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One of my earliest introductions to Indian cuisine was mattar paneer. The essential components are lightly pan-fried cubes of luscious paneer cheese and plump green peas gently simmered in a elegantly spiced tomato-based gravy. The spicing, consistency of the sauce, and texture of the paneer vary greatly however, depending on the cook running the kitchen — obviously this can be a source of considerable culinary inspiration if you judge by the popularity of this classic dish that originates from Northern India and now a mainstay on menus all across the globe.
 

This version has a thicker sauce than an ordinary mattar paneer, flavored with a generous amount of fenugreek or methi leaves. This is my second mattar paneer flavored with these uniquely bitter but tangy leaves. They're easily available at any Indian and most Asian grocers, but you can substitute spinach if needed with an added pinch of fenugreek powder or seeds.
Methi Mattar PaneerFenugreek (Methi) Mattar Paneer
Recipe by Lisa Turner
Cuisine: Indian
Published on September 30, 2012

Thick, creamy, spicy and fragrant curried peas and paneer cheese flavored with fenugreek leaves

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Ingredients:

  • 14 oz (400 g) paneer cheese
  • 3 tablespoons olive or sesame oil
  • 2/3 cup dried fenugreek leaves
Paste:
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1-1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 - 4 fresh green or red chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 2 - 4 dried whole red chilies
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 teaspoon water
Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon nigella (kalonji) seeds (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
  • 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon asafetida
  • 2 tomatoes, partially seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • small handful dried fenugreek leaves
  • fresh cream or plain yogurt for garnish
Instructions:
  • Cut the paneer cheese into 3/4-inch to 1-inch cubes. Heat the olive or sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. When hot, add the paneer cubes to the pan and cook, turning often, until browned on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain the oil.

  • Meanwhile, soak the fenugreek leaves in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes. While this is soaking, combine the onion, garlic, ginger, fresh and dried chilies, cashews and 1/2 teaspoon of water in a food processor or blender and process until you have a smooth paste, adding more water if needed.

  • Using the same pan used to cook the paneer, heat the ghee, butter or oil over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and nigella seeds if using, and stir for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mustard seeds begin to splutter and pop. Immediately add the prepared paste and cook for 5 minutes.

  • Toss in the ground spices and asafetida, stir a few times, then add the tomato, fried paneer cubes, peas and salt. Drain the soaked fenugreek leaves, squeezing as much liquid as you can from the leaves and reserving the soaking liquid. Stir the fenugreek leaves into the pan and bring the pan to a boil. Add some of the reserved fenugreek soaking water to the pan to thin the sauce to your desired consistency. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning.

  • Serve hot or warm, garnished with a few sprinkles of dried fenugreek leaves and a swirl of quickly whisked cream or yogurt.

Makes 4 to 6 servings
Fenugreek (Methi) Mattar Paneer

More paneer dishes you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Massaman Curry with Paneer Cheese
Mattar Paneer with Fresh Mint
Mung Beans with Paneer Cheese

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