Monday, September 23, 2013

A Popular Curry, and Much Bookishness

Matar paneer- peas and cheese in a rich sauce of tomatoes and onions- has a proven reputation as a crowd-pleaser. It is a darling of Indian buffets in the India Palaces and Spice Huts of the world, and a popular choice for feeding guests in Indian homes from coast to coast. Everyone knows how to make matar paneer, right?

Just in case you feel like the world wide web needs another version of this popular curry, here's my recipe, as adapted to the ingredients and tools in my kitchen. Some Indian curries use nuts (usually cashew nuts pulverized into a powder or a paste) to add thickness and richness to gravies. Almond flour is a staple in my kitchen because I use it sometimes in baking, and I thought of using it in this curry, with excellent results. Also, I use an immersion blender to grind the sauteed onions and tomatoes into a smooth sauce, and that means there is no blender/food processor bowl to wash.

Curries that need grinding and blending are generally considered a hassle to make (in Marathi we use a pithy phrase for this: vaatan ghaatan) but these two short-cuts make this a quick curry. If you'd rather not use paneer, tofu or potatoes would work well instead.

Edited on Sept. 26: When I posted this recipe, I forgot to include one important ingredient- the kasuri methi which gives this curry that much sought after "restaurant taste". Sorry for the omission- and it is now corrected.

Matar Paneer My Way 
Peas and Paneer (Indian cheese) in a Tomato Onion Nut Sauce; serves about 4
Matar paneer with jeera rice to sop up the sauce
 Make the sauce:
1. Heat 2 tbsp oil/butter/ghee.
2. Roughly chop 2 large onions and saute them until lightly browned.
3. Add salt to taste, 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric, 1 tsp. red chili powder (or to taste), 1 tbsp. kasuri methi (dried fenugreek) and 1/2 tbsp. ginger garlic paste. Saute for a few seconds.
4. Add 1 cup tomato puree and 1/4 cup almond flour and stir fry for several minutes until the sauce thickens.
5. Add a cup of water. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree the mixture to a smooth sauce.
Add the peas:
6. Add 2 cups green peas (I use frozen peas, thawed) to the sauce, bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Add some more water if required to make the curry as thick or thin as you like.
Add the paneer:
7. Saute about 2 cups bite-sized paneer cubes in a bit of oil in a separate pan until golden brown and add them to the curry.
Finish the curry:
8. Turn off the heat. Finish the curry by stirring in a handful of minced cilantro, the juice of half a lemon and 1/2 tsp of your best garam masala. These final touches "make" the curry so don't skip them.

* * *

For some Monday time-pass, I'm following in Trish's footsteps and taking the A to Z Bookish Survey started by The Perpetual Page Turner.

Author you’ve read the most books from: Jhumpa Lahiri, P. G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, Alexander McCall Smith...

Best Sequel Ever: Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

Currently Reading: Love Over Scotland (44 Scotland Street #3) by Alexander McCall Smith

Drink of Choice While Reading: Chai- always and forever.

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical books. I don't even own an e-reader.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Umm...Bertie Wooster? LOL

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Hidden Gem Book: A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Arundathi Roy's The God of Small Things came out when I was a teenager in small town India, hungry for books but without any real access to them. By some miracle, the tiny neighborhood library got a copy right away. I read The God of Small Things in a day or two and was dazzled by it (still am). This was an important moment in my reading life because for the first time, I read a "grown up" book the same week it came out and formed my own opinion of it- saying this is an amazing book for these reasons, and only later read the critical acclaim for the book in major newspapers and magazines. It made me feel like a mature reader.

Just Finished: How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. I'll write a review and synopsis of this book in a couple of weeks.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Pulpy romances and all that vampire stuff. Actually, there's a lot of stuff I don't read.

Longest Book You’ve Read: A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. Although last month I read Stephen King's 11/22/63 and that was a very long book as well.

