I make a lot of Indian curries. There is one that REB absolutely loves, called mattar paneer. However, I don’t make it that often since it’s pretty much the most unhealthy thing one could eat. Paneer is a type of cheese, similar to feta, but it’s really bad for your health. Not only that, but this dish also has sour cream in it, which in large consumptions, also not that great for the figure.
I made a variation of the dish last night and substituted tofu for the paneer. It worked like a charm. I couldn’t cut out the sour cream, but using light, or fat-free works just as well. I’m sure you could even use milk instead of cream. However, the sour cream adds a tang that sort of brings the whole dish together.
If you do want to use paneer, you can buy a frozen block from any Indian grocery stores. Some even come already cut up into cubes for your convenience. If you want to make your own paneer, that’s not too hard either, but it takes a lot of time since…well, you’re making cheese from scratch. Ha.
Maybe I’ll post something on how to do that another time. Let’s make some curry though!
What you’ll need:
•1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil (1/2 for the tofu, 1/2 for the curry)
•1 1/2 cups firm tofu, cut into cubes
•2 cups pureed Roma tomatoes (maybe not pureed, but chopped up pretty finely)
•1/2 cup chopped onion (not pictured)
•1 tablespoon grated ginger
•1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (don’t need a lot in this dish!)
•1/3 cup fat-free or light sour cream
•1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (not pictured)
•1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
•salt to taste
•2 curry leaves
•1 cup frozen peas
•1/2 cup water (not pictured)
•1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (not pictured)
Let’s talk about the garam masala. I’ve mentioned it once before I’m sure, but it’s the most common spice used in almost every Indian dish. It’s essential, it’s fragrant, it’s delicious. You make it by simply dry roasting several spices and then grinding them to a fine powder. I’ll have to make another post one day about how to make garam masala from scratch.
But for now, I have a mom who loves me dearly and made me this entire jarful of garam masala.
It’s OK to be jealous. Buying store-bought masala will never compare to the depth of spice and flavor of doing it yourself.
OK, enough spice-talk, let’s get cooking…
Start by preparing your ingredients, and puree or roughly chop two Roma tomatoes. I love Roma tomatoes. They’re tangy, juicy and de-li-cious! I have a mini food processor for this kind of task. You could just as easily use a blender to help you out, too. Or, if you don’t have either, warm up the tomatoes in the microwave for a few seconds, then use your hands to smush them. Yes, smush is a word. Use it. It works.
Put 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a shallow skillet or frying pan and wait for it to get screaming hot. Then, carefully place the tofu pieces (or paneer if you do want to use that) into the pan. It should start sizzling! Cook the tofu for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.
Like so. I had two batches I had to pan-fry, but they each took about 4 minutes for each side to get brown. Once of the tofu (or paneer) is cooked, transfer them to a plate with a little sprinkling of water on the bottom. This will help keep the tofu (or paneer) moist while you continue cooking.
In a saucepan, heat the other 1/2 tablespoon of oil and let it heat up a bit on medium-high.
Add the onions and the turmeric. Let them cook about 2-3 minutes (shouldn’t take long if your pan is hot!)
Next, add the garlic (very little!) and the tomatoes. You can also grate the ginger at this time. Give it a good stir and let it cook another 5-7 minutes. The juice from the tomatoes will help create a gravy, or masala as we call it.
Once that’s cooked a bit, stir in the sour cream. The color will turn a lot lighter and at this point you can add some salt (1/4-to-1/2 teaspoon). Also, add in your garam masala.
Add in the frozen peas and raise the heat a bit, since the peas (being frozen) will cool the down the dish. Add in the water (not more than 1/2 a cup). Cover and let the curry come to a boil.
Once it’s come to a boil, remove the lid and add in your tofu (or paneer).
If you are using paneer and not tofu, you must be careful not to break apart the paneer when stirring it into the dish. Since I used firm tofu, it was pretty good at holding its shape.
Add in the curry leaves and the tamarind concentrate. Tamarind concentrate is used in the tamarind chutney when eating samosas. It also adds a tang and burst of flavor when added to any curry dish. You don’t need a lot, since the flavor is so strong. Another bonus is that it helps to thicken the curry.
Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Give your curry a taste. You may need to add more garam masala, ginger or salt depending on how spicy you want your dish to be.
Serve it hot over cooked basmati rice.