RESTAURANT STYLE PANEER AFGHANI – पनीर अफगानी (Creamy Spicy Smoked Paneer Curry)

It has been a while since I shared a savoury paneer recipe here although paneer happens to be one of my favourite thing to have; may that be a snack or a curry or even dessert. In fact I have shared plenty of paneer / chhena based desserts on the blog since they are relatively healthy than mawa/ khoya based ones. I am providing recipe links towards the end of this post, for anyone who might be interested in trying those desserts.

Few years back I had shared the recipe for a white and creamy, smoky chicken curry, the recipe for which was provided to me by my better half, who procured it from a friend (who took it from the internet) It was later that I learnt that it was actually Afghani chicken curry. Anyways, I had already christened it as the dhungar murg since it was a smoked chicken curry.

Now that I am a vegetarian, I wanted to recreate the recipe with paneer since paneer is like a blank canvas and easily takes the flavours of whichever curry you add it to. However, it does need a bit of help from spices and some marination, for it to not be bland. So, first we marinate the paneer just like we did for the chicken. And then we proceed to make the curry. The amount of cream I used for the recipe is less in comparison to the chicken because paneer itself is a rich ingredient. Instead we add the richness by using cashew or almond paste (those allergic to nuts can use paste made with melon seeds) along with some onion paste to bulk up/ add volume to the curry just as we do for the kofta curry although mine is a skinny version kofta curry. Rest, most other ingredients remain the same.

It is a perfect veg curry to serve for parties and formal dinners.

A small piece of coal (for smoking the curry)

For Marination

250 gm Paneer

2 tsp Cooking Oil

1 tsp Lemon Juice

¾ tsp roasted and crushed Kasoori Methi

¼ tsp Garam Masala

¼ tsp Crushed Black Pepper (or to taste)

½ tsp Chaat Masala

1 tsp Coriander Powder

½ tsp roasted Cumin Powder

¼ tsp Salt

For Curry

8 – 10 Cashew Nuts

2 tbsp Milk

1 medium Onion

½ inch Ginger

5 fat cloves of Garlic

3 Green Chillies (adjust amount according to heat of chillies)

2 tbsp Oil (adjust as required)

¾ tsp crushed Kasoori Methi

½ tsp Garam Masala

½ tsp Chaat Masala

2 tsp Coriander Powder

¾ tsp crushed Black Pepper

Salt to taste (I used ¼ tsp)

2 tbsp unflavoured Yogurt (i used home-made)

2 tbsp Cream (I used Amul cream), plus extra for drizzling while serving

½ C Water (more if required)

1½ – 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh Coriander

For Paneer

In a small mixing bowl, mix together the spices – kasoori methi, garam masala, crushed black pepper, chaat masala, coriander powder and cumin powder and salt

Take the paneer and gently, using a kitchen towel or a tissue, dab the paneer to get rid of any extra moisture (especially if you had stored the paneer in water).

Slice the paneer in two centimetre or one inch size (whichever you prefer) pieces and drizzle it with lemon juice. Next add the spice mix and gently mix to coat all paneer pieces. You need to be gentle while handling paneer since it can easily break. Marinate paneer for twenty to thirty minutes.

(While we proceed to making the curry, prep for smoking the curry by taking a piece of coal and placing it on low heat, turning it around after a few minutes for even heating)

Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the paneer pieces till they just turn golden. Do not over–fry the paneer else it will turn chewy / rubbery. A light golden colour is just what we want.

Remove the paneer on a plate or in a bowl and set it aside.

For Curry

For cashew paste, grind the cashew nuts to powder and add two tablespoons milk to it. Set it aside to soak.

Make a paste by grinding together the onion, ginger and garlic along with green chillies. Set aside.

Heat oil in a frying pan and add the paste. Fry on medium high heat, stirring often, till the paste turns golden in colour. Add a couple of tablespoons of  water and cook again the same way.

Reduce the heat to minimum and add two tablespoons of water to the masala. Next, add the cashew paste. Stir fry on medium heat, constantly stirring it, till the contents begin to turn thick.

Now add the kasoori methi, garam masala, chaat masala, coriander power, black pepper and salt. Stir well and then add the cream and yogurt and mix everything and cook for a minute, constantly stirring.

Add half a cup water and bring contents to a boil. Stir the curry and add the paneer piece and gently mix everything together. Switch off the heat.

Line a small bowl with aluminium foil and carefully place the hot coal piece over it. Carefully place the bowl over the curry. Drizzle half a teaspoon of melted ghee over the coal piece and quickly cover the pan with a lid in place. Allow the curry to smoke for no more than three minutes (I prefer two minutes and fifteen seconds clock time)

Uncover the curry pan and remove the bowl from it. Adjust the thickness of the curry by adding more water or milk to it (bring to a boil if you do this). Also adjust the seasoning if required and stir in a tablespoon of coriander.

Decant the curry in the serving bowl and drizzle with some cream (optional) and garnish with the rest of the chopped coriander. Serve with layered / Malabar paratha.

Serves – 4 (as a side dish)

Chhena Poda (Burnt Cottage Cheese Cheesecake)

Rasgulla (Cottage Cheese Balls in Fragrant Syrup)

Roshogolar Payesh (Cottage Cheese Balls in reduced Milk)

Angoori Rasmalai (Cottage Cheese Balls in Sweet Saffron Milk)

Kheer Mohan (Caramel Cottage Cheese Balls)

Chhena Malpua (Cottage Cheese Pancakes in Fragrant Syrup)

Chhena Murki (Paneer Candy)

Paneer Kheer (Cottage Cheese Pudding)

Malai Laddu (Creamy Paneer Laddu)

Kalakand (Instant Cottage Cheese Fudge)

Thank you for your visit and see you soon again, with another exciting recipe

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