A change from the predictable paneer recipes, Sangita Agrawal's creamy Afghani Paneer doesn't use onions and tomatoes.
Nuts and yoghurt form the base of the gravy and crucially the paneer is pan-fried or grilled which adds much more taste. The dish is finished off by adding fragrant saffron milk.
Afghani Paneer Gravy
For the paneer
- 400 gm paneer
- 1 tsp kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves
- ½ tsp or more crushed black peppercorns
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 2 laung or cloves
- ½ tsp chaat masala
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Salt to taste
- 1+1 tbsp ghee
- 2 green elaichi or cardamom
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 2 tbsp cream
- 1 tbsp chopped green dhania or coriander or cilantro
- Few strands kesar or saffron, soaked in 1 tbsp milk
For the paste
- 15 cashews
- 10 almonds
- 1 tbsp garlic paste
- 1 tsp ginger paste
- 2 green chillies
- ½ cup hung yoghurt or thick dahi
- Soak the cashew, almonds in warm water for 20 minutes.
Peel the almonds.
- Keep aside.
- Cut the paneer into large square pieces of 2 inches length approximately.
- Blend the green chillies, ginger, garlic, cashews, almonds, yoghurt in a blender/mixer till a smooth puree.
In a large bowl, add the paste, garam masala, chaat masala, pepper, salt, lemon juice, kasuri methi and mix well.
Now add the paneer pieces and toss gently to coat the pieces well.
Cover and marinate for 30-60 minutes or more.
- Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a large frying pan.
Add in just the paneer pieces, leaving the masala mix marinade out, and fry carefully, turning over the pieces, till golden brown.
Drain onto a tissue or paper towel-lined plate and keep aside.
In the same pan add 1 tbsp ghee, cloves, cardamom and the leftover marinade.
Stir for a minute.
Add the yoghurt and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.
Now add the green coriander, cream and saute till everything is well combined and the cream is just cooked, taking care not to overcook.
Add the paneer and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
Adjust the seasoning and the consistency of the gravy.
Take off heat, and add the saffron milk.
Serve with naans, tandoori rotis or parathas.
Note: For a Jain version of Afghani Paneer, omit the garlic and use ginger powder instead of ginger paste.
It's possible to make a vegan equivalent by replacing the paneer with tofu and substituting the ghee, cream and yoghurt with cashew butter, almond milk and vegan yoghurt respectively.
For those who are not paneer lovers, consider replacing the paneer with an equivalent amount of prawns or mushrooms.
Sangita Agrawal lives in Mumbai and publishes the food blog Bliss of Cooking.