Low fat - restaurant style Matar Paneer

Hello and glad to see you in the new year. Trying to stick to my resolutions (to blog more regularly) - I was ready with the draft 3 days ago, but that's when respiratory infection and bronchitis caught up with me and has kept me down for over 3 days. In Bombay, the temperature difference is well over 15 degrees between day and night, leading to an epidemic of sorts in respiratory infections. The only times in the last three days I've managed to drag myself into the kitchen, is to make a huge pot of Molagu Rasam (Clear pepper soup), and keep warming it up in the microwave, sipping the spicy liquid through the day. Apart from that, my diet has generally been antibiotics, antihistaminics, expectorants and mucolytics. Sounds like quite a spread right??

Back to the topic of the post - this is one dish that is an extremely popular Indian curry - the origins as far as I know being Punjabi in nature, the land where paneer has been predominantly used since many years. If one has paneer and frozen peas, this can be made out of the stuff you'd normally have in your pantry, bailing you out, if you got a day late in replenishing your stock of vegetables.

For a person who cooks almost 3 meals each day, it's odd that I rarely make the typical restaurant style Punjabi dishes like Malai Kofta, Makhanwala and the likes, going mostly with the more earthy simple dishes, where veggies are not drowned in rich gravies and recipes which give veggies more respect than that! However on a whim I decided to try out this matar paneer curry, also since I had nothing else in my refrigerator that evening, except for the staple onions-tomatoes-ginger and garlic.

The recipe here is adapted from a food video prepared by Chef Sanjay Thumma. You'll find plenty of his videos on rediff iShare, youtube and his own site. Ofcourse, this is a much calorie cut version of the same. You could watch his video for a richer, creamier version of the same. But hey, does the title of the post - 'low fat' 'restaurant style' sound like an oxymoron? Well, if you ever try this recipe, you'll know what I mean :)

Matar Paneer ( Indian curry with green peas and cheese )
Category - Vegetarian side to be eaten with rotis, parathas or rice
Time taken - Around 30 minutes
Serves - 3 to 4 people


1 tsp oil
1 tbsp broken cashewnuts
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes finely chopped
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp finely chopped garlic cloves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1-2 tsp coriander-cumin powder or 1 tsp each
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup frozen or fresh boiled peas
200 g paneer cut into 12 cubes
1 tsp kasoori methi - dried fenugreek leaves, crumbled into a rough powder

1. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed wok. Start by sauteeing the broken cashews till lightly golden.
2. Next, add the chopped ginger-garlic and onions and cook on a low flame with a pinch of salt till they soften and turn light brown.
3. At this stage, add the tomatoes with the turmeric powder. Stir well and cook for 5-7 minutes, till mushy.
4. Remove the contents of the wok and blend to a fine puree in a blender, once cooled throughly. You may use upto 1/2 cup water to aid the blending process.
5. In the same wok, transfer the fine puree. Season with spice powders (red chilli powder, cumin coriander powder, garam masala) and salt. Simmer for 3-4 minutes till the gravy is infused with the spices.
6. Add the frozen / boiled green peas to this gravy and simmer for 5 minutes, after which the paneer cubes go in. Simmer for another 2 minutes, check for salt, sprinkle crushed kasoori methi and give it a stir.
7. Matar paneer is ready to be removed in a serving bowl.

Serve hot with rotis, parathas, naan or plain steamed rice seasoned with cumin seeds.

I personally prefer to have this with a plain tandoori roti or a phulka as the dish is quite heavy, it is better balanced by a lighter bread. A raita on the side would be nice too, or a simple cucumber salad.

Health tips

It's perfectly okay to use store bought paneer.Using paneer made from skimmed milk at home will further reduce the calories from fat keeping the protein content intact. In restaurants, this dish is made with plenty of ghee /butter, a large chunk of nut paste (almond or cashew) plus a dollop of fresh cream added towards the end to make it even richer.

This version uses just one teaspoon of vegetable oil and the small quantity of cashewnuts are enough to provide the rich creamy restaurant taste without the added calories from fat. The key to a delicious gravy is to not skimp on the onion sauteeing and make a really fine puree using a good quality blender. The pinch of kasoori methi in the end makes all the difference in giving that 'restauranty' flavour.

Vegans can substitute the paneer with tofu or boiled-drained soya chunks (sold in Indian stores under the brand Nutrela).


Meeta said...

Simply lovely. I love mattar paneer and this really sounds like a lovely delish low fat version. Glad to hear you are feeling better sweetie, was going to send you a happy new year email - but since you are being good with posting thought I'd send my wishes to you and DH here. Hugs always!

Sig said...

Glad you are feeling better darling, take care, and stay warm! Hugs!

musical said...

Hey Nandita, hope that you are feeling better now. Happy New Year to you and your loved ones, dear! Matar-paneer is usually my quick-fix curry, thanks to the frozen matar :-D. The pictures make me want some more :).

Mandira said...

Happy New Year Nandita and glad to know you're feeling better. I had bronchitis a while back and it's no fun!

Nags said...

i am on a low fat diet and this seems like a perfect indulgence

Anupama said...

Hi Nandita,
Wish you a very happy and healthy 2008. Matar Paneer looks awesome .I make it almost the same way except I use milk to thin the gravy instead of water.

Sorina said...

Can’t wait to try this recipe out. Looks delicious!

Jyothsna said...

