder to describe in words.

    notyet100- Thanks!

    Anonymous- Oh dear! I think unfortunately there's no formula just because it depends on factors that are not standard like the quality of the dal. It is easier to learn by watching someone than by trying to describe it in words. But I'll share what the aunt said in a future post, just in case it helps anyone.

    Cooks- If you try it, let us know if the recipe works for you :)

    Soma- Thanks so much for sharing the recipe, and all the other wonderful ones you share! I just had not realized how important methi seeds are to these restaurant dishes.

    Priya (Y) M- I like the freezing bit too, makes it easy to put together something delicious at the last minute.

    Nithya- Thank you!

    Snehal- I do add a dash of cream (or milk) once in a while too!

    Rujuta- I think a regular oven would work too, and so would simple pan-frying on the stove.

    Ujwala Samant- Thanks for sharing your recipe!

    Preeti Kashyap- Thanks!

    Ann Pollack- 28 oz -sorry for missing out that important bit in the recipe!

  16. I loved your recipe, especially preparing the paneer! Mine always stick to the bottom of the pot when I fry it. This sounds so much easy and fail safe!
    As for the super soft idlis, Please do post the recipe!!! The idlis I attempt to make are anything but soft:( I have always loved your recipes, innovative, and doable! :)

  17. I love this dish. I guess it is a favorite of a lot of people. Your recipe is a little different than mine. I especially liked the idea of using chickpea flour for the paneer. This must add another layer of flavor and texture to the dish.

  18. Hi Nupur. Made the Tikkas for a BBQ party yesterday. Everyone loved them. Credit goes to you :)

  19. The tomatoes are bubbling on my stovetop as I type this! I had one question though. What's the difference between fenugreek seeds and kasuri methi? I always thought they were the same thing.

  20. Namita- I have the same problem with frying paneer, it can be a pain to wash the pans clean! Broiling definitely makes for easier clean up. I'll definitely post the idli recipe one of these days, but truth is, it is the same traditional recipes that many blogs have posted before.

    Renuka- Yes, the chickpea flour makes the paneer a little crispy.

    Gayatri- I'm so glad the recipe worked for you, thanks for the feedback :)

    Nikita- Kasuri methi is the dried leaves of fenugreek. So kasuri methi and methi seeds come from the same plant but are different parts of the plant (leaves vs. seeds) and have different culinary uses. Not the same thing :)

  21. I made your paneer tikka masala recipe as-is (using the link you provided to create/grind my own Punjabi garam masala) -- and it was fabulous. The whole family raved about it!

    Thank you for sharing!
    -An Indian cook in NY


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