Matar Paneer

In India, I would sit in the living room with Hubby and Mummy-ji, hunching over the coffee table while we peeled pods of peas and tried to see who could fill their bowl the fastest.  I always lost.  I had never peeled a pea pod in my life.  Meanwhile Hubby and Mummy-ji would be onto their second bowl before I had even gotten halfway through my first.  I could never put my finger on how a chore like peeling peas could become so fun, but Punjabis seem to be experts at turning chores into competitions.

Before last year’s trip, I had never seen real peas in a pod.  The only peas I’ve had exposure to is the kind you buy in the frozen section.  Growing up, I was never a big fan of peas.  As I was the only vegetarian in the family, my grandmother would simply leave out the meat for me, so I ate a lot of dinners consisting of steamed peas and carrots with mashed potatoes.   But peeling these fresh peas and sneaking a few into my mouth was a whole different experience. It made me wonder what kinds of flavors I was missing out out by relying only on my local grocery store.  I’d experienced first hand the difference between fresh and frozen.  I already had heard about how they pick tomatoes small and green and ripen them with chemicals.  I began to ask myself “what am I missing out on?”.

IMG_9188

Feeling inspired, I decided to go home and try growing my own peas.  Easier said than done when you live in a condo in the middle of downtown.  I sought out my nearest community garden and after a few months of waiting, I got my own plot where I could experience fresh home grown food for the first time.

I planted some peas, a tomato plant and some lettuce, just to keep things small and simple.  After about three weeks now, everything has practically died.  I’m not sure if I have under watered or over watered, but it seems this isn’t going to be as simple as I thought.   Feeling heavily discouraged and completely willing to throw in my gardening gloves, I got a boost of encouragement from my mother and aunt, both very good gardeners, not to give up and that gardening has a learning curve.  Armed with their confidence, and the memory of great tasting fresh food, I’ll have to give it another go and be patient.  In the meantime, I’ll be making matar paneer with frozen peas.

Matar Paneer is a Punjabi curry dish with peas and Indian cheese called paneer.  In India the peas are bought within hours of being picked from their stems and the paneer has been made early that morning by the downstairs bakery.  For me however, I buy a block of paneer and a package of frozen peas.  However, I have found ways of freshening these up a bit.  Frozen peas are very dry and chewy, so the watery curry helps put a little life back into them.  Store bought paneer is dense, so a reader provided a great tip for softening up paneer by letting it sit in a simmering mixture of milk and water.  If I plan ahead, I’ll make my own paneer, which always tastes the best.

IMG_9171

MATAR PANEER RECIPE

A Punjabi favorite.  You can find this dish in almost any Indian restaurant you visit.

This dish is made with the same technique as Mummy-ji’s chole recipe.  It’s the quickest way to make the basic foundation known as tarka.

Serves: 6

Time: 1 hour

Spice Level: low

INGREDIENTS
2 Onions
1 Head of garlic
1 Inch of ginger, peeled
4 Green chilies (optional)
4 Tablespoons of oil
3 (1 pound) tomatoes
1 Teaspoon turmeric
2 Teaspoons garam masala
1  1/2 Teaspoons salt
2 Cups water
2 pounds of peas
16 oz. paneer

1. MAKE THE TARKA

Blend the onions, garlic, ginger and chilies.  Add as little water as needed in order to blend because you’ll be cooking the mixture until the water evaporates (the more you add the longer the cooking will take).

IMG_9116

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, then add the blended tarka.  Let it cook while you blend the tomatoes.

IMG_9120

Add the blended tomatoes

IMG_9124

along with the 1  1/2 tsp.  salt,

IMG_9125

2 tsp. garam masala

IMG_9126

and 1 tsp. turmeric.

IMG_9127

Give it a stir.

IMG_9128

Let it cook for about 10-15 minutes.  You’re looking for all the liquid to evaporate.

IMG_9130

You should end up with a thick paste.  Once the paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, you know it’s getting dry enough.

IMG_9131

2.  ADD THE PEAS & PANEER

Add the peas to the tarka

IMG_9133

and 2 cups of water.

IMG_9134

Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes while you chop the paneer into bite-size cubes.

IMG_9136

After the peas have cooked for 5 minutes, add the paneer.

IMG_9138

Cover and let cook for 10 more minutes.

IMG_9140

You know the paneer is done when you can easily cut through it.

IMG_9141

3. RELATED RECIPES

Enjoy your Matar Paneer with a couple of homemade chapatis or a side of rice.

For some easy sides, you can serve it with a cucumber salad or a small bowl of raita.

For a great dinner party menu, make this along with some daal as well.

Try making your own Homemade Paneer for an extra special meal.

