KADAI PANEER, GRAVY-STYLE
Kadai Paneer? Yes, I get it but what is gravy style, you ask. While most of my Indian friends would understand this term, it could be a bit misleading to my non-Indian friends. No, this kadai paneer recipe is not made from the juices of meat from cooking (it couldn’t be farther from reality :P), but the word gravy here means a thick stew-like consistency. So, gravy style karahi/kadai paneer gravy does not mean non vegetarian stocks and flavors but just that it is non-dry kadai paneer; gravy being just another “proudly” Indian-ized English word 😛
For a person who is mostly vegetarian and has happened to have tasted the flavors in a chicken curry and biryani, I know for sure that spices and flavors are majorly underplayed in their vegetarian counterparts! I mean, I get it that veggies are spiced much more easily that chicken/meat because the spices do not have to penetrate layers of skin and fat as with non-vegetarian cooking but serving it almost to the verge of bland? That’s just not fair!
Most vegetarians I have met do not grasp the deliciousness of biryani or have never tasted a fully flavorful kebab ever because I think most restaurants deprive vegetarian dishes from the rich flavors they unhesitatingly add when it comes to meat.
Well, for Nachiket and me, this has been one of the major experiments in our kitchen. When we mean curry, we mean business! Oh! By not underplaying spices, I do not mean just throwing in some red chili powder (which when added towards the end, leaves an undercooked taste after each bite!) or oodles of garam masala! That is just, what’s the word, WRONG!
A well-seasoned spicy curry is a perfect blend of whole spices with heat at just the right amount to compliment your naan or rice. In this kadai paneer recipe, I use freshly roasted & powdered spices ( a whole bunch of them) giving a vegetarian the taste of a rich and authentic karahi chicken. Er… a vegetarian karahi chicken, ya?
Alright, I have just one more thing to add before we head to the kadai paneer recipe. While I appreciate the rich flavors of fresh masala, I also understand the lack of time to do so always. So there is a SHORTCUT method that I have provided in the “My Take” section. A store bought masala that could be used which I have used previously in a time crunch and pretty much love 🙂
Here is the recipe for:
Kadai Paneer, gravy style
KADAI PANEER, GRAVY-STYLE
For the curry
- 3/4 cup paneer, cubed (Use Tofu for vegan)
- 1/2 cup bell peppers (capsicum), diced
- 1/2 cup red onions, diced
- 3/4 cup tomatoes, diced
- 1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 2-3 tbsp oil
- Salt to season
For the Masala
- 2-3 Brown Cardamom (badi elaichi)
- 1/2 tsp Ajwain (or carom)
- 1 tsp Cumin (Jeera)
- 2 Green Cardamom (choti elaichi)
- 1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds (Sabut Methi)
- 2 Bay leaves
- 2 Cloves (Laung)
- 10-15 Red chilies
- 1 tsp Black Pepper corns
- 1 Star Anise
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1 tbsp Himalayan Salt
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Add all the paneer cubes to hot water and let it remain until ready to use. This gives thee paneer a soft melt-in-mouth texture.
- Except for the turmeric, Himalayan salt and sugar, dry roast all the other ingredients in a pan n medium high heat.
- Constantly mix the ingredients while roasting or they could burn. Continue the process until a faint aroma of spices begins to fill the kitchen.
- Turn off the heat, set aside and let it cool.
- Blend the cooled down ingredients along with turmeric, Himalayan salt and sugar to make a fine powder.
- Keep the masala covered to retain the aroma and flavors.
- Meanwhile, heat some oil in the same pan. Once hot, add the diced onions and bell beppers and cook until they are slightly soft.
- Add the diced tomatoes and cook further until the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked. You can see the oil has separated from the tomatoes and veggies.
- Now add the masala into the pan along with some salt (if required because the masala contains salt too).
- Mix well. Add the paneer cubes (drain them out of the hot water before adding) and mix well.
- Now, add the yogurt and a very small quantity of water if required. Cover and allow to cook until the curry begins to boil.
- Uncover and continue cooking until the curry reaches desired consistency.
- Top it with some crushed dry fenugreek leaves i.e Kasoori methi (optional) and serve hot with some naan bread.
For a short cut method, instead of dry roasting the whole spices, you could use store-bought masala. While the freshly ground masala lends an aroma and depth of flavor that cannot be replaced, store bought masala comes a close second. For this, I recommend using Shaan Chicken Masala. Vegetarians need not worry. The chicken masala just implies that it can be used to cook chicken and not that the masala has any chicken in it.
You can make the masala in larger quantities and store in an airtight container. Although I wouldn't recommend storing more than 2 or 3 uses only because it will lose the fresh flavors.