Paneer Butter Masala (Cottage Cheese in Tomato Gravy, No Onion & No Garlic)

Paneer butter masala is one of the most popular curries in India. Its a pretty universally (where the universe consists of India) adored dish, and my entire family likes it. Even my MIL who does not like cottage cheese otherwise, loves this dish – so that’s saying something! This is a savoury curry that can be served with bread, flatbreads like chapati, roti, naan and even pita bread. It goes amazingly well with fresh steamed basmati rice, or jeera rice and even green peas pulao. The heart of this dish is the soft, fresh cottage cheese enveloped in a silky smooth, rich, slightly sweetish tomato gravy, bolstered with some spices. This is restaurant-style, without being loaded with cream and extra calories. The richness of this gravy comes from cashew cream, which is a better alternative to thickening the gravy with heavy cream. Everything’s made fresh, from scratch, so this is absolutely delightful!

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In the picture below, take a look at how silky-smooth, buttery and rich the gravy is!I removed the coriander garnish, just to allow an unobstructed view of the dish πŸ˜€ If I had an option to give you a spoon of the curry through the computer screen, I would! Unfortunately, I guess technology needs to progress a lot more before I’m actually able to do that in reality! πŸ˜‰

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I made this for dinner yesterday, and since I hadn’t planned this for the blog, I did not shoot any stepwise pictures of the recipe. I will, however, update this post with step-wise pictures very soon! Until then, here’s the recipe below if you want to try it πŸ™‚

Ingredients

For the tomato gravy

  • Elaichi green – 2 pods
  • Fresh ginger, peeled – 1 inch piece
  • Cinnamon – 1 inch stick
  • Cloves – 2
  • Steamed tomatoes – 3 big

For the cashew cream

  • Cashews – 10 pieces, broken
  • Milk – 1 or 2 tbsp

Other

  • Butter – 2 tbsp, at room temperature
  • Oil – 1 tsp
  • Fresh Paneer – 200 gm, chopped into big cubes
  • Kashmiri lal mirch – 1 tsp
  • Black pepper powder – 1/2 tsp
  • Kasuri methi – 1 tsp
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar – 1 to 2 tsp
  • Water – 4 tbsp
  • Lemon juice – 1 tsp

Method

  1. Grind cashews along with 1 tbsp milk in a mixer until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Pressure cook tomatoes for 1 whistle. When whistle subsides and tomatoes have cooled down a bit, take the tomatoes out and peel them. Discard the peel.
  3. Roast the spices for 3-40 seconds , until they become aromatic.
  4. Take the tomatoes, roasted spices, and the fresh ginger in a mixer grinder and pulse into a smooth mixture. No need to add water, as there will be enough juice in the steamed tomatoes.
  5. Melt some butter and oil together in a kadai.
  6. Once butter is melted, add the ground mixture and saute on medium-low flame until the gravy reduces and oil separates from the gravy (you will see oil collecting at the sides of the pan, around the gravy).
  7. Add salt to taste. Add 1 tsp of sugar.
  8. Now add the cashew cream, and mix well. Turn down flame to low.
  9. Add enough water, stirring continuously to dilute the gravy to the consistency you prefer. Add water in tablespoons, so that you don’t add too much in one go.
  10. Now add your paneer and mix well. Allow paneer to cook in low flame for 30-40 seconds.
  11. Check for salt/sugar and add more if required. I prefer my paneer butter masala gravy to be a little on the sweeter side, so I added 1/2 tsp more sugar at this stage.
  12. Add the crushed dry kasuri methi and stir well.
  13. Switch off the stove. Add 1 tsp lemon juice and mix well.
  14. Serve hot. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander (optional).

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Try this – let us know your comments below ! πŸ™‚

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TIPS & TWEAKS

  1. Let the gravy rest for 10 minutes before serving, so that the flavours have a chance to meld into the gravy.
  2. The sugar in this gravy is important, as it not only balances the spices beautifully, but also reduces acidity of the tomatoes.
  3. Use really fresh cottage cheese or paneer. If the paneer is old, it will be rubbery and tough, which will spoil the experience of the dish.
  4. If you don’t have time to steam tomatoes in pressure cooker, then just blanch them in boiling hot water for 2-3 minutes and follow the rest of the procedure.
  5. You may even substitute paneer with silken tofu.
  6. For a fully vegan experience, substitute the milk with almond milk, paneer with tofu, and use cashew cream as is.
  7. Kasuri methi adds a beautiful flavor profile and aroma to this dish. Do not omit.
  8. You could also omit butter and use ghee fully in its place. It will taste equally great.
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