As I mentioned in many earlier posts, I ,in the recent past, bought a book called “660 curries “ by Raghavan Iyer. Now many “curries” in that book are sambhars, dals , rasams , biryanis but some are true gems. I have not seen such a comprehensive book on food from all parts of the country. There are dishes from Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, UP , Goa, Sikkim and even Assam. I was fascinated !!! Now not everyone will like this book……..for it does not have pictures. A lot of my friends have taken a look at it and said “ How will I know what it looks like ? “ Also the book is huge…I am talking 809 pages including the index which you definitely need !!!!
But to get back to my original point, I found some sublimely delicious dishes in this book. They are so delicious , we have polished off every bite. Of course there have been the misses……like the ones I made with okra ( ladies finger/ bhindi ) …….lets just say V told me that the one I usually make is the best and not to experiment again !!!! However in my case there is one drawback, the 660 curries includes ones with meat too, so my options are limited. Did that stop me ??? No of course not…..I read thru them , found one I like and substituted paneer for chicken !!! I find that cauliflower and paneer make good substitutes. I think its probably coz of the fact they tend to absorb the flavours of the sauce….. rather like chicken, I’m told. I still don’t eat meat though I have tried to in the past. But apparently my system does not like it…I got violently sick every time I tried it !!!!
This is one such recipe that I adapted for my vegetarian palate. I substituted paneer for chicken and came up with this beautiful dish ……PANEER ANARDHANA. It has chunks of fried paneer in a browned onion gravy with pomegranate seeds…all coming together to provide a delicately balanced subzi that you want to devour.
1 ½ cups Paneer, cubed
1 ½ tsp Garlic paste
4 whole Cloves
1 Cinnamon stick
4 Cardamom pods
2 Bay leaves
1 cup Red Onions, thinly sliced
1 cup Half and Half
2 tsp Garam Masala
Salt to taste
2 tbsp Cilantro, finely chopped
¾ cup Pomegranate Seeds
Remove half the oil. To the remaining oil, add the whole spices.
When they sizzle and their perfume is released, add the onions and sauté till soft. They should be lightly brown with a purple tinge.
Now add the ginger – garlic pastes and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add the half and half , garam masala and the salt. Scrape the bottom to loosen the bits of browned onions.
Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Puree this mixture till smooth. Return to the pan and heat through.
Add the paneer and pomegranate seeds. Simmer for a couple of minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve.
First ..this dish is so visually appealing….chunks of golden brown cheese bathed by a creamy sauce that is studded with pomegranate seeds that look like luminescent red rubies !!! Does’nt it make your mouth water ???? As for taste…what do I say ? I love paneer. Its is slightly tangy with a soft chewy texture. The gravy is sweet from the caramelized onions, spicy with the addition of homemade garam masala. It has a warm heat from the ginger, cloves and cinnamon. The pomegranate provides it with a tartness and crunch that cuts through the richness of the half & half and paneer. As I said earlier, it is a sublime dish .
If you do not have pomegranate, then use fresh tart cherries, that have been pitted and halved. I did make my own masala for it , which included peppercorns, cumin, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves, mint, red chillies, nutmeg, mace and cinnamon. You can certainly use a packaged blend or make your own version. Since this is a recipe for chicken , it is certainly good with it. People who cook with chicken regularly know how to cook it better than me so I will leave it up to you .