NB: this post, or any like this, are NOT recipes. They are just my stories behind something I have cooked.
Say Indian food and most people will say ‘I love Palak Paneer’ (‘Chicken Tikka Masala’ coming in as a close second)
I detest both. Why ? Because in my snobbish opinion they have no subtlety of flavour. Both are the mish-mash of heavy flavours. But it’s probably the same reason I prefer Vietnamese food over Thai.
Also every time someone orders palak paneer I am reminded of my father. My hardcore Bengali father, born and brought up in Calcutta, used to say “please no green ointment” if we ever suggested Palak Paneer. (referring to the green sludge the paneer nestles in) My mother used to say ‘its for people with no teeth’.
Yes we were very ‘tolerant’ like that.
Now I am biased and will say try the Bengali version of a paneer curry and enjoy the subtlety 🙂
1 Bayleaf, 1.5 inch Cinnamon stick, 3 Cardamon pods, 5-6 small Raisins (optional)
250 gms of Paneer
1 med Tomato cubed or half can of Chopped Tomatoes
1 Green Chilli diced
Turmeric powder, salt, cumin powder.
Sprinkling of Garam Masala (Bengali garam masala not the one you buy in Indian stores)
As with all Bengali cooking you start with marinating. Almost everything is marinated with salt and turmeric. So cube the paneer and the potato and then go ahead and marinate it with turmeric and salt.
The way I measure stuff out is by expert eyeballing. Just sprinkle the powders over both. Just like you don’t want something to be too salty you don’t want something to be too ‘turmeric-y’. Use that reasoning.
Too much turmeric tastes horrible. You know when Indian food clings to your clothes ? Well it ‘tastes‘ like that smell.
Potatoes can be marinated anywhere from 15-20 mins. The paneer, 1 hour would be great!
Lightly saute potato and the paneer, separately. The outsides should get lightly browned. The point here is not to cook them, rather just brown them. Set aside.
Add more oil ( I use Olive oil for ALL my cooking).
Add the Bayleaf, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods, raisins (optional) and the cumin seeds.
The seeds should spatter.
Now add the chopped tomato, chillies and flat tsp of Turmeric, 1 tsp of Cumin powder. All diluted with half cup of water.
NB: like all seasoning even Indian seasoning will taste bitter if you a) put too much and b) don’t cook it well.
Fry the tomato till you think the rawness of the tomato is gone and flavours have homogenised. Add water periodically to prevent sticking. Well I do because I don’t use too much oil.
Then add the potato, paneer and 1 cup of water. Stir everything, bring to boil and then simmer for…..15 mins.
Taste it. Bengali food tends to be a bit sweet. So either the raisins or some added sugar should give you that sweetness.
If you can get Gur at Indian grocery stores, please use that instead of sugar. It’s also made from sugarcane however more earthy as it is less processed. It is really tasty.
Avoid if you don’t like the sweetness. Personally a good quality tomato adds that sweet flabour for me.
If everything tastes good you are done. Sprinkle the garam masala on top.
Bengalis are rice eaters so our curries tend to be more runny so this will be a bit runny. But if its too runny , like watery, then mash some of the potatoes in the curry, to thicken it.
I will post Bengali version of spinach paneer which is definitely not gloopy because we use chopped spinach.
Coming soon 🙂