Muttar Paneer, My Favourite Curry

As promised, it’s curry recipe time. But first let me say a few words about that ubiquitous word ‘curry’. The word Curry is simply the anglicised form of the Tamil word kaß╣či meaning ‘sauce’ or ‘relish for rice’. This makes sense as rice is central to all Indian meals, as it is in other parts of Asia, and the ‘curries’ are often presented in small bowls to add to your rice and not the other way around. If you order a large Thali in India, you will be offered unlimited rice along with little teacup sized scoops of spicy and bland accompaniments- perhaps some mild chickpeas flavoured with sour tamarind, a crunchy fried fingerling, some bland soupy dal, or a dry curry of spicy potato or cauliflower, along with some hot chutney and dahi (plain yoghurt). A good Indian curry recipe involves subtlety in spicing, variation in texture and balance. Some people associate the word curry with heat, but this is a misconception: there are more mildly spiced aromatic curries than hot versions. There are no prizes for choking on chilli, eyes weeping in pain. A good banquet of curries might include one hot dish such as a Madras or Vindaloo, alongside others that are medium or mildly spiced, with some wet and some dry dishes.┬á

Unfortunately, there’s no chance for a banquet here any time soon, given the restrictions on social gathering. So it’s down to one curry at a time in this household of two, made with care, and served with all the sides- basmati jeera rice, naan, chutney and dahi. We have time on our side.

 

Muttar Paneer ( peas and curd) Serves 4 or more as part of a banquet

This is a two part recipe. The first step involves making the curd (paneer) which can made the day before, or anytime up to 3 hours before you make the curry. The recipe for paneer, including photos of the process, follows this main recipe.

  • 4 Tables neutral flavoured oil, such as canola or a mixture of half oil and half ghee ( my preference for a richer sauce)
  • 250 gr paneer, cut into 2.5cm cubes
  • 6 or more cardamom pods, bruised
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic puree*
  • 2 tsp ginger puree*
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2- 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 200 gr canned tomatoes or fresh tomatoes with skins removed, finely chopped.
  • 350 gr whey or water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 125 gr frozen peas
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 Tblsp cream
  • 2 Tblsp chopped coriander leaves

Heat half the oil and ghee in a medium sized heavy based saucepan over medium heat. Add the paneer, sprinkling with a few pinches of turmeric if you wish. Cook till golden brown, turning gently.  Remove and drain.

Add the remaining oil to the same saucepan. Add the cardamom, stir about for a few seconds, then add the onion,and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes, lowering the heat if need be, till soft. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring frequently for 2 more minutes or until the onion is soft and a pale golden colour.

Add the ground coriander, turmeric and chilli powder and stir for 1 minute. Then add the chopped tomatoes and their juice, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4- 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of whey, (or water if you’ve used a commercial paneer ) stirring frequently until the oil separates from the spice paste. Then add the rest of the liquid, and salt. Bring to the boil, the reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 7-8 minutes.

Add the paneer and peas to simmer gently for 5 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and cream and remove from heat. Sprinkle with chopped fresh coriander if you happen to have some. Mint works well too.

Serve with rice, naan and thin yoghurt or raita.

* the best way to produce ginger puree is grating it on a fine microplane, while garlic puree is best made bashed in a mortar and pestle. If I’m making a few different curries, I start with this step and make a bulk lot of each.┬á

Paneer recipe

Making paneer is the one of the easiest and most satisfying things to do. Once you’ve made your own, you’ll never go back to those tough blocks sealed in plastic found in the fridges of Indian Delis. You will also be able to use the whey in your curry, so nothing is wasted. The whey keeps well for over a week and can be used in all sorts of curries and soups.

Ingredients for paneer to yield around 250 gr

  • 2 litres full cream milk
  • 3 tablespoons strained lemon juice

Boil the milk, making sure that it just reaches boiling point and doesn’t develop a skin or begin to froth. Stir occasionally while doing this. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir about until curds and whey separate. Leave it for 5 minutes, then tip into a muslin lined strainer over a bowl. The bowl will collect the whey. Wrap the curds tightly in the cloth, making a flattish shape, then place in the fridge on a plate with a heavy weight on top. Keep the whey and store in a bottle. The curd will be ready to use in 3 hours. Cut as required.

