The mighty river Ganga, flows majestically through Haridwar in Uttarakhand, India. This ancient city is said to be one of the seven holiest places to Hindus and is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year. Alongside the banks of the river lie the frantic and crowded streets of Haridwar, overflowing with organised chaos. Every motorcycle horn is hooting and every bicycle bell is ringing, to remind the pedestrians of their presence. The streets are littered with empty plastic bottles and bags, cow and horse manure, and other strange objects one would not want to investigate too closely. The frequent users of these streets appear comfortable with their surroundings. People go about their daily business with an air of calmness, the street dogs confidently cross the roads unscathed, the gaudily decorated horses pulling unstable carts seem unperturbed by the madness surrounding them.
Well hidden above the main bazaar, away from the assault on the senses, is a little retreat called Yosi Ya Puri. This establishment is a small and clean restaurant with worn laminated tables and plastic chairs. It is well frequented by the locals, the staff are attentive and friendly, and your palate will explode from the amazing tastes that await you. For around 400 rupees, a bargain, you choose to have a tasty meal of mutter paneer, yellow dal fry, plain rice, mango pickle, and stuffed parathas – a filling meal for two people sharing.
I spent four weeks literally eating my way through northern India and sampling Indian food as much as twice a day. In my opinion, there is nothing better than a tasty, well spiced Indian curry. Cooked with love and served with suited side dishes, a good curry is neither overpowering nor heavy and can be somewhat of a comfort after an intense day. Comfort food for the beaten soul.
One of the dishes I wanted to learn how to cook, was mutter paneer, curry of Indian cheese with peas. Here is a stunning recipe for mutter paneer, courtesy of Bhinsem, head chef and owner of Bhinsem’s Cooking School in McLoed Ganj, Dharamsala.
MUTTER PANEER (serves 2 people)
2 tablespoons cooking oil
2 teaspoons butter
2½ cups cold water
½ cup milk
100g paneer cheese, cubed
2 ripe tomatoes medium, roughly chopped
3 onions medium, roughly chopped
½ cup cooked peas
2 tablespoons of shelled and ground watermelon seeds (or cashew nuts)
2 garlic cloves, crushed or grated
½ teaspoon fenugreek leaf or powder
½ teaspoon Kitchen King garam masala powder (available from Amazon)
½ teaspoon Kitchen King mixed spices (available from Amazon)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon hot chilli powder or flakes
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
3 green cardamom pods
2 brown cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Place tomatoes and onions in a heated pan with 2 cups of cold water, boil for 20 minutes or until soft (time can be reduced to 10 minutes if using a pressure cooker)
- Sieve off the juices and save for use later
- Run cold water over the cooked tomato and onion mixture, blend until smooth
- Heat a pan on medium heat and add the oil, cumin, fenugreek, chilli, turmeric, ginger and garlic and fry for 1 minute
- Add the tomato and onion puree and simmer for 2 minutes
- Add the saved juices and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the oil separated from the puree
- Add the ground watermelon seeds or cashew nuts, peas, ½ cup of cold water, salt, Kitchen King garam masala and mixed spices and stir
- Add butter, paneer, milk, cardamom and cinnamon stick and stir for 3 minutes (note: if substituting paneer with chicken, fry the chicken in butter until cooked then add to the sauce)
- Taste the sauce and if more spice is required, add ½ teaspoon of hot chilli powder
- Serve with fresh coriander garnish on a bed of rice with a sides of Yellow Dal Fry and Allo Paratha
If you prefer to prepare this dish using chicken, refer to the Murgh Mutter recipe.