Paneer Makhani (Paneer Butter Masala)
By DK on Apr 05, 2010
From my research and taste testing around in many restaurants, I feel that "Paneer Makhani", "Paneer Butter Masala" and "Shahi Paneer" taste more or less the same. The difference is in the prominence of spices added by different chefs. Call it whatever you please at the end of the day it is still a very rich creamy Indian side dish made with succulent paneer.
"Paneer Butter Masala" is pretty self explanatory - Masala denotes spices, cooked with butter and Paneer (Indian cheese). "Paneer Makhani" - where Makhani means cream and in cooking, generally denotes any rich gravy made with onions(optionally), tomatoes, butter and cream. And "Shahi Paneer" - where Shahi denotes Royalty, something fit for kings! And can there be anything less than cream, butter and rich nuts which can be served for a king? At the end of the day all these sound the same to me, with 'if-you-blink-you- might-miss" differences.
Though variations abound where spices are thrown in as per fancy and preference of the cook, but with such ingredients can it be any less delicious? After a lot of trials, this is the recipe I follow to make this dish. Along the way, I have learnt few trips and tricks which might help you too, the way it did for me.
Prep Time: Under 15 min
Cook Time: Under 30 min
Serves: 4 people
- 2 generous cups Paneer cubes
- 1 large Onion,chopped coarsely
- 3 tbsp Butter
- 1/2 - 3/4 cups Tomato Puree - see Tips
- 2-3 Green Chillies, as per taste - see Tips
- 3-4 cloves Garlic
- 2 inch Ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 tsp Turmeric powder
- 1 tsp Cumin-Coriander powder
- 1 tsp Tandoori Masala
- 1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 1/4 cup Cashew paste see Tips.
- 8-9 raisins - see Tips
- 1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (as needed for consistency)
- salt to taste
- Mint and cilantro to garnish - see Tips
Tips1. Tomato Puree: Homemade Puree is recommended. But if using store bought, opt for low sodium variety. If that's not available then use only about 1/2 cup of the puree and carefully add salt only if required. Otherwise it results in a tangy taste thus spoiling the dish.
2. Green Chilli: You can instead use cayenne/red chilli powder. Sometimes when I don't have green chillies on hand I use dried red chillies like in this dish. Doesn't hurt the taste.
3. Cashew Paste and Raisins: Use them if making Shahi Paneer. Soak few cashew pieces in boiling water and grind into paste. You can saute the raisins in ghee and then add it to the gravy. Or just grind them along with the nuts. They provide subtle sweetness enhancing flavor. You can skip adding the sugar in that case or add only if necessary.
4. Mint:I personally find that Mint goes very well with rich dishes providing a fresh mouthfeel and also reducing the rich after taste. A combination of the herbs is my personal favorite where it helps to mellow down the richness.
Here is another tip which you might find useful. When buying store bought Paneer, I mostly place them in a bowl filled with boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
It helps to make it soft and also get rid of any impurities, if any. Drain it the water from the paneer and set aside.
In a skillet in 1/2 tsp oil, add the onion, chillies, garlic and ginger with a little salt. Saute until soft.
Transfer this mixture to the blender and blend it into a paste.
In the same skillet, add 3 tbsp of butter and then add the onion paste. Cook until butter/oil separates. If using cashew Paste add it along with this mixture now. or you can soak the cashew pieces in hot water and grind it along with the onion mixture.
Add the tomato puree and all the spices. Stir well and cook for another 5-10 minutes or until the raw smell of the puree disappears. Add sugar and cook for another 5 minutes. You can at this point taste and see if you require additional salt. If yes, add more.
Drop in the paneer gently and give it a toss. Cook for another 2-3 minutes for the paneer to absorb the flavors.
Lower the heat to a simmer. Then add the heavy cream. Mix well.
If you want to use raisins, fry them lightly in ghee/butter separately and add it to this gravy. You can set some aside for garnish. I don't like sweet things in savory dishes and hence don't use them. Be careful to cook this in simmer before adding cream. Otherwise the heat will give it a curdle appearance!
You can garnish it with mint and cilantro if desired.
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