Paneer is the only special treat for vegetarians or one of the few protein rich foods for them. At least it is perceived like this here in India. And a whole lot of paneer recipes are made in Indian homes, mostly because it blends well with all types of flavors, just like eggs and potatoes. But strangely enough I have not posted many recipes of paneer here although I keep cooking with paneer quite often due to the ease of cooking a quick curry it provides. But when I made this safeda paneer or paneer safeda, which is actually paneer in a white gravy, I could not stop myself from posting it here almost immediately, well that is within 5 days after making it. Can't get quicker than this :-)
Paneer safeda is made in many versions using different types of nuts for their subtle flavors and the taste differs in each of those versions. This recipe is a simple and quick one, like all my recipes which is good for everyday cooking and the flavors are so exotic that it is fit for a formal dinner as a main course dish. Actually last time when I made this dish for a large family get together of 20 people I choose this dish because a few extended family members did not eat garlic and onion. And I had to cook a no fuss recipe because there were many more dishes to be taken care of for a 7 course meal for 20. No need to tell that this dish became the talking point at the table. Simple delicate flavours and rich tasting curry. Many of them asked for the recipe and when I told how simple it is, they were surprised.
This paneer safeda is a Jain recipe (without onion and garlic) but a few other versions make use of onions and a bit of garlic too. Some call it Doodhiya paneer or Chandni paneer with minimal variations like using chopped almonds and saffron as a garnish or finely chopped green chillies and minced ginger as a garnish.
We prefer paneer safeda in it's pure white form. Just like this one.
As I mentioned, paneer safeda is a special recipe meant for formal dinners, more because it is a bit rich tasting due to the use of nut paste. Also because it presents delicately flavored aroma of spices that is appreciated well in most Banaras homes. And paneer safeda goes well with butter naan or roomali roti, more reason to be erved for such north Indian meals.
This time I served it with thin whole wheat chapatis which complemented the dish very well. Note that this recipe is certainly rich because it uses cashew nuts, but it is not a fatty paneer curry which gives you those guilt pangs after a cozy dinner. The amount of cashews per serving is very low, that is about cashews and the amount of fat (I used fresh cream as a cooking medium) is also low, that is 1/2 tbsp of fresh cream per serving. Yeah I calculated the amounts carefully this time and now you know how a rich gravy can be healthy too. Read on...
( serves 4)
paneer 250 gm
cashews 20 nos.
fresh cream (I used fresh malai from whole milk) 2 tbsp
salt to taste
masala made in to a paste
black pepper corns 20 nos. (white peppercorns are better but i didn't have)
green cardamom 3 nos.
black cardamom 1 no.
cinnamon stick 1 inch long
cloves 5 nos.
fresh ginger root 1 inch piece
bay leaf 2 nos. ( scissor cut into fine shreds)
all these ingredients are to be made into a paste with some water in a spice grinder .
Cube the paneer into rectangular pieces and keep aside.
Make a fine paste of cashews with some water and keep aside. Cashews can be soaked for a few hours for making fine paste but do it instantly most of the times. You just have to run the grinder for a few more minutes if you are grinding dry cashews along with the spices.
Now pour the fresh cream into the pan (I used a steel kadhai) and filter the masala paste right into the kadhai. Place a sieve on top of the kadhai and pour the masala paste into it and let all the masala extract pour into the kadhai. Reserve the masala solids to flavor some daal etc., I usually make some sabut masoor daal too with this curry and the same masala gets used in the daal. Sometimes I add the masala solids to kali daal or chane ki daal.
Coming back to the white gravy, now keep the kadhai on flame and let the mixture come to a soft boil.
Now pour in the cashew paste and let it simmer again. It just takes 5-6 minutes....
I took all these pictures because this is an unconventional way of making a gravy and I wanted the procedure to be more clear....
Now add salt and the paneer pieces and let it simmer again, just for 2 minutes more. Cover the kadhai, put off the flame and let it rest for 5 minutes so that the flavors get seeped in..
Serve hot with any kind of flat bread....we did not have any side dish this time as it was meant to be a light but special dinner It truly was so. You would agree when you try this paneer safeda at home.
Enjoy the curry that is often called Chandni subzi or Chandni paneer, doodhiya paneer. Most common name known in Banaras is paneer safeda.
If you don't filter the masala paste for this curry its not a problem. Only that the curry will not be as white and smooth as the picture above. I cooked paneer safeda again sometime back for a dinner and there was quite a lot of leftover curry. This time I did not filter the masala paste and the curry was a bit grainy and a little darker as seen in the picture below. But that taste was unmistakably the same.
Incidentally I cooked sabut masoor ki daal too even though there was no masala solids after filtration. Some foods become such an inseparable pairing in families that they keep repeating together always.
I hope you would like paneer safeda the way we do. Try it and let me know.