Kasuri Methi Paneer (Dried Fenugreek Leaves with Indian Cottage Cheese)

Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is commonly used as an herb in Indian cuisine. Its splendid flavour gives a real lift to any dish.

When fresh fenugreek leaves are out of season, kasuri methi can be used as a substitute, as given here. The kasuri methi adds a thrilling intensity of flavour, not as grassy as the fresh leaves, and the resulting dish is incredibly lovely. This goes well with Indian breads.

Serves 2 to 3

½ cup/20g kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
200g fresh or frozen Paneer (Indian cottage cheese), cut into ½-inch cubes
1/8 teaspoon de-seeded chunk of tamarind
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 to 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced crosswise
5 to 8 dried red chilli peppers, de-stemmed and cut into 2-3 pieces
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon sugar, or to taste
Salt to taste

1. Place the kasuri methi on a fine-meshed sieve and rinse. Transfer to a bowl, add enough warm water to cover and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.

2. If you are using frozen paneer, place it in another bowl, add enough warm water to cover and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain well.

3. Extract the juice of tamarind with ½ cup/125ml water. Strain and discard the pulp.

4. Heat the oil in a pan over low heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and stir for a few seconds until fragrant. Tip in the onions, garlic and red chilli peppers. Stir for a few seconds to coat them with the oil. Cover the pan, and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the onions and garlic are softened, stirring occasionally.

5. Add the tamarind juice, kasuri methi, turmeric powder, sugar and salt. Stir to mix. Add the Paneer cubes and stir gently to coat them with the sauce. Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until almost all the water has evaporated.

6. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. If there is water left in the pan, cook, uncovered, for a few more minutes until the excess water cooks off. This should be a dry dish. Turn off the heat.

7. Serve hot.


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