As promised, here’s a recipe for a homestyle paneer korma. This won’t be like what you find in typical Indian restaurants. The cloying sweet kormas in Indian restaurants are rich and heavy, perfect for a luxurious meal when dining out especially if you’re ready to sleep off the meal later. But to cook it at home, most would prefer a lighter and less sweet curry. Kormas usually have a bit of sugar added into the recipe, but I’ve left it out in this version.
This version, modified from a Nita Mehta recipe by way of method and measurements, comes from her book Mughlai Khanna. It is not a cream-laden typical North Indian Punjabi dish as the thickening agents used are cashews and poppy seeds. I also like using thickened strained nonfat yogurt, like the Fage brand or homemade, for added creaminess without additional saturated fat.
It’s also a very mild curry (garam masala has a little heat from cloves and black pepper) and makes for a kid-friendly dish. You can add ground Indian chili powder to step 10 if you wish; I usually make this curry alongside another spicy one so that everyone has something to eat at the dinner table.
1 tablespoon khus-khus (white poppy seeds)
2 tablespoons cashews
2 teaspoons canola oil and another 2 tablespoons for later
200 grams (8 ounces) or ½ package paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
2-3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
½ inch piece ginger root, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh or frozen unsweetened grated coconut
½ cup thick or strained plain yogurt OR Greek yogurt like Fage brand
1 medium onion, finely chopped
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 ¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garam masala, preferably freshly ground
15 green beans, cut into ¼ inch pieces
2 large carrots, sliced into ½ inch rounds (roughly 1 cup carrots)
½ cup green peas
1) Soak the poppy seeds and cashews in a small bowl in a small amount of water, about a ¼ cup, just enough to cover. Set aside.
2) Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add paneer cubes using tongs or spatula. Paneer does not splatter much as it doesn’t contain much water.
3) Lightly brown the cubes, trying to get most sides light brown but being careful not to crisp the paneer. Lower heat if necessary.
4) Remove from oil with tongs onto a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside. Turn off heat but save pan for re-use.
5) Grind coriander and cardamom seeds in a spice blender or mash in a mortar and pestle to a fine powder. (At this time you can also grind the garam masala spices if you are opting to make your own).
6) Pour powder into a blender. Add garlic and ginger root. Give it a whirl.
7) Scoop coconut and yogurt into blender. Spoon in the soaked cashews and poppy seeds and their water.
8) Blend on high speed until a thick white paste, like a thick milkshake, forms. You may need to add water, depending on the water content of your yogurt. Scrape sides of blender down and blend again. No pieces of cashews or garlic should remain visible. Set blender aside.
9) Pour remaining oil to same skillet. Make sure heat is on medium-high. Allow oil to heat thoroughly before next step, about a minute.
10) Sauté the onion, stirring quickly to avoid burning or sticking. Add turmeric.
11) Stir well and cook for about 10 minutes. The onions will begin to look a bit dry and brown, but still have some moisture. Now is a good time to chop veggies, if not already done.
12) Add the coconut-cashew paste. Cook 5 minutes while thick and bubbly, then turn to low.
13) Sprinkle in the salt and garam masala. Stir.
14) Pour in 2 cups water and vegetables. Stir. The gravy will look thin and watery at this stage.
15) Bring to a boil then simmer covered for 10 minutes. It will still look thinner than desired, almost soupy. Know that the curry will thicken upon standing even off heat.
16) Add paneer cubes and simmer for another 10 minutes, partially covered, stirring occasionally.
17) Let stand 30 minutes before serving. Season with salt as needed.
18) Garnish with cilantro and shredded carrot and coconut, if desired.