Here is another good recipe from my friend Chuck who has been making good Indian food for 30 years.
I got this from him in 1989 and I've used it ever since. I find Mattar Paneer on the menu in most Indian
restaurants, but many call it "cheese and peas" in English. Making the cheese is a challenge but there is no
reason not to try making this at home. I've heard that you can buy ready made paneer cheese in an Indian
grocery store but I have not tried any. Most of the time I actually substitute cauliflower or some other
vegetables for the cheese anyway. That cuts out a lot of work on this dish! This dish has a wonderful tomato
base and can be used for cooking any sort of
vegetable. The coolest
part about making the
cheese is when you stir
in the yogurt and the
lemon juice into the
boiling milk. That's
when the acid in the
juice and the cultures
in the yogurt quickly
separate the milk into
cheese curds and
whey. For me the first
time I made the cheese
it was a real education.
Ghee is basically clarified butter and it is
available in Indian grocery stores and online. An acceptable substitute is your favorite vegetable oil. The
same goes for the Garam Masala, for which you can substitute a little cinnamon, crushed cloves and nutmeg.
Ingredients for the cheese:
2 quarts whole milk
½ cup plain yogurt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
cheesecloth for straining
Ingredients for the peas:
5 tablespoons ghee or cooking oil (I use peanut oil)
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and chopped fine
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 cup chopped onion (1 large onion)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon turmeric for color
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper for heat
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 ½ teaspoons Garam Masala
2 cups tomatoes, chopped so fine they are almost pureed (you can use a drained large
can of whole or chopped tomatoes)
1 10 ounce package of frozen peas
2 teaspoons sugar
2-3 tablespoons fresh coriander for garnish - optional
1 cup whey (reserved from making the cheese) - may substitute water
1 non-aluminum skillet
To make the cheese:
Boil the milk on high heat, stirring constantly in a heavy pot. You must stir constantly because otherwise
the milk will scald or burn and impart a burned taste to the cheese. It will also be very difficult to clean burned
milk from the bottom of the pot!
When foam rises from the pot, stir in the yogurt and the lemon juice and watch the solid curds separate
from the liquid whey.
When the curds are finished separating, strain the whole mixture through a sieve lined with 4-5 layers of
cheesecloth. Reserve 1 cup of whey aside. Let the curds cool undisturbed until the cheesecloth is cool
enough to handle. Wrap up the curds with the cheesecloth and try to wring out as much liquid as you can.
Form the cheesecloth and the curds into a ball and press them onto a flat surface with an extra cutting board or
other flat item and put about 15 lbs of weight on top of it all for 6-8 hours. More liquid will separate and the
cheese will continue to form. After 6-8 hours, cut the cheese into bite sized pieces and save them for use in
You can skip the previous part entirely if you buy pre-made paneer or if you substitute cauliflower (my
favorite) or other vegetables.
To make the peas:
Be sure not to use an aluminum skillet when cooking tomatoes. The natural acids in tomatoes will
chemically react with the aluminum skillet (and utensils) and produce a nasty bitter taste to your dish. Use only
a stainless steel or iron skillet, for example.
Heat the ghee or oil in a heavy skillet. Flour the cheese cubes lightly and brown them in the oil for 4-5
minutes until they are golden. Reserve them in a separate bowl.
If needed, add a little more oil or ghee to take the next steps. Add the ginger and garlic to the hot pan
and fry for 30-45 seconds just to get their flavors infused. Add the onion and salt and fry for about 10 minutes
until the onion softens and starts to brown. Stir in ¼ cup of the whey and the turmeric, red pepper, coriander
and garam masala. Blend everything together.
Stir in the remaining ¾ cup of whey and the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat
and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the sugar and taste for excess tomato acidity, which is a sharp biting taste
that you may not like. If you find an acid taste to this dish try adding a bit more sugar or try a dash more of salt
or some baking soda.
Finally, add the cheese cubes (or cauliflower or other veggies if you are substituting) and the peas and
simmer to heat everything through in 5-7 minutes, and place in a serving dish with the fresh coriander sprinkled
Mattar Paneer - Cheese and Peas