As promised, here is something you can do with the paneer you just made after reading my last post. One of my very favorite things to get at an Indian restaurant is saag paneer or palak paneer, spinach and paneer, usually in a creamy sauce. I've made a version at home, and it's good, but it's just not the same as what you can get in a restaurant, so I'm usually a little disappointed with it. One time I had made paneer, used half of it in saag paneer, and decided to branch out and try another paneer recipe in my Indian cookbook, mater paneer, or peas with paneer. It was really good. Saag paneer is still a favorite Indian restaurant food, but now mater paneer is my home paneer recipe of choice.
Last week, I decided I wanted mater paneer, but we also had some potatoes quickly going bad on the counter. A side discussion: I don't know how to store potatoes. I have had more "black liquid potato death" incidents than I care to admit. In the fridge, they get too wet and develop these soft slimy bits. Plus they take up a ton of room. In a cabinet they often develop black liquid potato death (not its scientific name) after being forgotten for a month. I think part of the problem might be my thermostat setting (87 F) and part might be the humidity. I think you're supposed to keep them in a cool dry place, but I don't have a cool dry place. I've settled on keeping them out on the counter so at least I can't forget about them for weeks on end. Plus the counter ailment seems to be losing moisture and going soft and limp, which is much less stomach-churning than the fridge and cabinet ailments. Anyway, I had these soft, lifeless potatoes that clearly weren't up to potato salad or being baked. I decided that they would work well in mater paneer. Boy was I right! The starchiness of the potato plus the richness of the cheese plus the sweetness and greenness of the peas is just excellent. We liked it so much that we made it again this week with the leftover paneer and fresh potatoes from the store. The freshness of the potatoes didn't seem to influence the quality of the dish, which is a perk. This is a good place for questionable tubers.
Peas and potatoes and paneer (based on the mater paneer recipe in Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Sumana Ray)
6 tbsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups paneer (about 1/2 the standard recipe), cut into irregular 1-inch pieces
3 small potatoes, diced into pieces that are just a bit bigger than peas
1/4 cup yellow onion, chopped into pieces that are about as big as your potato pieces
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups frozen peas, defrosted if you have time
Heat the oil in heavy skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Fry paneer pieces until golden brown. This is not a good time for shirtless cooking, especially if you're using freshly made paneer, because the water in the paneer can react violently with the oil. Turn paneer pieces periodically to get some nice browning on all sides. Don't worry too much about bits that stick to the bottom. A lot of them will come off when you deglaze the pan later, and they're quite tasty. After the paneer is cooked, remove it and drain on paper towels. Leave the oil in the pan.
Add the potato, onion, spices, and salt to the pan and saute until onion is translucent. Add water to the pan and try to get most of the burnt paneer bits off the bottom with a metal spatula. Cover pan and cook until potatoes are tender, 5-10 more minutes. Add peas and paneer pieces and cook until peas are heated through. Or if you're like me, get impatient and eat a couple still-icy ones.
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