Major book hangover because of: Hmm- it has been several weeks/months since a book really rocked my world.

Number of Bookcases You Own: People who visit my home like peeking at the bookcases- because looking at a person's book collection is a good way to learn more about them. Except in my case, it won't tell you much at all. 99% of the books I read are borrowed from the library and promptly returned.

Having said that, I do have a couple of bookshelves for my cookbooks and knitting/quilting books, and for V's Calvin and Hobbes collection.

The bookcase on the left is the most beloved and well-used bookcase in our home and it belongs to Miss Lila. It is pint sized just like her and all of her favorite books live there. She knows a couple dozen books by sight, brings them over to read and can put them back. She knows that if she brings a book over, I will drop everything that I am doing and read it to her.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: How To Talk So Kids Will Faber and Mazlish. I'll trying to memorize this book before my kid grows up!

Preferred Place To Read: I read in bed most nights before I drift off. We have an oversized couch in the living room and I like to fold myself into a corner of this couch and read.

And I love reading here on the porch to the soundtrack of chirping birds and rustling branches.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: 
“From that time on, the world was hers for the reading. She would never be lonely again, never miss the lack of intimate friends. Books became her friends and there was one for every mood. There was poetry for quiet companionship. There was adventure when she tired of quiet hours. There would be love stories when she came into adolescence and when she wanted to feel a closeness to someone she could read a biography. On that day when she first knew she could read, she made a vow to read one book a day as long as she lived.”
― Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Yup, what she said.

Reading Regret: That I give up on books too easily- I probably miss out on some good books because if they don't engage me within 20 pages, I put them away.

Series You Started And Need To Finish: I need to catch up with several detectives, including Maisie Dobbs, Inspector Gamache and Flavia de Luce.

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: Where to begin? I'll cheat and tell you three books that my two year old can't get enough of- From Head to Toe by Eric Carle, Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Mr. Brown can Moo! Can you? by Dr. Seuss .

Unapologetic Fangirl For: I'm not the fangirl type, frankly. I either like books or I don't; I don't worship any authors.

Very Excited For This Release: I rarely know what the new releases are- I'm still catching up with books that are years or decades old- but I'm looking forward to reading Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowlands. I liked the excerpt in The New Yorker.

Worst Bookish Habit: I never use my cookbooks! Every time I'm looking for a recipe, I run to my computer. Poor neglected cookbooks.

X Marks The Spot (Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book): I looked at my shelf of cookbooks and the 27th book was Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day by Hertzberg and Francois. And umm, I haven't baked anything from it yet.

Your latest book purchase: I bought  Ed Emberley's Complete Funprint Drawing Book for a friend's child last month. This is one of my favorite books to give as gifts to the preschool set.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I covet my sleep too much. Books can wait!

If you feel like doing some bookish time-pass yourself (and who doesn't?), please take the survey in the comments, even answering just a few questions if you like!

Edited to add: My darling friend Shoots took the bookish survey and I had to include it in this post so here it is!! She's read Anna Karenina and she reads books in English, German and Bengali. Overachiever, much? Plus, she's super cute. 

Author you’ve read the most books from: Enid Blyton. Agatha Christie, Satyajit Ray, Ruskin Bond, Jeffery Archer, Arthur Conan Doyle  are a close second (err...there are some more, but I'll stop now)

Best Sequel Ever: All Things Wise and Wonderful (James Herriot). Harry Potter is a very very close second

Currently Reading: The best reading-lion school stories (My translation of the German Die schoensten Leseloewen Schulgeschicten) and an old Durga-Puja edition of my favourite Bengali children's magazine (Anandamela)

Drink of Choice While Reading: Usually nothing because I either read in bed or on the train but I'd love me a cup of hot tea if I were to read on the sofa

E-reader or Physical Book? Physical books, every time. 

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School: Errr... Dick from Famous Five (I know, groan!) 

