Kadai paneer is a mouth-watering dish that’s served in a very thick sauce, made with mild, creamy Indian cottage cheese (paneer), peppers, onions, and a balance of well suited spices and herbs.
Keep an eye out for paneer when you next find yourself at the cheese counter of a supermarket. Paneer is used abundantly in vegetarian Indian cooking. It’s made simply from the separated curds of whole milk, which are heavily compressed then cut into cubes once firmed up fully.
Whilst not having much more than a creamy flavour, paneer takes on the flavours of its accompanying ingredients. That, along with its firm and ‘pleasing in the mouth’ texture, makes this a surprisingly delicious and satisfying main course.
This recipe one of many in my first award-winning book, Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 2.
- 175-200g Paneer, cut into 2 cm cubes
- 100-120g Green Pepper, cut into 2-3cm triangles (approx. half a large Pepper)
- 120-150g Onion, cut into 2-3cm segments (approx. 1 medium Onion)
- 2 tsp Kasuri Methi (Dried Fenugreek Leaves)
- 3 TBSP (45ml) Oil
- ½ tsp Cumin Seeds
- 2-3 tsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
- 1 TBSP Tomato Purée (double concentrated) with a little water to dilute, or 125-150g fresh Tomatoes, finely chopped
- 2 TBSP fresh Coriander Stalks, finely chopped
- ½ tsp Cumin & ½ tsp Coriander Powder. Toast and grind seeds for the best flavour
- ¼ tsp Turmeric
- Pinch of Garam Masala (about one eighth tsp)
- ½ tsp Tandoori Masala
- ¾ tsp Curry Powder (e.g. Mild Madras)
- ½-1 tsp Kashmiri Chilli Powder, for colour and warmth (optional)
- ½ tsp Salt
- 1–2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1–2 tsp fresh Green Chilli, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 TBSP fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
- ¼ tsp Chaat Masala
- Coat the paneer chunks well with 1-2 tsp of the oil, 1 tsp of the kasuri methi, and a sprinkle of salt. Ensure you use firm paneer. Home-made paneer can often be too crumbly, so use shop-bought unless you have mastered the art of making it.
- Similarly, in a separate receptacle, mix the green pepper and onion with the same amount of oil, the other 1 tsp of kasuri methi, and the salt.
- Heat a non-stick frying pan or tawa on high. The non-stick properties will prevent the paneer sticking.
- Add 1 TBSP of oil, the paneer, and fry for 1-2 minutes, stirring gently to avoid it breaking up. Allow the paneer to turn dark brown on a few of the sides of the cubes. Remove and set aside until later.
- Next add the remaining 1 TBSP of oil to a korai, wok, or balti pan on highest heat. Throw in the pepper and onion mixture and fry for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Let the surface of the pepper and onion pieces char to develop a smoky flavour.
- Now add the cumin seeds and ginger/garlic paste. Fry for 30-45 seconds, stirring frequently.
- Then spoon in the fresh tomato (or diluted tomato purée) and the coriander stalks. Continue cooking for a further 30 seconds.
- Next add the cumin and coriander powder, turmeric, garam masala, tandoori masala, curry powder, salt, and the optional Kashmiri chilli powder. Also add 3 TBSP of water to loosen things up a little.
- Stir-fry for another minute to allow the spices to cook through, then add the fried paneer cubes, lemon juice, and the optional chopped green chilli.
- Now leave to cook for 7-9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a little water (or base gravy if you have some) along the way to avoid the contents sticking and burning. Keep the sauce thick and allow it to caramelise on the edges of the pan.
- The final consistency should be very thick – ideal for scooping up with chapati or naan.
- Just before the end of cooking add the chopped coriander leaves and ¼ tsp chaat masala.
- Taste and if desired add more salt or chaat masala.
- Serve enthusiastically, directly from the korai/wok (if safe and suitable), a very hot serving korai dish, or cast-iron sizzler platter. You could just dump it into a bowl instead.
- Chaat masala is a powdered blend of spices that is used in Indian food (most often street food, snacks or fruit) before eating to further season it. Chaat masala has a fabulous zingy flavour, which comes mainly from the amchoor (dried unripe mango) powder, salt, and often ‘black’ salt (kala namak), the latter giving a sulphurous taste.
- All spoon measurements are level. 1 tsp=5ml. 1 TBSP=15ml