Kadai paneer is a rustic dish, with big chunks of vegetables and paneer, cooked al dente, coated in a freshly blended spice mix incorporated into a semi dry gravy. Most restaurants serve it floating in a ton of sauce, everything cooked to death, with all the flavors overpowered by the ubiquitous tomato onion gravy. My husband and I have been looking for a semi dry dish, with the vegetables retaining a lot of the texture and fresh flavor, and the paneer just soft enough to chew. I finally found this recipe online, tried it once,and its a winner.
Recipe Source: (with very minor modificaitons)
1/2blockpaneer, cut into cubes Homemade or store bought, I used store bought
1bigtomatoRoma tomato works best, as it retains the shape when cooked
1/2bigonionpreferably red, white works also
1smallgreen pepperoptional: all colored peppers, one in each color
Spices For Fresh Spice Mix
A fewblackpeppercorns - about 6-7
1smallpiece of cinnamon
Ingredients For The Gravy
1tspchili powderoptional: I also used 1 small green chili
2tbspyogurtI used Greek yogurt
1/2cupkasuri/dry methi leavesAvailable in Indian grocery stores
1/2cup fresh cilantro
Gather the spices for roasting/powdering
Gather the vegetables for the gravy, and chop roughly - onions, tomatoes, ginger, and garlic
Gather the vegetables for the dish, and chop roughly into the same size - peppers, onions, tomatoes
Cube the paneer, roughly the same size as the vegetables
Heat a kadai, and dry roast the spices until aromatic. The recipe calls for roasting them separately. I started with the coriander, and after a minute or so, added the cinnamon, cloves, chilies, and finally the cumin. Roast without burning, and until you can smell the fragrance released by the spices; transfer to a plate to cool
While the spices are cooling, heat 1 tbsp of oil in the same pan, and start with the onions. When translucent, add the tomatoes, followed by the ginger, garlic, and finally chili powder and turmeric. Add 1/2 tsp of salt. Transfer to a plate and cool.
Powder the dry roasted spices coarsely and keep ready
Blend the gravy ingredients when cool enough and keep ready
Add the tablespoon of oil to the kadai, and toast the paneer pieces until they start to brown. Do this quickly, and remove to a plate, saving the oil in the pan. Overcooking the paneer will make them tough
In the same pan, add the green pepper pieces, and cook on high heat for a couple of minutes
Add the onion pieces, and cook for a couple of minutes
Finally add the tomato pieces, and stir for a couple of minutes. Make sure they don't turn mushy
Add the paneer, and the powdered spices, and toss them around gently until the spice mix coats all the vegetables
Remove to a plate
Now in the same kadai, add the remaining tbsp of oil, and a bay leaf (optional)
When heated, add the prepared gravy, and cook until it reduces and thickens slighlty
Beat the yogurt and add to the gravy, and cook until the gravy is quite thick
Now, add the vegetable + paneer mix and gently toss everything together to evenly coat the veggies/paneer mix
Cook for just a few minutes, since everything has been cooked and just need to meld together; turn off the heat, add the garnish.
Serve with phulkas and sliced onions and lime wedges
I have been looking for a semi dry, rustic paneer dish and finally hit gold with this one. The freshly ground spices make a big difference, and I wouldn't change that.
The other trick is also to use a chinese wok so I could use high heat and almost stir fry the vegetables so they retained their shape, color, and flavor wonderfully and didn't turn into unrecognizable mush.
My husband, who loves kadai paneer, was very happy with this one!