White cheese in a buttery tomato gravy

When tomatoes are in season, I love to create summery dishes with lots of tomatoes but generally they are not Indian. This is one of the few Indian dishes where plum tomatoes can be used as their sweet nature are revered rather than avoided. They are the star of this dish; the paneer dutifully adopt their flavours. It is traditionally a formal dish and mild enough for guests who are not used to strong flavours; also a great vegetarian protein option. Normally this dish would have vast amounts of cream and butter and even though this is heavier than many of my other dishes, it will always have a place in my repertoire as it is worth it.

Serves 4

  • 50g unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 black cardamom pod
  • 2 green cardamom pods
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 shard cinnamon
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 20g garlic cloves, made into a paste
  • 15g ginger, peeled and made into a paste
  • 400g plum tomatoes, pureed
  • 50g raw cashew nuts, soaked for 30 minutes
  • 1 tbs. tomato puree
  • ¼ tsp. red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp. sugar or to taste
  • 300g paneer, cubed
  • 1 rounded tbs. dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled in your fingers
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice or to taste (depends on the tartness of the tomatoes)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • handful of fresh chopped coriander and stalks

Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan and fry the whole spices for 20 seconds. Add the onion and cook until soft, around 4-6 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic pastes and a splash of water and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, salt and a good splash of water. Cook, covered, on a high flame for 10-15 minutes.

Then take a little of the puree and make a paste of the cashew nuts in a blender or pestle and mortar. Stir into the gravy along with the tomato puree, sugar, red chilli powder and garam masala and cook for 15 minutes adding splashes of water only when necessary. You want to get a deep flavour and rich colour by cooking the paste out. Then add enough water to give the gravy the consistency of single cream.

Add the paneer and cook for a further 10 minutes to allow the paneer to soften. Stir in the dried fenugreek leaves and lemon juice. Adjust the seasoning; the gravy should be a little sweet. Garnish with the coriander.

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