I love paneer. It is a very common Indian farmer’s cheese in India and is often called ‘farmer’s cottage cheese’ in menu descriptions in restaurants across India. I decided to do some research and discovered a few differences between paneer and cottage cheese:
- Cottage cheese is salted while paneer is unsalted
- Paneer is usually ‘pressed’ to give it a firm shape. Cottage cheese is not pressed and is left ‘chunky’
- Cottage cheese is made using milk that has been curdled using ‘rennet’ while to make paneer, the milk is curdled using lemon/lime juice or some citric acid.
I can’t decide if the restaurants’ menu descriptions are right or wrong. What do you think?
Any ways, paneer is an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and if it is made with low-fat milk and is not fried, it is a very healthy milk product. Nutritionists in India tend to recommend it to vegetarians to help improve their protein intake. It’s great for growing children and the taste is wonderful so they tend to lap it up. My brother and I love it and we have to order something which has paneer in it when we go to an Indian restaurant!
Since I started working, I have very little time to go out and eat and I tend to cook a few of my favorite foods at home like this Shahi Paneer. Shahi literally means royal and this dish, traditionally is made with cream, fried paneer pieces and exotic spices like bay leaves, cardamom, cashew nuts and some saffron. Now, if I did put all those ingredients in my version of the Shahi Paneer and I ate it 2 times a week, my nutritionist would throw me out of her office. Here is my low cal version of the same dish. All the delicious flavors, fewer calories and a lower fat content.
Shahi Paneer – The Low Cal Way
- Paneer – 200 gms; cut in cubes
- Ginger – 1/2″ grated
- Garlic – 2 to 3 cloves, chopped finely
- 2 tomatoes – chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric (haldi)
- 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder (adjust to your tastes)
- 1 teaspoon cardamom (eliachi) powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon jeera (cumin seed) powder
- 1 teaspoon jeera (cumin) seeds
- 1-2 bay leaves
- a small pinch of nutmeg powder
- Salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons tomato ketchup
- 1 cup yogurt, beaten
- 1/2 cup milk (slightly warmed)
- 2 teaspoons of oil (if using a non stick vessel)
- Heat the oil in a non stick wok on a medium flame for a minute and add the bay leaves. Once the leaves begin crackling, add the cumin and cardamom seeds to it. Wait for the seeds to start releasing their flavors, about 15 seconds if the oil is hot enough
- Add the ginger and garlic and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add the tomatoes to the wok and mix them in well with the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic. Cover and allow to cook for 5 minutes, checking periodically on them. Add the tomato ketchup to the tomatoes and let it cook for another 2 minutes.
- Once the tomatoes are nice and soft, add the turmeric powder, chilli powder, garam masala, cumin seed powder and the nutmeg powder. Stir them all in. If the mixtures looks very dry, add half a cup of water and allow to cook for 3 more minutes.
- Next add the yogurt to the tomato-masala mix and let it boil for 5-7 minutes.
- Once the yogurt mixture has reduced, add the cubes of paneer. You can deep fry them if you like, but since I like to keep it low cal, I use the paneer raw.
- Turn the heat off and add the milk. Stir and serve immediately.
– I don’t eat onions (don’t like the taste) which is why I have omitted them in this recipe. You will not find onions in most of the recipes I will post. But feel free to use 1 onion, finely chopped and fried in the oil before adding the tomatoes. Allow the onions to turn transparent and then add the tomatoes.
– You can make a richer version of this dish by using 1/2 cup of cashew nut paste. Add it to the tomato mixture and use water (1.5 cups) to dilute it. Reduce the quantity of yogurt to 1/2 cup of completely omit it.
– You can also add some cream instead of milk if you are making it for a special occasion or if you just want to indulge yourself! 🙂
Happy cooking and let me know how your Shahi Paneer turns out! 😀