‘What’s with you and paneer?’ My mom often asks me this question. Back in Indore, we never cooked paneer at home and it was delicacy reserved only for wedding receptions. Cut to Delhi, Mother Dairy paneer is a permanent resident of my refrigerator and paneer is my potato – made frequently and effortlessly. Why? Being a vegetarian in the north, where it is summer time most of the time, “green leafy vegetables” being scarce, make you look upto paneer, rajma and chana as sources of nutrition. Plus, the restaurants out here will punish you for being a vegetarian by feeding you dishes with different names (suffixed or prefixed with paneer for sure), different color (white, red or yellow) – but taste the same. A few restaurants later, you get the hang of what goes into a respectable paneer dish slowly and you end up befriending the white delight.
This bhurji is the easiest and quickest thing I prepare with paneer. It does not call for any gravy to be prepared, and serves well as a dry side to roti and daal in a weekday dinner. Pretty forgiving recipe – I followed hubby N’s instructions for the first time I prepared it, but have gone the ‘throw in a pinch of this and a dash of that’ way – giving good results every time.
paneer – 200 gms crumbled by hand
onions – 1 large or 2 small, chopped roughly
tomatoes – 1 large or 2 small, chopped roughly
capsicum/ shimla mirch/ bell peppers – 2, chopped to tiny pieces (optional)
green chilies – 2, slit lengthwise and cut to halves
jeera/ cumin – 1 tsp
ajwain/ carom seeds – 1 tsp
haldi/ turmeric powder – 1 tsp
red chilli powder – half tsp
salt – as per taste
garam masala/ kitchen king masala – 1 tsp
oil – 2 tspn
milk – half cup (optional)
1. Heat oil in a kadhai/ wok (I use Prestige non stick frying pan).
2. When hot, add jeera + ajwain, let it sizzle and crackle for a minute. Add the chopped green chilies.
3. Add onion, cook till soft and light brown. We don’t want golden/ dark brown.
4. Add tomato and capsicum pieces. At the same time, add salt, haldi.
5. Let this cook till capsicum and tomatoes are cooked, till the masala starts to dry up and oozes oil. This should take 7-8 minutes.
6. Reduce the flame to sim (if not sim already) and add crumbled paneer. Sprinkle the red chili powder and garam masala. Mix everything. Make sure you do not cook for than 2 minutes after adding the paneer, it is being cooked directly, and not in a gravy. You may get unpredictable results.
7. Now, if you think this is too dry and you like your sabji to be moist, do not throw in water. Instead, add half a cup of milk – it will be incorporated in the paneer and will make it both soft and moist.
8.Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves if available. Serve as a side with rotis.