A traditional Punjabi dish with a fantastic combination of sweet, fresh and spicy flavours
I was inspired to create my version after eating mattar paneer in a lovely restaurant we went to when we were travelling through Rajasthan. The paneer was cooked to perfection – crisp on the outside, meltingly soft in the middle. Bliss. I use frozen petits pois for this dish, as they tend to be sweeter and more tender than garden peas.
7cm root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
200g frozen peas
sunflower oil for frying, plus 100ml
380g paneer cheese, cut into 1.5cm cubes
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 x 400g tin of peeled plum tomatoes, finely chopped or blended
2 teaspoons medium red chilli powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
2–4 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Crush the ginger with a pestle and mortar (or in a blender) to make a fine pulp. Rinse the peas in warm water to start them thawing. Heat the frying oil – about 15cm deep – in a large pan over a high heat (or in a deep fat fryer, if you have one). Test the temperature by dropping a piece of paneer into the oil – when it is hot enough, the oil will bubble around the cheese. Reduce the heat to medium. Gently lower the paneer cubes into the oil and fry for 1½–2 minutes, until they start to turn golden brown.
Be particularly careful while they fry, as the moisture in the cheese can sizzle and spit when it meets the hot oil. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to rest on kitchen paper to drain.
Heat 100ml of oil in a separate large pan for 90 seconds over a medium heat, then add the cumin seeds. When they start to brown, reduce the heat to low and stir in the tomatoes. Add the ginger pulp, chilli powder, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, salt and fresh coriander. Mix well and allow to cook for a minute, then stir in the paneer cubes and peas. Increase the heat to high and pour in 275ml of boiling water.
Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer three-quarters covered for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and leave to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.
Spoon off any excess oil released by the paneer during cooking, then reheat over a medium heat until piping hot and serve with bathura or puri and masala kakadhi.
• This recipe is taken from Prashad: Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Kaushy Patel (Hodder & Stoughton, £25). Order a copy for £20 from the Guardian bookshop
via Life and style: Indian food and drink | guardian.co.uk http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2012/oct/25/mattar-paneer-cheese-peas-recipe