Cottage Cheese in Rich Saffron Gravy (Zafrani Shahi Paner)

Hi Everyone!!! It started snowing in Michigan and is freezing cold here. I was a bit busy with my daughter’s new preschool and other things that, I couldn’t actually find time for blogging. I made this recipe with cottage cheese (paneer) last friday for the friday feast. Its very popular vegetarian dish from North India. Soft and melt-in-mouth pieces of cottage cheese (paneer) in rich creamy sweet and spicy gravy is my favorite since the first time I tasted it years back in Indian restaurant. There are actually many types of gravies from Indian cuisine mainly Red Gravy made with tomatoes and a few nuts, White Gravy made from onions and nuts, Green Gravy made with pureed spinach and/or other greens etc., The white gravy is actually called Shahi gravy meaning Royal Gravy because of the use of rich cashews and almonds to prepare it. Shahi Paneer,  Shahi Pulav, Shahi Murgh are some of the popular recipes in India. I here used some saffron just to keep up with my theme of that day, Kesar Badam (Saffron and Almonds). Saffron gave subtle aroma and flavor to the dish.

Traditional recipe uses butter/ghee and cream to give richness to the gravy but I used vegetable oil and, cornstarch and milk instead of cream. The flavor was ambrosial with the use of sweet spices like bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamoms. I didn’t use the other whole spices and instead used ground powder of the same (garam masala) so that the gravy doesn’t have the grainy texture. I didn’t keep the gravy white and played with the color a little because my family doesn’t like white colored gravy :(. Even after adding saffron, the color was little dull and I had to add little orange red food color to brighten it up which I hated to do.

Zafrani Shahi Paneer
Zafrani Shahi Paneer

Zafrani Shahi Paneer

Servings: 6-7

Ingredients:

Cottage Cheese: 200 gms, cubed

Large Onion: 1, cubed

Cashews: 3 tbsp

Almonds: 2 tbsp

Cinnamon: 2 sticks

Green Cardamoms: 5-6

Bay Leaves: 2

Ginger Garlic Paste: 1 tbsp (You can use minced 1″ ginger and 5-6 garlic cloves)

Low-Fat Yogurt: 3/4 cup, whisked

Saffron: 5-6 strands (Soak them in warm milk)

Low Fat Milk: 1/2 cup

Cornstarch: 1 tsp

Salt: 1 tsp (As per taste)

White Pepper Powder: 1 tsp (I used black)

Turmeric: 1/2 tsp

Garam Masala: 1 tsp (See Notes)

Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Kasuri Methi): 1 tbsp

Cardamom powder: 1/2 tsp

Sugar: 1 tsp

Orange Red Food Color: a pinch (Optional)

Oil: 2 tbsp

Procedure:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and add onions, cashews, almonds, bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon sticks. Cook until onions turn translucent, about 10 mins.
  2. Reserve the water to use later to thin the gravy and transfer the boiled onions, nuts and whisked yogurt to the blender and blend to a smooth paste. (Remove the spices at this stage because it gives grainy texture when blended)
  3. Add oil to a non-stick pan, and add turmeric powder and ginger garlic paste and cook for a min until raw smell goes off
  4. Add blended paste to the pan and cook for 5 mins until oil separates from edges
  5. Add salt, pepper, sugar, saffron milk. food color and reserved 1.5 cup of onion stock and bring to boil
  6. Dissolve cornstarch in milk and add to the gravy and cook for 2-3 mins until gravy thickens (At this stage you can pass the gravy through sieve to give smooth and silky gravy)
  7. Add paneer cubes, garam masala, cardamom powder, kasuri methi and stir gently and cover cook for 2 mins

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Notes:

  1. I used home-made garam masala here which I made by blending equal quantities of cloves, cinnamon and green cardamons

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