You may as well roll your eyes and wonder if it is possible for anyone in India, from North to South, and from East to West, to not have a family-favourite recipe for mutter paneer. Heck, by now, half of America and the UK must have a house recipe they swear by. But not so yours truly. Believe you me, barring the rather successful attempt last month, I cannot remember when I cooked mutter paneer last. It used to turn out so bleh that I stopped trying, turning instead to tchaman kaliya that has the added benefit of combining better with rice – the carb of my choice.
As you already know, the rest of the resident family is partial to roti. It is my considered opinion that Kashmiri dishes lose half their charm when not served with rice. The pros and cons of all this is that paneer is served on our plates only occasionally.
With the winter vegetables starting to look poor reflections of themselves by late spring, I picked up a packet of paneer instead from the friendly neighbourhood Mother Dairy Fruit and Vegetable store last month. And, keeping the roti-eaters in mind I decided to take a stab at mutter paneer again. Very deliberately I set about changing a few things in my recipe in the hope of getting something respectable at the end.
I didn’t think I could either drop or add a new ingredient. It is my guess that sometimes Punjabi cuisine gets confused with Mughlai and cooks create an ingredient list that stretches long and may even include nuts – cashews in particular. Such recipes are usually also generous in their use of butter or cream seemingly celebrating the origins of a dish in a community known for their love of milk and its products. However, I do not recall the food our Punjabi neighbours shared with us being particularly rich or heavy. My food memories, incidentally, are very sharp.