Achari Paneer

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This dish really does have a deliciously tangy, chatpata taste -akin to that of pickles – that does justice to its name. Shri and our guests on Saturday liked it a lot.

When I first came across this recipe, in  a fantastic cookbook called “The Art of Indian Cuisine”, I was delighted because a) it uses all the spices that make up my beloved  paanchphoron b) other than the time required to make the paneer – which in fact in many places can be bought in a store – the rest of the process seemed pretty simple and quick.

But on closer reading I saw that it also requires quite a large number of green chillies. I couldn’t quite get my head around the surprising – to me – number specified and so I used far fewer (and I substituted kashmiri chilli powder for regular red chilli powder) when I cooked this dish on Saturday.

Achari Paneer

600 gms of paneer (the recipe for matar paneer describes how to make paneer; you’ll need 4 liters of milk and 400 ml of yoghurt to make this quantity of paneer)

400-500 gms of yoghurt (the original recipe says 1 cup but I wasn’t sure how much that meant. So I sort of  eyeballed the paneer and decided to use 500gms which worked out fine)

3 medium sized onions, chopped fine

4 tsp of fennel seeds

2 tsp of cumin and mustard seeds

1 tsp of fenugreek seeds and nigella seeds

2 (or a few more, if you like) green chillies, slit lengthwise in half

2 tsp each of sugar, turmeric powder and kashmiri red chilli powder

3-4 tsp of dry mango powder (amchur)

3 tsps each of garlic paste and ginger paste

salt to taste

5 tbsp of sunflower oil

Cut the paneer in to 1″ or slightly larger cubes. Mix the sugar and the 3 dry spices in to the yoghurt and whisk it well.

In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then add the 5 whole spices in the sequence I have suggested for paanchphoron.

Once the whole spices start to crackle and turn brown, add the green chillies and the onion and fry  till golden brown. Add the garlic and ginger pastes next, and fry for another couple of minutes.

Turn down the heat a little now, and add the yoghurt mixture, and cook till the yoghurt is cooked/absorbed. At this stage, the cooking oil will rise to the surface, and you’ll see it has a lovely rich red color. Add the paneer pieces and salt, and fry everything together for 4-5 minutes. Add a cup and a half of boiled water, turn up the heat a little, and simmer till the gravy is as thick as you’d like, turning over the paneer pieces once in a while.

This dish needs to be made at least 3-4 hours ahead of eating, to allow time for the paneer to soak in the flavors, and for the “achari” taste to develop.

There is lots of yummy flavor here to savor. Enjoy !


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