I love meals that I can prep ahead of time, especially if I have company coming over.  This recipe for Matar Paneer is just one of those, as it only takes about 10-20 minutes to make if you prepare the paneer and masala beforehand.  I made the paneer and masala the day before, but you could also make the masala well in advance and freeze until you’re ready to use it.

This was my first cheesemaking adventure, and it was a learning experience.  To make paneer, you bring whole milk to a boil, add acid,  then separate the curds from whey using a cheesecloth.  Well, when I brought the mixture to a boil hardly any curds formed.  I added a little more acid, and nothing happened.  I gave it a few minutes, and nothing happened.  After some internet searching, I found that you must bring the milk to a full boil, and if you mess up the first time you can try again.  So, I brought the milk to a boil again and this time curds formed immediately and the liquid turned clear.  Cool!  There you have it: making paneer at home is really simple, and even if you don’t get curds the first time, try, try, again!

Matar Paneer

Ingredients Cost
1 c. frozen peas $0.88
1 c. paneer cubes (see below) $2.40
1/2 tsp. salt pantry
1/4 tsp. garam masala pantry
1/2 tsp. sugar pantry
1/2 c. masala (see below) $1.38
1 1/4 c. water pantry
Paneer
1 gallon whole milk $1.90
1/4 c. lemon juice $0.50
Masala (makes ~1.5 cups)
28 oz. canned tomatoes, crushed $1.66
1/2 tsp. salt pantry
1/2 tsp. turmeric pantry
1/2 tsp. red chili powder pantry
1/2 tsp. cumin pantry
4 tsp. coriander pantry
1/2 tsp. garam masala pantry
4 bay leaves pantry
1 cinnamon stick pantry
4 black cardamom pods pantry
1/2 tsp. paprika pantry
2 medium onions, sliced $1.42
2 inch piece of ginger $0.25
1 large green chili $0.50
3 garlic cloves $0.30
1/4 c. oil pantry
Total cost (4 servings) $4.66
Cost per serving $1.17

Paneer

Bring the milk to a full boil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scalding.  Turn off heat and immediately add lemon juice.  Turn the heat on again until the milk has curdled and separated from the whey.  Remove from heat and let stand for a few minutes.  Spread cheesecloth over a large strainer or colander and pour curdled milk into it.  Gather the cheesecloth around the curdled milk and squeeze out excess whey.  To get a brick of paneer, place a heavy weight (think: textbook!) on top of the cheesecloth-wrapped cheese and let drain for about 2 hours.

Masala

Grind onions, green chili, garlic, and ginger in food processor to a fine paste.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add cumin, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and black cardamom pods.  After a few minutes, add the onion paste.  Lower the heat to medium-low and stir occasionally until the onions turn golden brown (about 20 minutes).  Add the rest of the spices and tomatoes to onions.  Stir, cover, and let cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.  When oil separates from the rest of the sauce, the masala is done.

Putting it all together!

Place a pan on medium-high heat and add peas, masala, water, and salt.  When mixture comes to a boil, add paneer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes partially covered, stirring occasionally.  Add garam masala and sugar and stir.  Enjoy!

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