Chettinad Paneer Curry

chettinad paneer curry

As I look outside the window I am mesmerized by our first heavy snowfall. There is something so peaceful and almost trance like about watching falling snow. In any case this is the perfect weather for warm and spicy comfort food. Now don’t be alarmed when I say spicy-by spicy I do not necessarily mean heat but instead loads of fragrant flavors made by blending various herbs, nuts and dried spices.

The star of today’s recipe is paneer-Indian cottage cheese which can be sold soft or most commonly in a firm rectangular block resembling tofu. Rich in milk protein, paneer is a great main ingredient for vegetarian dishes and is wonderfully gluten-free. I would be embarrassed to admit how much paneer I ate when I was in India this summer. Let’s just say a lot and leave it at that!

What is Chettinad Cuisine?

You may have heard of palak (spinach) paneer or the mouth watering butter paneer but I am guessing that for many of you the term Chettinad is new-it was to me too! Chettinad refers to a type of cuisine found in a specific region in the state of Tamil Nadu which is located in the south of India.

In short, this cuisine is famous for its complex layering of flavors and spices. Once again, spicy here does not necessarily mean heat (think fragrant spices such as cinnamon or bay leaves), though certain dishes from this cuisine can certainly be hot . You will see what I mean about layering spices when you get to our recipe which includes grinding together ingredients such as fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom pods to form the base for our curry.

For more information about this unique cuisine and authentic Chettinad recipes, I recommend the following article by NDTV (New Delhi Television Limited):

10 Best Chettinad Recipes

 

Chettinad Paneer Curry

This fragrant curry offers a great opportunity to experiment with spices-both familiar and new. What I love about this dish is how perfectly everything ties together, from the tangy tomatoes  to the sweet onions, fragrant spices and creamy chunks of paneer. Eat as a main dish along with rice or a gluten-free flatbread, if available.

chettinad paneer curry

Note-we commonly make this curry with hard boiled eggs, which is perhaps one of my favorite dishes. To make, simply swap out the paneer for 6-8 hard boiled eggs and follow all steps the same.

chettinad paneer curry

 

Chettinad Paneer Curry
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Tangy tomatoes, sweet onions, fragrant spices, and creamy chunks of cheese balance the flavors of this South Indian, paneer curry.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
For grinding:
  • 4 dried red chilies
  • 3 tsp of coriander powder
  • 2 tsp of cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 pieces of cinnamon (about 1 inch each)
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 2 TBS cashews
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds
For the curry
  • curry leaves (about 10)
  • 2 medium/large onions finely chopped
  • 3 TBS ginger garlic paste
  • 3 tomatoes, diced
  • ⅛ tsp turmeric powder
  • ½ block of paneer cheese (200 grams) cut into cubes
  • Salt to taste
  • oil (olive or vegetable)
  • water
Instructions
  1. Before cooking, place the paneer (cut into about 1 inch cubes or desired size) in a bowl of hot water. This will soften the cheese so that it does not taste rubbery in the curry
  2. In a medium saucepan, toast (no oil) all of the ingredients listed under "to grind" (except the cashews and poppy seeds), over medium-low heat. Toast for about 3 minutes, stirring, so that the spices release their fragrance. Add the cashews and poppy seeds and toast for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to the blender and let cool
  3. In the same saucepan heat a little oil over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the curry leaves and onions and sauté until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste and continue to sauté until the "raw" smell of ginger goes away-about 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste and sauté until the tomatoes have become soft and mushy-about 5 minutes
  5. Meanwhile, make the spice paste: Grind the cooled spices in the blender to form a spice powder. Then add ¼ cup of water and mix again to form a paste.
  6. When tomatoes are soft add the spice paste to the pan along with the turmeric powder and extra water (about ½ cup) to reach desired curry consistency . Stir well and cover and cook for 5 min
  7. Add the drained paneer to the curry and stir gently so as not to break the cheese. Lower the heat to low and cover and cook for another 5 minutes
  8. Enjoy!
Notes
* If you do not have cashews you can substitute with almonds

* Paneer can be replaced with 6-8 hard boiled eggs if desired

 

1.Before cooking, place the paneer (cut into about 1 inch cubes or desired size) in a bowl of hot water. This will soften the cheese so that it does not taste rubbery in the curry

soaking paneer in hot water
Kind of looks like a weird science experiment!

2. In a medium saucepan, toast (no oil) all of the ingredients listed under “to grind” (except the cashews and poppy seeds), over medium-low heat. Toast for about 3 minutes, stirring, so that the spices release their fragrance. Add the cashews and poppy seeds and toast for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to the blender and let cool

toasting spices for chettinad curry

3. In the same saucepan heat a little oil over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the curry leaves and onions and sauté until onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the ginger garlic paste and continue to sauté until the “raw” smell of ginger goes away-about 4 minutes.

Making chettinad masala

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt to taste and sauté until the tomatoes have become soft and mushy-about 5 minutes

making chettinad masala
Adding salt when you add tomatoes helps to soften the tomatoes more quickly

5. Meanwhile, make the spice paste: Grind the cooled spices in the blender to form a spice powder. Then add 1/4 cup of water and mix again to form a paste.

spice paste for chettinad curry
This paste smells so good!

6. When tomatoes are soft add the spice paste to the pan along with the turmeric powder and extra water (about 1/2 cup) to reach desired curry consistency . Stir well and cover and cook for 5 min

Making chettinad paneer curry

7. Add the  drained paneer to the curry and stir gently so as not to break the cheese. Lower the heat to low and cover and cook for another 5 minutes

paneerSouth Indian chettinad paneer curry

8. Enjoy!

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