First things first, I love Shahi paneer. Which I thought was called paneer shahi up until a few weeks ago. Apparently not.
My local Indian restaurant in Brunswick, Melbourne, first got me onto shahi paneer many moons ago, and I was immediately hooked. Aromatic spices, cardamom galore, and delicious little nuggets of paneer. It's the sort of curry you can eat on any occasion - hungover, adventurous, too lazy to cook dinner, hungover again - and it goes down a treat every time.
Despite my penchant for nailing authentic versions of foreign dishes, I accepted, throughout the entirety of my life in Brunswick, that I would never make shahi paneer as well as my local. Mainly because I never had to try. But when I moved two hours away, I knew that my shahi fix had to come from elsewhere. Not that I don't travel up specifically for the shahi - I do. Often.
After about six or seven shots, I am finally happy with this one. Don't be daunted by the instructions or by the ingredients - you will need all the spices for the next time you make it, so consider them an investment ;)
1 200g packet of paneer, cubed
3 cloves garlic
medium size chunk of ginger
1/2 green chilli
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
15-20 cashews, soaked in boiling water
7 cardamom pods, crushed and seeds removed
1 teaspoon whole garam masala (or ground if you can't find whole)
2 teaspoons water
pinch of cinnamon, salt and pepper
1 teaspoon coconut sugar or brown sugar
good pinch of chilli powder
2 brown onions
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup cream
1. In a medium saucepan, dry fry your paneer cubes until they have a nice colour and are sealed. Set aside.
2. In that same saucepan, add a good glug of peanut oil and your onions, and turn onto a low-medium heat. Cook the onions slowly until they almost lose their form. That should take around 15 minutes depending on the heat.
3. In the interim, chop your green chilli, garlic and ginger extremely finely, until they are just little blobs on the board. Add them to your mortar and pestle. One of my weirdest and greatest investments to date has been a large Thai style mortar and pestle from the Asian grocery store. They are great for pounding curry pastes together and are well worth the scant money charged for them. Conclusion of interlude.
4. Pound your mix until it is paste like in consistency, and then add your cashews. Do the same again. Now add your spices. Do the same again. Eventually you will have a curry paste!
5. Your onions should be done, so pop them in a bowl. Add your chopped tomatoes to the saucepan and cook until they lose their form and start to shrivel. Add your curry paste to the pan and cook it through, adding some peanut oil to ensure it doesn't burn.
6. Add your onions back into the pan, and cook for a few minutes until everything is nicely mixed.
7. Put the mixture into your food processor, and combine until it is lovely and smooth. About 2-3 minutes should do the trick.
8. BACK into the pan we go, this time adding 1/2 cup of water. Mix until well combined, and then add the milk. Same again. Now pop the paneer cubes back into the pan and coat them nicely. Let them cook for a few minutes.
9. Finally, add the 1/4 cup cream to the mix and combine well. Done! You can serve with rice or you can eat it solo. Either is good.