The pics below show the stages of paneer making. The whole process takes less than 10 minutes. The result is worth it.

The following chart gives an approximate guide of yield of paneer ( curd cheese) to milk. I used 1 litre of full cream milk for my most recent batch which produced 130 gr of paneer, enough for a large curry for two. The time before, my batch of 2 litres of milk produced a yield of 260 gr which is consistent, using full fat generic brand supermarket milk . UHT milk is not recommended. 

An approximate guide to yield of curd from milk. Use this chart to reduce or increase the recipe for paneer as required. Chart courtesy of Kurma Dasa. Who remembers cooking with Kurma?

For Maree Tink, who also enjoys making Muttar Paneer.

Tropicana Eton Mess

My daughter has raved about a pavlova she made a year ago with a rich mango and passionfruit curd topping. She acquired the recipe for the┬áMango and Passionfruit curd from Lorraine Elliott’s┬áNot Quite Nigella. Lorraine makes pavlovas, all towers of gooey loveliness and there are at least 6 fabulous versions to consider. I often prefer to make mini pavlovas or meringues so that I can string out the exquisite curd a little longer. As the mango season is at its height ( but not for long) I decided it was time to give her recipe a try. It is also a very fitting dessert for Australia Day on January 26th.

Daisy samples the Eton Mess with Mango and Passionfruit curd
Daisy samples the Eton Mess with Mango and Passionfruit curd

Little Daisy, the cheffa, was my main tester. Daisy likes to watch cooking videos to improve her cooking skills and always helps in the kitchen, with her own stool and special knife. She is genuinely my best kitchen hand, her enthusiasm spurs me on.

Little crispy meringues with gooey centres

 Little meringues are easy to whip up and store well in a tin- ready for any young customer with an appetite. They can be served as individual greedy sized desserts, or smashed up and made into an Eton Mess.

The OTT Tropicana Mess
The OTT Tropicana Mess

The small meringue recipe

  • four egg whites
  • 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cornflour
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
  • Preheat oven to 150┬║C. Line two small baking trays with baking paper. Whisk egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form, then add the sugar gradually and beat until they turn glossy. Remove bowl from stand and stir through the cornflour and vinegar.
  • Use a piping bag to make 6 rounds of meringue with slightly walled sides, or make freeform shapes, as pictured above, if you intend to smash them up for Eton Mess. Leave at least 3 cm between each meringue to allow for spreading.
  • Reduce the oven to 120┬║C and bake for 40 minutes. Turn off the oven and allow them to cool completely. Store in an airtight tin for up to 2 weeks.

Eton Mess, smashed merigue, cream and mango and passionfruit curd
Eton Mess, smashed meringue, cream, mango and passionfruit curd

Lorraine Elliott’s┬áMango and Passionfruit Curd

Makes about 3 cups of curd

  • 5 egg yolks
  • ┬ż cup sugar
  • 125g butter, cut into cubes
  • ┬Ż cup passionfruit pulp (about 5 passionfruit)
  • ┬Ż cup mango pulp, processed (about 1 large mango)

  • ┬áHeat a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat (4 out of 10 where 10 is the hottest temperature). Place the yolks and sugar and stir until combined. Add the cubes of butter and allow to melt. Stir just stir enough so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

  • ┬áAdd the passionfruit and mango pulp to the pan and allow to thicken stirring occasionally. It will take about 10-15 minutes to thicken and will thicken further upon cooling. Store in sterilised jars.

To Assemble the Desserts

Use parfait glasses or bowls. Roughly smash the meringue and layer with cream, the curd, fresh passionfruit, and repeat, topped with fresh mint leaves.

Other components are whipped cream, more passionfruit, sliced mango, and other tropical fruits in season. Daisy said no to banana so take heed of her advice.

Daisy and her mother share another!

I sent all the components home with five-year old Daisy: the meringues, the whipped cream and the curd so she can practice her assembling to impress her father and sisters.

Daisy's version, made when she went home. Pic taken on her mother's phone.
Daisy’s version, made when she went home. Pic taken on her mother’s phone.

Footnote: Today Lorraine has written up this sweet curd again- check her updated recipe here too.