The whole endeavor started due to the goodness of my heart. Sean was going to see Ryan’s water polo game. I requested that he pick up Chinese food on his way back. Since Sean is the pickiest eater alive, he does not partake Chinese food!! After he left, I thought about dinner and felt bad that while we eat kikkoman noodles, steamed dumplings, the poor man was going to chomp on peanut butter jelly sandwich. So I decided to show my love and appreciation by cooking him his favorite dish – paneer. I had made some fresh paneer over the weekend.
After logging out of work I did not flop down with my book like usual. Instead, I chopped my paneer block into little cubes. Marinated them with gorgeous red Kashmiri chili powder, a little oil, some salt and dried kasoori methi. I left the paneer to marinate while I got the ingredients for the gravy ready which was simply 1 cup of beaten curd mixed with a tiny pinch of turmeric, more kashmiri red chili powder, a tsp of cumin powder and a tsp of coriander powder. I ground some cashew to a paste and chopped fresh ginger.
I shallow fried the paneer pieces till they just got a little color. In a separate pan, I strained in the same oil that I used to fry paneer cubes, heated it on medium heat and added chopped ginger. Once the ginger cooked for a few seconds, I added two dried red chilies to temper the oil. And a few drops of water so the ginger stopped cooking. Next I added the curd mixture as well as a spoonful of cashew paste and let it cook till oil separated on medium heat. Once it smelled right, I added water, salt and some sugar, brought it to a boil and then finally added the gently fried paneer cubes. I was very happy with myself imagining Sean’s surprised face and his delight at having a real roti and paneer dinner instead of pbj. I was happy till I tasted the gravy. It was bland. No taste whatsoever. I followed the recipe of a chef I like and watch his cooking videos on my phone obsessively. I tried to make his recipe of dahiwaale paneer, paneer in a yogurt based gravy. Sorry Chef Brar, it was a no go for this Bengali’s taste bud and I followed your recipe diligently!
It was time for damage control. I knew Sean would not like this dish but I was more disappointed because all the paneer that I made painstakingly over the weekend ended up in a tasteless gravy. I first thought I would simply get the paneer out, grate it and make paneer parathas. But I shuddered at the amount of work involved in doing that. Then, my friends, this brilliant woman had a brilliant idea. I had an epipheny.
I heated up a skillet and added a tsp of cumin seeds. When the seeds crackled, I added almost half cup of tomato puree and let the puree and cumin cook on low heat for 5 to 6 minutes, adding splashes of water to make sure the tomato did not burn. In the meantime, I strained the paneer from the gravy and kept the two aside. Once the tomato was cooked and the aroma was lovely, I added a tsp of garam masala to the mixture, and then added the gravy of my previous dish. Mixed the gravy together with the tomato mixture. Next went in some raisins and cashews followed by handful of chopped cilantro. I gave all of it a good stir and let them simmer together for about 5 minutes. When the gravy looked well mingled, I added the paneer pieces. And turned off the stove.
Our Chinese food came home with Ryan and Sean. Sean’s face lit up when he saw the paneer on the stove top. I watched him tear a piece of roti and dip it in the gravy and put it in his mouth. And he said, “Oh, you have outdone yourself today. This is so good!”
Only then did I tell him the story of my paneer debacle. I salvaged my precious paneer. I surprised my husband. I solved a problem. I declare today as a win for Madammommy! 🙂