You can easily skip the cashew paste and still get the restaurant taste. After sauteeing the onions and tomatoes, add a spoon of curd to give it a creamy texture. Get well soon!

Latha said...

Happy New Year to you guys Nandita! Glad to hear that u are feeling better! Nothing like some spicy pepper rasam for those nasty colds!
Matar Paneer is one of the few indian dishes that my kids will eat without whining! Except like u i dont add too much of the cream or malai etc.

nandita said...

Meeta, Sig, Musical - I am almost feeling my old self now! Hope to get back to regular blogging.

Nags - do try out :)

Anupama - wishing you the same dear! Milk seems a good idea, but im always wary about adding milk to tomatoes -

Sorina - Welcome here and thanks for your appreciation.

Jyothsana - Nice idea, but since I rarely fatten up any dishes, sometimes i like a bit of indulgence ;)

Latha - Hi! Yeah molagu rasam saves the day! It is a pretty kid friendly dish, no green chillies sticking out and quite bland to taste.

Superchef said...

love paneer!!! looks very appetizing.. :)

Cynthia said...

Sorry to hear that you were not well.

Mona said...

Hi Nandita! Matar Paneer is one of my fav dishes. I love it to no end :-)

anuja said...

stumbled upon your blog sometime ago...just love it. tried the mutter paneer today...it is so yummy!! by any chance, do you have a recipe for alu dum...looking for that perfect alu dum recipe.

Shankari said...

Happy New Year ! I am sorry for not keeping in touch..let me just blame it onlaziness. I hope you are feeling better now...
THis is a recipe I must try..I have tofu in hand

Mansi Desai said...

looks as inviting as it can get! glad to know you are better Nandita:)

Raaga said...

just what I was looking for. :-)

Here's to you: http://chefatwork.blogspot.com/2008/01/strawberry-muffins.html

Pooja said...

I love Matar paneer too much ! Initially I used to cook it with MTR brand ready to cook gravy . then I discovered my own way to make it , thought I make it much different way than you cook, surprisingly mine and yours look so similar in color and consistancy . You can check it on my blog, its just few posts back .
Thanks for sharing, I now got another way to make it at home :).

Nithya said...

Hi Nandita,

I hit your blogspot randomly when I was browsing for recipes. I decided to try the matar paneer and it turned out to be very good. You have got a new regular visitor to your blog pages now.

silverine said...

Came here via Desipundit. This dish came out awesome! Thanks!

Kamini said...

Hope you're fully back to normal now, Nandita. This recipe looks delicious, I will certainly give it a try.

shannon said...

Hi Nandita,

In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at Shannon@foodbuzz.com.

Thank you for sharing so many wonderful, healthy recipes. (Indian food is my favorite!) And congratulations on your Applied Nutrition degree!


Shannon Eliot
Editorial Assistant, Foodbuzz.com

k said...

I tried this and it turned out just great.

Umm Maryam said...

This was so simple to make and yet sooo delicious. Thanks a lot for sharing this with us. Looking forward for more low fat recipes : )

Mizuko said...

G'day from Western Australia!

Nandita, this matar paneer recipe is fantastic. I made it for my family last week and for once we had silence at the the dinner table, just lots of thumbs up! I'm making it again for a lunch party tomorrow - it will make a change from an Aussie bbq and certainly surprise the meat-eaters!

Nandita said...

Umm and Mizuko,
Glad you and your family liked it.
And the rest of you whom I haven't been able to reply individually, thanks for taking time to leave a comment.

Anonymous said...

I tried your matar paneer recipe and it came out great! Thanks for sharing!

Preeti said...

This is a gr8 n simple yet tasty recipe!!..tried it with tofu and instead of deep frying the tofu...just bake/broiled it in the oven for 25 mins at 300oF. Turned out yummy. Gr8 recipe..thx .......Preeti

Sudha said...

It turned out to be amazing.. I loved it..

Anonymous said...

Hi Dear Nandita,

Really it is a great recipe yaar.I am always in searching for a low fat but delicious food recipes for my family.In that sense this recipe is really a treasure.

Today I tried it and came out very very yummy.Your tips are also very useful.

Shruthi said...

I tried out this recipe last night and it was amazing...tasted soo good...even better than the restaurant ones!! thanks for posting such a great recipe!

kavita said...

Tried this and it was amazing. Everybody including my 6 yrs. old daughter loved it. Thanks you so much.

Purnima said...

Nandita, I made this recipe exactly as per ur measures..just fantastic! Both my kids n v both relished it..no frills..keeper recipe! Thankyou for such a simple yet tasty one!

Anusha said...

Hi Nandita,

Just wanted to share that i have made mattar paneer for last 5 years and hated it everytime coz it never turned out right.Today was just perfect thanks to you :)

I'm glad i made a big batch so i can share with some friends too.

Thank you for posting this recipe

jasmine said...

I made this for dinner and it was delicious. I used canned pureed tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes because it was what I had on hand. Unfortunately I guessed wrong when it came to how much I should use, so I ended up with way too much! I had to double the spices and peas to compensate and added some cream in the end to make it a little thinner. Wonderful!!! Next time I'll stick to the recipe :)

Lil'Soak + Friends said...

awesome thanks. I'm always super intimidated by cooking indian food at home. I make curries but I love this dish and wanted to make it healthier --- thanks so much! Is it difficult to make paneer with skimmed milk or am I able to get store bought paneer?

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