You must be wondering, “When did mallus (short for Malayalees – people from the south Indian state of Kerala) get a paneer curry of their own?” I’ll let you in on a secret…the last time we were in India, a relative gave us a packet of Kerala Chicken Curry Masala. We tried it a few months back and loved the flavours. But to our disappointment we did not find the brand in the Indian store near where we live. So, before throwing away the packet, I jotted down the ingredients and decided to recreate the gravy. And I must say the flavours were pretty spot on! Hence the Mallu Paneer Curry.
Ingredients (Serves 3)
Paneer (diced) – 1-1 ¼ cups
Onion and shallots (diced) – 1 heaped cup
Tomato (diced) – 1 large/2 small
Garlic – 1 big clove
Ginger – a small piece
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Green chillies – 2 (more or less according to taste)
Red chilli/chilli powder to taste
Coriander powder – 1 ½ tsps
Cinnamon – small piece
Bay leaf – 1
Whole pepper corns – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Oil (I used coconut oil to make it authentic) – 2 tsps
Boil water in a vessel and immerse the paneer pieces in it. This makes the paneer softer and more porous. Leave it aside while you prepare the gravy.
Heat oil in a pan/vessel and add the onion-shallot mix. The ingredients on the packet said shallots and I assumed that they meant the small onions (sambar onion). I did not have them on hand so I used a mix of regular yellow onions and the shallots (slightly smaller than regular onions) you find in American supermarkets. Sauté till the onions turn translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients, except the paneer, pour a little water and let it simmer. Cook until completely done and remove from heat. Once it has cooled, blend to make smooth gravy. Return to the vessel and add the paneer pieces. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes, remove from the stove, garnish with coriander leaves and enjoy. Bon Appétit.
Note 1) You can add a tablespoon or two of coconut to the masala if you wish.
2) Another option is to add coconut milk which will give the gravy a lovely texture and flavour.