Paneer Makhani is a Punjabi sabji made from diced cottage cheese and a spiced tomato gravy. It is one of the most ordered dish in Indian restaurants across the globe. As the name suggests, it is made from pan fried or raw paneer pieces and the gravy made from tomato has Makhan, which means butter or cream in Hindi.
Every cook has a different way of cooking this dish and many restaurants choose to call it by different names. After tasting and ordering this dish at various places, I have come to the conclusion that Panner Makhani, Paneer Makhanwalla and Paneer Butter Masala are almost the same, only the amount of cream used is different! Most chefs use the same ingredients to make these dishes. However, there are some differences. Some like the paneer pan fried, some deep-fried and others use the thawed paneer without frying. In the gravy too, some people add yogurt, few add cream and some skip the magaz.
The gravy made for this dish is the basic Makhani Gravy, which can be used to make many other recipes like Paneer Mutter, Vegetable Makhanwalla or Paneer Butter Masala. I have used store bought Paneer, however some people might like to make their own paneer and use it. the recipe works fine with both! Make a bowl full of this Paneer and serve it with Tandoori Roti or Garlic Kulcha or Naan. And devour the rest of the gravy with steaming Jeera Rice. Complete the Punjabi meal by adding Dal makhani, a side of papad, salad and a glassful of Lassi.
Paneer 1 block
Garlic 2 cloves, minced
Ginger, ½ inch piece
Onion 1 medium, diced
Tomatoes 3 medium, diced
Spices (Bay leaves, Cloves, Cinnamon, Black Pepper, Dried Red Chili)
Magaj seeds (Watermelon seeds)
Cream ¼ cup
Condiments ( Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, Asafoetida, Red chili powder, Turmeric powder, Dhania powder, salt, sugar)
Cilantro, Lime juice
Thaw the paneer for a couple of hours and cut it into equal size dice. In a flat saucepan, add oil and heat. Once hot, place the paneer pieces in it and let them brown on medium to high heat. Once the bottom is brown, turn the pieces over and brown the other side. Take a medium pan and fill it with warm water and add a pinch of salt. Remove each piece from the pan and dip it in the warm salty water. This helps to flavor the paneer and keep it soft till cooking.
In the same pan, heat some butter and oil. Add the cinnamon, cloves and pepper. Next put in the dried red chili and and sauté them for a minute. Throw in the garlic and ginger and cook till it is soft. Add diced onions, and salt and cook till they are transparent. Once cooked, add the red chili powder and tomatoes. Cook till the tomatoes are mushy. Turn down the flame and purée the mixture along with cashewnut and magaz seeds. The cashews can be soaked in warm water for ten minutes to soften them before adding to the mixture. Pass through a sieve to remove the tomato seeds and peels.
In a pan, heat some butter and add mustard seeds. Once they pop, add cumin seeds. Now, add in the purée and mix well. Let the mixture come to a boil and you will see the oil separating from the gravy, and the gravy also turns red. This indicates that the gravy is cooked well. At this stage add the haldi, dhania jeera and sugar. Drain the paneer pieces and add to the gravy. Let the mixture simmer on medium flame for 4-5 minutes.
After the paneer has simmered, it will become thick. Adjust the water to get the required consistency and add salt if required. At this stage add the cream and mix well. Depending on how sour the tomatoes are, add little lime juice and turn down the flame.
Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve with onion rings, pickle and raita. This tastes good with Naan, Garlic Kulcha as well as paratha. Paneer Makhani is often served with steamed or Jeera Rice.
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