I love Indian food. I love going to Indian restaurants in Cleveland as much as possible. I get take-out from Cafe Tandoor in Cleveland Heights several times a month – the Paneer Makhani is my favorite – and my new favorite Indian restaurant is Udipi Cafe, at 6339 Olde York Road in Parma. Woah. Talk about amazing, inexpensive Indian food that’s more than worth the drive out there.
For a long time I have wanted to learn to make Indian food myself, and a Saturday road trip to Lakewood brought a serendipitous visit to a well-stocked Indian grocery store, called Indian Food Emporium, at 17796 Detroit Road in Lakewood. My friend and I giddily perused the many shelves of exotic spices, flours, rices and snacks and struck up a conversation with the very friendly and helpful Indian lady at the cash register whose name was Mona Lisa. According to the website, Indian Food Emporium is connected with India Garden in Lakewood, but it’s further down the street.
So, with my cupboard fully stocked with Indian spices, I was determined to make Mattar Paneer, that lovely mix of heavenly mild cheese and peas in an aromatic tomato sauce.
After perusing several Indian cooking websites, I found several websites that were enormously helpful, including Show Me The Curry, Quick Indian Cooking and (my favorite) Manjula’s Kitchen.
Both Show Me The Curry and Manjula’s Kitchen offered exactly what I needed: cheerful Indian women demonstrating their amazing feats of cookery and cheerfully sharing their knowledge in easy to understand, homemade videos. Armed with the ingredients and the knowledge, I undertook my first courageous forray into homemade Indian cuisine.
They were sold out of paneer at Whole Foods (?!?) but luckily Zagara’s had some middle eastern cheese that sounded similar to paneer, so I decided to give it a whirl.
Manjula’s recipe and methods couldn’t be easier:
Make some Basmati rice.
Slice and fry funky cheese cubes.
Puree tomatoes with ginger and garlic paste.
Saute spices for half a minute, then add pureed tomatoes.
Simmer for a while.
Add some frozen peas and cook those until they’re done.
Then add the cheese cubes in, and voila! Homemade Mattar Paneer!
The whole endeavor took less 45 minutes and the result was fabulous. The feature of this dish is, of course, the paneer cheese. Paneer is made simply from milk, and it is a dense cheese that holds its shape when cooked rather than melting. Yay for us!
Next time I am going to make Poori.