Cottage Cheese in Rich Cashew Sauce
Cottage cheese (Paneer) cooked in creamy tomato and nutty cashew sauce. This is very popular vegetarian recipe, Rich and flavorful and easy to prepare. In India, it is a special occasion dish.
Often served in parties or for special ceremonies, Indian Shahi (means rich and luxurious) Paneer is served once-in-a-while due to it's rich and creamy shahi gravy base. Many versions of shahi paneer don't use yogurt and are prepared with just cream and cashew pastes and hence are pretty high in calories. I, however, like to tame-down the richness of this gravy by adding thick yogurt as base ingredient.
If you can't find thick yogurt like greek yogurt, leave regular yogurt on a sieve lined with cheese-cloth or paper towel while working on onion-tomato mixture. Water will drain from yogurt leaving behind relatively thicker yogurt. If that is not possible, just cook the shahi paneer gravy a little longer to achieve the desired consistency.
For a complete Indian Shahi Meal, pair Shahi Paneer with Indian naan or tandoori roti.
My favorite Shahi Paneer pairings are:
1. Soak cashews in luke warm water for 10-15 minutes.2. Meanwhile, heat oil in pan, add cardamom and bay leaf, let it perfume oil for 30 seconds, then add chopped onion, and ginger-garlic paste. Saute for 4-5 minutes until onions are translucent. Don't let garlic burn.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and half teaspoon of the salt and saute for another 5-6 minutes. Now add turmeric, red pepper powder, green chili and coriander powder and fry for 2 more minutes. Additional Notes: Mixture will start leaving oil by end of this saute step and tomatoes will almost disintegrate. (If not, then continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes)4. Remove pan from heat and let the mixture cool for sometime. Fish out bay leaf and cardamom pods if you don't like texture of these in gravy. Using a hand blender or food processor, fine blend/chop this mixture with yogurt to make a thick consistency paste. Also, drain cashew water and grind soaked cashews to a fine paste separately, using water as little as possible. Additional Notes: It is recommended to grind cashews separately since grinding with onion-tomato mixture might leave cashew pieces chunky. We want to grind cashews to a fine paste.
5. Transfer onion-tomato-yogurt mixture to the pan (heat on), Add water, cashew paste, and sugar. Simmer for 5 minutes. Add paneer and cook till gravy thickens (5-6 minutes). Taste and adjust salt. Additional Notes: Stir very gently after adding paneer, making sure not to break paneer pieces.6. Garnish Shahi Paneer with fresh cilantro and 1 tablespoon of heavy cream (optional, but used in traditional recipe). Serve it hot with naan or roti. Enjoy!!
For a lighter version of this recipe, you can make this dish without cashew paste, it still tastes delicious.
Fish out bay leaf and cardamom pods before blending the onion and tomato mixture if you don't like texture of these in the gravy. If left in, depending upon blender or food processor, pods and leaf fiber might end up in gravy.
Try this recipe and make Paneer at home to use in Shahi Paneer. It tastes fresh and better than store-bought.
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