Paneer (the much loved Indian cottage cheese) is versatile enough to be cooked a myriad ways – grilled, sautéed, scrambled, deep fried and curried! When tasked with cooking a paneer gravy in particular, a few options come to mind: the ever popular Paneer Butter Masala, the more regal Shahi Paneer and of course everyone’s healthy favorite: Palak Paneer. But if you’re looking for a paneer recipe that’s less know and sure to impress with its unique flavor – you’ve got to try this one!
Here what I love about this dish: 1) it’s deceptively creamy texture, without actually being too rich, 2) its subtle heat, and 3) the aroma of cardamom that just makes it feel special! Now add to this its unexpected off-white colour, and you’ve got a showstopper on your hands😀
The main elements to getting this white onion gravy right are:
- Making sure NOT to brown the onions – you don’t really need white onions to make this dish, any kind will do – red/white/ yellow. What you do need to be careful about is sautéing them just until translucent.
- Removing all elements that can colour the gravy before grinding the cooked onions to a purée!
- Using fresh paneer. If you can’t find any, an alternative would be cut the packaged variety into cubes and soak them in hot water for about 10 minutes before adding them to the gravy. Alternatively you could try making paneer at home, its not at all complicated! Here’s my recipe for Home-made Paneer with step-by-step process shots.
- Use Ghee – While you can use oil, Ghee adds flavour. Further, this recipe uses no more than 2 tablespoons of ghee for 4 – 6 servings of gravy, so its not as rich as one might expect.
This recipe also uses 12 cashew nuts – which is less than a quarter cup when ground; and unlike most Mughlai dishes, it does not use any cream. A third of a cup of yogurt, yes. A quarter cup of milk, yes, but zero cream. The combination results in a gravy with creamy yet somehow not at all heavy consistency!
You might think that the cashews, cooked onions and milk leave the gravy tasting a bit sweet. Well they do; but the subtle sweetness is balanced by heat from fresh ginger, green chilies and black pepper – all of which make this gravy a delight!
Recipe: Paneer in White Onion Gravy
- A mixer / blender/ food processor
- A Mortar & Pestle
- A Karahi / Kadai / Round Bottomed Frying Pan with a lid
- 2 tbs Ghee
- 5 Pepper Corns
- 1 inch-long-piece Cinnamon
- 1 Badi Elaichi (Black Cardamom)
- 2 Elaichi (Green Cardamom)
- 2 Cloves
- 10 – 12 cloves Garlic
- 1 tsp Ginger [chopped ginger]
- 2 medium-sized Onions [roughly chopped]
- 2 Green Chilies [slit]
- Salt [to taste]
- 12 Cashew Nuts
- 1 cup Water [recently boiled]
- ⅓ cup Thick Curd / Yogurt
- 2 Dried Bay Leaves
- ⅓ tsp Shahi Jeera (Caraway Seeds)
- ¼ cup Milk
- ¼ tsp Freshly Crushed Black Pepper
- 1 tsp Kasuri Methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- 200 gms Paneer
- Heat a tbs of Ghee and add a stick of cinnamon, 2 cloves, 5 pepper corns, a black cardamom and a green cardamom.
- Add the ginger and garlic and sauté on low heat for a minute.
- Add the chopped onions, salt and sauté until the onions begin to go translucent.
- Add 2 slit green chilies, 12 cashew nuts and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add a cup of warm water and stir well.
- Reduce the heat to minimum; cover and allow the onions to simmer for 15 minutes or until the onions go mushy.
- While the onions are simmering, extract the seeds from a green cardamom pod and crush them in a mortar and pestle.
- Once the onions are cooked to mushy consistency, turn the heat off and drain the liquid from the onions. Remove the whole spices and green chilies; essentially anything that when ground could alter the colour of the white onions too much.
- Transfer the onion mix to a blender along with ⅓ cup of thick curd / yogurt and blend to a smooth paste.
- Here's what the ground paste should look like!
- Heat a tbs of Ghee in the same karahi used to cook the onions; add ¼ tsp of shahi jeera and 2 bay leaves. Sauté for about 30 seconds.
- Add the ground onion paste to the ghee; use a tbs or two of water to as much of the onion paste as you can out of the blender.
- Add ¼ cup of milk to the pan and stir well.
- Next, add the crushed cardamom seeds and ½ a tsp of freshly ground pepper corns.
- Sauté for 4 – 5 mins, stirring continuously until the gravy thickens and takes on a creamy consistency.
- Add crushed Kasuri methi and stir well.
- Add cubed paneer to the gravy, but do not stir!
- Cover and simmer for a final 5 mins.
- Garnish with some more crushed kasuri methi and serve hot, preferably with warm rotis!
Give this paneer gravy a shot the next time you are looking to make something mellow, yet really aromatic. And let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or feedback🖖