I thought I knew love, but then I met Brown Butter Paneer Makhani. Combine aromatic spices with brown butter and a creamy cashew-tomato curry.
Course: Main Course
Keyword: cheese, curry, north indian, paneer, vegetarian
2-4whole dried Kashmiri red chillies(I used 4 very mild ones)
4green cardamom podscracked
1/2tbspwhole coriander seeds
1/2tspground cumin seeds
1smallred onioncut into rough chunks
500gtomato passata(sieved tomatoes)
1/2tbspgrated fresh ginger
1tbspcrushed garlicabout 3 cloves
1tbsptomato purée(concentrated tomato paste)
1/2tspKashmiri chilli powder
1 1/2tbspgaram masala(recipe linked above)
1/2tspground kasoori methi
2tbspagave or brown sugar
1/4tspground green cardamom seeds
2tbspreserved brown butter
1tbspfresh coriander leaves
To prepare the paneer:
Heat 1-2 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan and pan-fry the paneer until lightly golden brown on all sides. Place on a plate lined with kitchen towel and set aside while you get on with the sauce.
For the brown butter makhani sauce:
Place a heavy-based pan over a medium-low heat. Do not add oil. Dry-roast cashew nuts, dried Kashmiri chillies, the four whole cardamom pods, whole coriander seeds, cumin seeds and roughly-chopped onion. About 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomato passata and 200ml water. Stir well and cover with a lid. Simmer over a medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Switch the heat off and remove the lid. Allow the mixture to cool.
To make the brown butter, melt butter in a heavy-based pan. Keep the heat low to ensure the butter browns slowly and evenly, without burning. Cook, stirring constantly.
The butter will go from being yellow, to having large bubbles, then foamy, and finally, a deeply golden colour, rather like golden syrup. Some foam will subside and there will be toasted milk solids at the bottom of the pan. No need to skim off any foam or sediment, this is brown butter, not ghee. The brown butter will smell incredibly buttery and nutty. This is a core building block of flavour in this curry. The process should take around 7 minutes from start to finish.
Remove two tablespoons full of the brown butter from the pan and set aside. We will drizzle this on top of the finished curry.
With the remaining brown butter still over a very low heat, add the crushed garlic, grated ginger, tomato purée, turmeric and Kashmiri chilli powder. Sauté for one minute and then switch the heat off.
Stir in the garam masala and prepared tomato, nut and whole spice mixture and 200ml cold water to cool it down quickly for blending.
Pile the mixture into a high-powered blender and grind until very smooth. Feel free to pass the mixture through a sieve afterwards for an extra-smooth sauce. Since we're using passata, I don't find this is necessary.
Return the sauce to a pan and rinse the blender jar out with 100ml water to catch every last bit of sauce. Add this to the pan too. Keep the sauce over a low heat.
Season with salt, agave or brown sugar to sweeten and mellow out the chilli heat, and ground cardamom seeds. Stir well. Finish with a swirl of cream and kasoori methi rubbed between your palms. Add the paneer, reserved brown butter and fresh coriander leaves if you like. Heat through and serve immediately with roti, naan or rice. I love this dish with tandoori roti.
Pan frying the paneer is optional. I like using homemade paneer for this dish which benefits from a slight crust to keep the pieces whole.
If using shop-bought paneer, first cube it and soak the pieces in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain, pat dry and use as they are or pan fry for the softest paneer curry.