Saturday, 11 August 2012

Paneer Makhani/ Butter Paneer

I've spent the first 23 years of my life in Kerala and Sharjah, but had never tried any North-Indian dishes. I guess the answer to that is that my parents are not foodies. They never ventured into new territories of the food land; always satisfied with their limited sapidity of Kerala, Arabic and Indo-Chinese cuisine.

It was only after I married and moved to Pune that I had my rendezvous with North-Indian cuisine. And it was not until I came to Melbourne that I actually started cooking them; thanks to my Gujarati neighbour who was so passionate about the food she cooked. (This was back in 2006 when I lived in a rented apartment). She was always happy to share her food and her recipes with me. Occasionally, she would also invite me to her house to see how she made her curries.

This post is dedicated to her and her love for food. I have made very few changes to her recipe by cooking the gravy in ordinary cooking oil and then finishing off the dish with some clarified butter for flavour and substituting cashew nut paste for almond meal.

Serves: 8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes + time to marinate + cooling time
Cooking Time: 1 hr (approx.)

For Makhani Sauce
  • 3 - 3 1/2 cups tomato puree, fresh
  • 1 tsp red chilly powder 
  • 1/2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves/ kasuri methi*** 
  • 4 tbsp ginger, grated
  • 4 tbsp garlic, crushed
  • 2 green chilly
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick, broken down to small pieces
  • 4 cardamon
  • 2 tbsp oil/ clarified butter (ghee)
  • Salt to taste
To marinate
  • 350g hung cottage cheese/ paneer*
  • 4 tbsp greek yogurt**
  • 1 tsp chilly powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1/2 capsicum, diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/ kasuri methi***
  • 1 1/2 tbsp almond meal
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • dash of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp clarified butter/ ghee
  • Salt and pepper to taste
1. To make the base sauce, heat oil and add fenugreek seeds, cinnamon and cardamon. When it starts to sizzle, add ginger, garlic and green chilly and saute' till it starts to change colour. Now add red chilly powder, tomato puree, dried fenugreek leaves and salt. Bring to boil and then simmer in low flame until the puree reduces to half the amount. Keep aside to cool. Grind this to a smooth fine paste.
2. In the meantime, cut paneer into small cubes. Mix yogurt, chilly powder, salt and oil until smooth. Marinate paneer in this paste for 2 hrs (a min of 30 minutes is recommended). Pan grill paneer until it is light brown on all sides. Pan grilling paneer gives it a solid surface preventing it from breaking up when mixed with sauce.
3. Now we start working on the extras. Heat oil and saute' onion and capsicum for a few minutes, taking care not to lose its crunchiness. Keep aside. In the same pan, pour tomato paste from step 1, water, 1/2 tsp sugar and fenugreek leaves and bring to boil. Then add almond meal, turmeric powder and cinnamon powder and mix well. Season to taste. Add grilled paneer and sautee'd onion and capsicum. Let it cook for a minute. Then add cream, remove from flame and finish off with 1 tsp of ghee.

Serve hot with Chapathi or Ghee Rice.

* Use fresh paneer that is available at Indian groceries. Do not use frozen paneer - it has a rubbery texture.
** Greek yogurt is best suited for exposing to heat for a long time and hence can be used for marinating. If you do not have greek yogurt, I would recommend not using any yogurt at all.
*** Dried fenugreek leaves have a very strong flavour and not everyone may like it. You can opt to omit this from your recipe or use fresh/ frozen fenugreek leaves which has a milder flavour than their dried varieties.


  1. Haey Jan....Got your blog link from facebook..I love to go thru cooking blogs...and also love to experiment specially to make my kids happy and eat healthy (& to satisfy my cravings:-))..Becos of busy schedule, (thx to my younger son :-()I can try only quick and easy recipes now..Bookmarked ur website and will try ur recipes and give feedback when I get a chance..Anyway happy to see this growing..Keep going..Good Luck...

    Abi..(Dont know whether u got me..!!!!)

  2. You are Abi from Electronics batch, right? All this while I was also enjoying reading cooking blogs. Now that kids are in school, thought of giving it a go myself. I thought I would stop in a few weeks. It is just 3 months now but I hope I keep going (and with our busy schedule this is more like a stress reliever for me). Give me your feedback when you get a chance. It is good to know about others tastes as well. It could help me with my future experiments.

  3. Replies
    1. Enikku Vayya. I guess, this is the first time I have ever remembered a person correctly, with half their name and at first try.