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance: The Immortals of Meluha by Amish

Hidden Gem Book: A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian by Marina Lewycka. I found it in a second hand bookstore and I love it (It's nothing about tractors ;))

Important Moment in your Reading Life: Starting to enjoy Bengali literature

Just Finished: Living Free by Joy Adamson

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read: Soppy romantic stories, weird Sci-fi and horror flicks

Longest Book You’ve Read: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

Major book hangover because of: Two Lives by Vikram Seth. I found it very powerful without being pushy. Ditto for A Thousand Splendid Suns. But I wouldn't quite describe them as being a hangover... A Rainbow Nation and Freedom at Midnight (both by Larry Collins and Dominique La Pierre) made me sit up and take a long hard look at modern civilization. 

Number of Bookcases You Own:  Two big ones here and about 2 large ones back at home ;) 

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times: To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee 

Preferred Place To Read: I usually read in bed and on the subway but that's more out of necessity. I would love to have more reading time in the Englischer Garten (Central Park to Munich)

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read: 
A quote that inspires me (my crude translation from Bengali): "I ask, not for you to protect me from adversity, but for the strength to face adversity with courage..." Tagore's Gitanjali

A quote that gives me all the feels, so to say: "I am not the only man to seek his fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination." Jhumpa Lahiri, The Third and Final continent (Interpretor of Maladies)

Reading Regret: I read too fast. I really need to slow down and savour the books

Series You Started And Need To Finish: 44 Scotland Street, though it didn't quite catch on as much as The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. The other would be the Lord of the Rings. I didn't make it past The Hobbit. 

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books: To kill a mocking bird, The Namesake, A collection of Satyajit Ray's works called Shera Satyajit (translated that would be the best of Satyajit)

Unapologetic Fangirl For: I don't know if this would qualify me as a fan but I do find myself defending J.K. Rowling everytime someone trashes the Harry Potter series ;)

Very Excited For This Release: I don't follow new releases really but I am looking forward to the new works from Khaled Hosseini and Jhumpa Lahiri

Worst Bookish Habit: I sometimes buy a book on a whim and then don't finish it because it didn't engage me within the first 15 minutes. I know, that's what libraries are there for ;)

X Marks The Spot (Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book): I looked at my shelf of "children's books" and the 27th is The Valley of Adventure by Enid Blyton. The Great India Novel by Shashi Tharoor is the 27th on my "books for grownups" shelf.

Your latest book purchase: I bought  several books on the same trip - Enid Blytons, Agatha Christies, Living Free and Hullaballo in the Guava Orchard being a few of them

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY late): I do this far too often for my own good. I think the last one might have been an Agatha Christie (Parker Pyne investigates, this despite the fact that it is a collection of short stories!!!)


  1. Hi Nupur,

    Tell me about reading. I can do it anytime. I used to read a lot of fiction before. Now my taste has changed for non-fiction. I am liking to read a lot of medical stuff/physiology recently.

    Regarding the cookbooks, same with me too. I usually go to the internet for reference. I also have the collection of cookbooks by Mallika Badrinath which I try sometimes. But my absolute cook book treasure is a book called " Cooking with Pedatha". It is about Andhra vegetarian food. The pictures is the book alone will lift your spirits up. I am yet to try the recipes.

    1. I love reading non-fiction too! And medicine/biology certainly make for fascinating reading. You reminded me of a couple of Mallika Badrinath booklets that I have but yeah, haven't tried any recipes yet. Oh, I'll have to look for Cooking with Pedatha, have heard much about that book.

  2. Author you’ve read the most books from: Elizabeth Goudge (magical books), Tolkien (more of the magic), Maeve Binchy (every page brings back my years in Ireland), Rosamunde Pilcher (comforting, gentle stories), Alex Rutherford (I like his Mughal series), Jhumpa Lahiri and Mary Higgins Clark for un-demanding, gentle (!) thrillers and Khaled Husseini ofcourse.
    Like you, it has to be tea when I am reading. No other drink compares
    There are also a lot of books I won't read. Science fiction and vampire stuf leaves me cold as does very hard-hitting crime or really tragic books. I read the news and there is enough tragedy in real life. I don't need books to perpetuate it.
    Love the quote.
    Happy Reading!

