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 any recipe. 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 on top!
Mattar Paneer - Cheese and Peas
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