 

IMG_9174

 

MATAR PANEER RECIPE

A Punjabi favorite.  You can find this dish in almost any Indian restaurant you visit.

This dish is made with the same technique as Mummy-ji’s chole recipe.  It’s the quickest way to make the basic foundation known as tarka.

Serves: 6

Time: 1 hour

Spice Level: low

INGREDIENTS      
  2   Onions  
  1   Head of garlic
  1   Inch of ginger, peeled
  4   Green chilies (optional)
  4   Tablespoons of oil
  3   (1 pound) tomatoes
  1   Teaspoon turmeric
  2   Teaspoons garam masala
  1  1/2 Teaspoons salt
  2   Cups water  
  2   pounds of peas
  16   oz. paneer  

 

 

1. MAKE THE TARKA

Blend the onions, garlic, ginger and chilies.  Add as little water as needed in order to blend because you’ll be cooking off the water (the more you add the longer the cooking will take).

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat, then add the blended tarka.  Let it cook while you blend the tomatoes.  Add the blended tomatoes along with the salt, garam masala and turmeric.

let it cook for about 10-15 minutes.  You’re looking for all the liquid to evaporate.  You should end up with a thick paste.  Once the paste starts to stick to the bottom of the pan a bit, you know it’s getting dry enough.

2.  ADD THE PEAS & PANEER

Add to the tarka 2 cups of water and the peas. Cover and let them cook for 5 minutes while you chop the paneer into bite-size cubes.

After the peas have cooked for 5 minutes, add the paneer.  Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.  You know the paneer is done when you can easily cut it with a spoon.

3. SERVE

Enjoy your Matar Paneer with a couple of homemade chapatis or a side of rice.

For some easy sides, you can serve it with a cucumber salad or a small bowl of raita.

For a great dinner party menu, make this along with some daal as well.

RELATED RECIPES

Try making your own Homemade Paneer for an extra special meal.

14 Comments

  1. 4-27-2013

    YUMMY! I just had to make this as soon as I saw you post it and I was NOT disappointed! Another winner!

    • 4-27-2013

      That’s so sweet! I am so happy it turned out great. Paneer makes everything taste awesome. :)

  2. 4-28-2013

    Hi Colleen,

    My first time here…..read about u…and browsed thru your recipes…wow awesome….it’s not easy..but u are doin gr8 and luv your recipes and pics as well. You are definitely a gr8 cook. :)

    Will sure stop by again….if you find time…hop in to my space sometime….
    http://anuzhealthykitchen.blogspot.com/

    Cheers
    Anu

    • 4-28-2013

      thanks anu,

      thanks for the share, looks like you have some great dishes as well.

  3. 4-30-2013

    Namaste!
    My husband is Kashmiri & Kashmiris prefer a sort of spongy texture to their paneer.
    To achieve this the paneer is cut into cubes then put into a pot of water with a pinch of turmeric (to give it that ‘golden’ glow) & brought to a boil. Remove from heat & drain ‘et voila’ you have ‘spongy’ paneer.
    If you prefer a bit of a chewy crust on your spongy paneer you can pan fry it til just a bit crispy on the outside.
    Hope that helps!

    • 4-30-2013

      Hi Beatrix,

      That sounds great! I’ll bet you and your husband have some great recipes. I love Kashmiri dishes.

  4. 5-6-2013

    What a wonderful recipe! I made this last night, my first try at matar paneer. Delicious!

    • 5-6-2013

      Hi Taryn – I am so glad it came out well for you! May I ask, was it enough to serve four?

      • 5-6-2013

        Well…to be honest I only had half or less of what the recipe required for most ingredients, so I improvised, but even so I would say that with half bag of frozen peas, 1/2 large onion and 1/2 package of paneer, somehow I still got 3 generous servings out of it. It was really good and so many of my Facebook friends liked my pic and remarked how good it looked! I would say the recipe as you have the quantities would most definitely serve 4, maybe even more!

        • 5-6-2013

          Oh good! That’s so helpful for me to know. I’ll have to go find your Facebook photo ;)

          • 5-6-2013

            I’m on Facebook as Taryn Merrick Blackwood, fyi, although your photos are MUCH nicer than my little iPhone photo :-)

          • 5-7-2013

            I saw your photo, it looks great and the chapatis and daal looks tasty too.

  5. 8-7-2013

    I wondered if you’ve tried this with jalapeño chilies? I think these smaller ones are spicier, right?

    • 8-8-2013

      My Mummy-ji uses the small Thai chilies so it’s what I use too. You could use the jalapeño chilies as well. I think it would be just as spicy because jalapeños are much larger. Good idea Jennifer.

Leave a Comment