    1. Amber: You mentioned several authors that sound interesting but that I haven't read- I'll have to look for them. Lahiri and Hossini I love. I'm with you on the science fiction but Asimov's robot stories are simply amazing. And the sordid crime books leave me cold too. Thanks for chiming in!

  3. Thank you for this recipe! I am excited to try it. Can I ask- do you have any tips on the garlic ginger paste? I've made it for other recipes (out of that 5 Spices book you recommended) and wonder if it's available premade at either Whole Foods or Patel's. Or is there a shortcut to making it (though I can't imagine that there is)? Thank you again for your wonderful recipes!

    1. Hi there! Yes, you can definitely find jarred ginger garlic paste at Patel's or almost any Indian grocery. Another substitute would be to finely mince fresh ginger and garlic, or to coarsely chop it and then pound it with some salt in a mortar-pestle.

      It is very easy to make at home as well (so easy that you don't need a short cut), in a blender or coffee grinder. I make a batch and store it in a mason jar in the fridge for weeks.

    2. I just saw your reply, and I have a spice grinder so I will make some that way. Thank you!!

  4. what a lovely post - I really like the sound of your curry - an oldie but a goodie and one i don't think I have made at home

    the bookish meme is so much fun I have already made a note to do it - love Alexander McCall Smith and hearing about all your reading quirks and lila's bookcase - your quote about books that you picked is just so gorgeous because books are indeed such a wonderful world to visit without leaving home and so much more relaxing than the web

    1. Johanna- this curry is a very easy one to make at home if ever you want to try. Ah books, indeed it is a marvelous world that one can escape to at will.

    2. I have done the meme on my blog - really enjoyed it - thanks for making me think about the books I love (and the ones that I have neglected on the shelves)

  5. Just made corn chowder from your recipe last weekend. Came out awesome! Will mark the mattar paneer to try soon!
    Nice bookish meme. We share a lot of similar tastes in reading except for Maisie Dobbs. I am still struggling to finish her first book. For some reason did not click with me.

    1. Yay, glad the corn chowder worked for you! I see what you mean about Maisie Dobbs- the books are sometimes slow and Maisie is not the easiest character to love.

  6. I loved your idea of using almond meal to thicken gravies. I don't have too many books on my bookshelf too as I constantly borrow from the library (and even make them purchase or loan it from other library for me :-) if they don't have it). I love holding a book and reading it so I don't foresee buying a kindle although hubby has been trying to convince me to get one for years. I extensively read Enid Blyton as a child, luckily my school library had a huge never ending stock that I could access and enjoy even in my summer vacations. I loved reading Harry Potter too but after the 4th book somehow lost track, I love her imagination and some parallel's she draws from life. There was a phase in my adult life when I extensively read Indian authors, probably because I was too homesick so I read every 'desi' author I found to find pieces of familiarity and comfort. I am thankfully out of that phase now as I realized that I can feel a connect through several common thoughts and feelings that are not restricted by geographical locations and I enjoy different kinds of books now. Some books I keep away from are horror, too much mystery+suspense to lose my sleep, pulpy romance (I never liked reading romance even as a teen), religion, anything about finance, economics and new fad diets. I have a few cookbooks which I refer to from time to time but I extensively depend on different resources online and my family and friends. I don't need a drink when I read a book but I read blogs while sipping my morning ginger chai. :-) I loved the quote you shared, I have felt every word of it to be true. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    - Priti

    1. Yup- I request SO many books via interlibrary loan. I forgot about Blyton- I read dozens of her books growing up. Like you, I've read many many South Asian authors over the years, some of them were excellent. Some books about economics are rather fascinating- the one that comes to mind is, of course, freakonomics, have you read it?

