I wonder if there’s any Indian who wouldn’t love a nicely buttered Naan and paneer butter masala? I don’t think we would be able to find even a handful, because paneer butter masala is love! In fact, a survey found out that paneer butter masala was one of the top five foods ordered in our country. Well, not really surprised! The lightly fried cubes of paneer bathed in rich butter-infused tomato gravy is definitely a feast to the eyes and happiness to the heart.
Well, there’s no doubt that paneer butter masala is a favorite, but do you know where this delicacy was first tried out?
Paneer butter masala was first prepared in the 1950s( Yes, the dish is almost 60 years old!). It is said that the Punjabis at Moti Mahal Restaurant, situated in Delhi invented the sauce. They tried to make a new dish of paneer by adding dollops of freshly churned butter into a tomato-based gravy and thus India’s favorite paneer butter masala was formed. Paneer butter masala was also called paneer makhani then, and even today, owing to the richness of butter in the gravy (Makhan means butter in Hindi).
The Recipe to a Perfect Paneer Butter Masala
Now, that was the short history of paneer butter masala and the famous Moti Mahal Restaurant. Speaking of which, have you ever tried recreating a restaurant-style paneer butter masala? If yes, have you succeeded to bring the same authentic taste to the dish like the restaurants? A few of you might have, but many would not have succeeded. We fell in the latter category too until some time ago and we are going to help you make the perfect paneer butter masala. Your paneer butter masala is going to taste as good as the restaurants’ if not better. Here’s the ultimate paneer butter masala recipe:
Ripe Tomatoes: As you know tomato is the most important ingredient required to make the sauce or gravy of the dish. You will need at least 1.5 cups of diced tomatoes. Make sure you use ripe tomatoes. We don’t need unripe tomatoes that are overly tart.
Cashews: Cashews have the ability to increase the creaminess and richness of the paneer butter masala sauce. The sweetness of the cashews brings out a balanced flavor profile to the gravy by reducing the tanginess of the tomatoes in an optimal manner. We add around 12-14 cashews for the purpose.
Cream: Cream is also an ingredient used to thicken the gravy and give it a velvety texture. You will need 2-3 tablespoons of cream in this recipe.
Butter: The star ingredient that makes paneer butter masala what it is. Evidently, the buttery nuttiness will be imparted by the amount of butter you add in.
Paneer cubes: Well, of course. There’s no paneer butter masala without paneer! Make sure you use 200-250 gms of good quality paneer. You may want to fry these paneer cubes lightly and enhance the taste of the curry.
Herbs and spices: Here are the list of aromatic spices and herbs that you will need:
- 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
- medium-sized bay leaf
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp Kasuri methi
- coriander leaves
- A small piece of ginger
- A few cloves of garlic
How to prepare paneer butter masala
Soak your cashews in 1/3 cup of hot water for at least 20 minutes.
While you have left the cashews for soaking, you can carry on with the prep of other ingredients. You can dice the tomatoes and blend ginger along with a few cloves of garlic to make the ginger-garlic paste. Make sure that you don’t add any water while doing so.
After 20 minutes, you can drain the water and grind the cashews to form a smooth paste. To get the perfect consistency of a smooth paste, you can add a tablespoon or two of water.
In the same blender, you can add 1.5 cups of diced tomatoes and blend it to make a smooth tomato puree. Again, do not add any water while preparing the puree.
Preparation of the Gravy/ sauce
- Heat the pan at a medium-low flame. Add 1 tablespoon oil along with 1-2 tablespoons of butter. The oil prevents the butter from burning.
- Now, after keeping the flame to a low, you can add a medium-sized bay leaf. Fry for 2-3 seconds until the aroma is imparted to the oil.
- Add 1 teaspoon of ginger-garlic paste. Fry until the raw smell ceases.
- Then, you can carefully add the tomato puree to the pan. Mix well.
- Cook the mixture on low or medium-low flame. Remember to stir it periodically.
- The mixture will start simmering. If it splutters, cover the pan with a lid.
- Keep stirring at intervals. Simmer the puree at least for 5 minutes.
- Afterwhich, you can add 1 teaspoon of Kashmiri chili powder.
- Mix well and continue stirring the mixture. Saute the mixture till the butter starts surfacing and leaves the sides of the pan. This entire process will take around 14-17 minutes.
- Now, add the cashew paste. Mix it well and continue to saute them. In fact, you have to stir continuously after adding the paste until the oil leaves the masala. This will take around 3-4 minutes.
- Now, add 1.5 cups of water. Mix very well.
- Let the curry come to a boil. Stir at regular intervals.
- After 2 to 3 minutes, you can add thin strips of ginger as per your taste.
- The curry will begin to thicken. You can 1 or 2 slit green chilies after 3 to 4 minutes.
- You can then add salt as per your requirement. You can also add half a teaspoon of sugar but that’s optional. You can do so if the sauce is too tangy.
- Mix and let the mixture simmer for a minute.
- Let the gravy thicken and then add the paneer cubes (you can fry it if needed). Carefully mix the cubes of paneer in the gravy.
- Now add a teaspoon of Kasuri methi (crushed) and a teaspoon of garam masala to the sauce.
- Then, add 2-3 tablespoons of cream (1-2 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream is used)
- Stir gently but make sure it is mixed well and then switch off the flame.
- Garnish it with chopped coriander and thin strips of ginger with a drizzle of cream.
And voila! Your perfect paneer butter masala is ready. Enjoy it with a bowl of steamed rice or some buttery Naan. Now, this is going to be your go-to recipe for a great Sunday lunch. You are going to love it!