    2. No, but if you recommend it I will check it out. I use to read/browse thru so many books on finance and eco while growing up (partly because of school, partly because my bro and dad had a huge growing collection) that I just got bored of reading about money :-) like really really fed up! I still can't help throwing in some jargon and geeky terms (purchasing power parity or PPP is my favorite!) when it comes to discussions and such but I just found more interesting things to discuss and notice. We as a family would watch the budget with great interest and concentration and my mind would eventually wander and wonder how much fun it must be to sit on that tall chair reserved for the speaker. I had a secret wish to own a chair like that some day. :-))

      - Priti

  7. I do not collect too many books now, it is difficult to keep and move from city to city or state to state, I know donating them to the library is a good thing, but I am a bit of a kanjoos marwadi, when it comes to parting with books. I had to give up a few when I moved out of L.A and I still grumble about it to M!
    I borrow from the library and also buy. Recently they had A thousand splendid suns and A suitable boy on sale for $2 each! How could I let it pass?!
    As a child I was ( and still am) obsessed with Enid Blyton. I had SO many books in India ( my mom still has them). Still love the Harry Potter series.
    No detective can come close to Sherlock Holmes and he tops my fav detective chart.
    I have realized though, I lean more towards British authors then American.
    I love reading books by Indian authors and specially about mythology.

    What I do not like reading: soppy stuff about pretty girls who are the most beautiful looking creatures and men who would put Greek gods to shame and how they love, lose and then re-unite kind of crap.
    I'd rather laugh out loud at Bertie Wooster and his escapades and about the bungling, lovable lord Emsworth any day!
    I love Lila's bookcase. I'd like to have one for S, he has to fill in his reading journal for school everyday and this rack would make it easy to pick a book and do his home work.
    One confession, i have World vegetarian and I read it, mind you, read it not cook from it :( I will now.
    Longest book I've read: A suitable boy and Fountainhead, I skipped some... ummm - many pages (sheepish grin)

    1. I bought some books at a library sale earlier this year too! And how did I ever forget to mention Sherlock Holmes?!

      Do please get a child-sized front-facing bookcase for your little boy. It is a great impetus to reading when they can pick out books on their own. Lila has many toys but this bookcase is what she spends most of her time with.

    2. I did it! I got a small book organizer and he is SO happy :)
      Will email u a picture.

  8. My comment won't go through. Now I'm sad.... Still it was fun to play along. Thanks Nupur.

    Shoots :)

  9. Which immersion blender do u yse? Is it electric or battery ? Can we puree when hot on the stice?

    1. I have a 12 year old Braun electric immersion blender and yes, it purees hot liquids.

  10. I always love your book-related posts nupur! I love collecting books! I do have kindle, but nothing beats the smell of old books! I am currently reading amitav ghosh's sea of poppies and am liking it a lot!
    I think the book/series that changed me forever as a reader is harry potter. I started reading that series when I was 12-13 years of age and those books are solely responsible in making me believe in magic/fantasy and I really do think even now, that another world does exist somewhere!!!
    I think I have such 5-6 books that mark major milestones in my growing up as a reader and as a person. Some of them are fountainhead (major hang over when I read it back in engineering days), calvin and hobbes, pride and prejudice, godfather, lord of the rings and harry potter. I think these are some books I go back to whenever I feel the need to be comforted!

    1. I read Sea of Poppies a few years ago and quite liked it. Harry Potter gets the credit for producing a whole generation of readers!

  11. Couldn't resist joining in the bookish fun Nupur.
    Author you've read the most books from: Enid blyton, L.M. Montgomery (Anne of green Gables series), Elinor m Brent-Dyer's chalet school collection ( about 50 books in this series), Arthur Ransome, Lm Alcott, CS Lewis- and many other childhood favorites. I've picked up my reading in the last couple of years again but am picking and choosing, trying to read as many authors as possible.
    Best sequel: have to agree- all the James Herriot books! also the Gerald Durrell books.
    Currently reading: the warden by Trollope- making painful progress. Determined to finish this because I've heard the rest of this series is amazing- and he is the Victorian McCall smith I hear :)
    Drink of choice: none required but Darjeeling tea with a drop of milk and sugar would be nice.
    E-reader or physical books- both! I'm pretty greedy. Plus I like the idea of carrying my bookcase in a little electronic object. Instant gratification of borrowing e books from the library is very addictive.
    Fictional character you would have dated: OMG ! I used to think Gilbert Blythe and Laurie from little women were such romantic characters :)I also had a crush on Gilbert Blythe from the Canadian mini-series of Anne of green gables.
    Hidden gem book: I think discovering Barbara Pym. I understand how she might not be everybody's cup of tea but I totally get her!
    Preferred place to read: during my 3 hr train commute ( I do work sometimes though:)
    Series you started and need to finish: the past year has been all about identifying authors I like but mean to read later. Some of them are: McCall smith and maisie dobbs (thanks to you!), miss read, Barbara Pym, miss silver! Ngaio marsh! Edmund Crispin and others.
    Recent book purchase: bought 4 Mary poppins e books for $2 each.
    Looking forward to McCall Smit's new book what wh Auden can do for you. I love poetry and want to learn more about it.
    3 favorite books- all, all all of them.
    I'm kind of addicted to reading again - just as I was as a kid. Hopefully that will stay with me. One book that I truly love is persuasion by Jane austen. I'll re-read every couple of years. To me it's so much more mature than pride and prejudice.

    Alright I'll shut up now.

    1. Thanks so much for playing along, Arpita! Oh, I forgot about Gerard Durrell- I love his books. I read a Barbara Pym on your recommendation and enjoyed it. Nothing like a reading addiction to add a whole lot of joy to life.

  12. Oh Nupur! Thank you for posting my survey. But now I'm really blushing at all your compliments. And I think you're super cute :)

    Shoots :)

  13. I really enjoyed this (voyeuristic) peek at your reading habits. Bertie Wooster! I had a thing for Psmith. And earlier, Julian from the Famous Five. Maybe we should do a post on childhood literary crushes...

    1. Niranjana- Just kidding about Bertie Wooster! I have my own collection of difficult aunts, thankyouverymuch :D

      I'd love for you to take the whole survey on your blog. Pretty please??

  14. ooh- I LOVEE book-related memes..I will come back with answers to some of the questions. Enjoyed both yours and your friend's answers!!
    I also forgot to tell you of the time that I saw somebody at the airport (on a flight to Atlanta) a while ago with a daughter named Lila and I thought it was you..:) Her daughter was even the same age as Ofcourse I had to ask her if her name was Nupur..and it wasn't..:)

    1. OMG so Lila has a twin out there? That's awesome :) Do take the survey- I'd love to see your answers.

  15. Hi Nupur -- oh how this brought back memories of reading to my kids when they were small -- and how I miss that at times! :)

    Lately it seems I mostly read cookbooks and bird books ;) Matar paneer looks great -- genius use of the immersion blender! And, I love your beautiful reading porch :)

    1. Linda- you should check out some kid lit books- they are wonderful reads even for adults! I hope someday you'll visit me and we'll sit out on the porch.

  16. What a simple, yet flavorful curry. As always, enjoyed reading about the books you've read. Love your porch - looks so relaxing and cosy.

    1. Thanks! We love the porch and spend so many hours there. It is almost the #1 reason I loved this house.

  17. LOVE the survey! I am tempted to join the fun.

    - Radhika

  18. where did you buy Lilas bookcase from?

  19. Nupur, I do the same kind of shopping regards books. How did I miss this post! :-)


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