Zafrani Paneer

Zaffrani Paneer

This is a simple, yet delicious dish that I made one night last week for dinner. I was on the look out for something other than the usual kadai paneer and the mutter paneer, and this dish fit the bill perfectly. It’s beautifully spiced and is aromatic and sweet.

Since the ingredients used don’t need a lot of cooking time, it took me just about half an hour to cook this if you have sore bought tomato puree, add another 5 minutes if you don’t. It would really go well with pulao or naan although I had it with rotis. My husband, Pranjal and I had a hard time keeping some for my mom, who was reaching Bangalore the next day.

Later that week I made it again during a family dinner and everyone loved it. So it’s an easy dish you can make when hosting a party at home, it’s definitely a crowd puller, and the effort needed to make this dish is relatively less.


ere’s how it’s made.

Soak a good pinch of saffron in a little warm water. I do this simply by heating some water in a microwave and pouring the hot water on to the saffron strands. Let it stand.

Now in a blender or a food process, grind a big onion into paste.

Heat you skillet and add some ghee or clarified butter in it and put in the ground onion. Let it caramelize to a deep brown sweet paste.

While the onion is browning, boil some water in a saucepan, put in some tomatoes in the boiling water and heat it till the skin cracks open. Remove the from the heat, rain some cold water on them. And blend it to a smooth consistency without any lumps. This is my way of blanching tomatoes, you may want to remove the tomato skin, I prefer to leave them on for the additional fiber it provides.

Return the puree to the saucepan and bring it to a boil, add some white vinegar some salt and sugar.

Boil till the puree turns a deep red. You can avoid this step if you have store bought tomato puree.

Once the onion has brown enough, add the tomato paste into the skillet, add some red chilly powder and salt to taste. Cook for about 5 minute on a medium flame, or till the tomato puree turns a deep red and has thickened slightly. Now add a cup of beat yogurt to this, turn the heat to minimum when doing this. Cook again for another 2 minutes or so. If you would like a richer gravy you could add some fresh cream at this stage.

Now add ground green cardamom and sugar to this. Mix. Add  the saffron essence. Mix. And garnish with slivered toasted almonds or cashews. That’s it!

The version without cream

Recipe (made from 250 gms of paneer or cottage cheese, serves 2)

250 gms of Paneer or Cottage Cheese cut in cubes or cuboid

1 big onion, made into paste in a blender or food processor

1 tbsp ghee or clarified butter

1 tsp red chilly powder

salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

1 cup yogurt beaten

1/2 tsp of ground cardamom, which is about 4-6 pods of green cardamom

2 tbsp of fresh milk cream (optional)

a good pinch of saffron

4 large tomatoes

2 tsp vinegar


Grind one onion into a smooth paste in a blender or food processor. Cut paneer or cottage cheese into desired shapes.  Using a mortar and pestle grind 6 pods of green cardamom without the skin with a teaspoon of sugar. The sugar helps grinding the cardamom to a fine powder.

In a saucepan bring about a liter of salted water to boil, blanch tomatoes in it for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a tbsp of water and pour the hot water over the saffron strands in a cup.

When the tomato skin is crinkly and has started to spilt open, drain the hot water and pour in some cold water to cool the tomatoes. Once cooled blend the tomatoes in a blender or food processor till there are no more lumps. You ca remove the skin if you would like. Next return the saucepan with the tomato puree to heat, boil it with some salt and sugar to taste and 2 tsp of vinegar till it turn deep red. You can store excess tomato puree in the refrigerator and use it later too.

Heat a skillet. Pour the ghee in it, and fry the onions on a medium high flame till the onion turns dark brown and is well caramelized. Don’t add anything to the onion at this stage. Next, add the tomato puree. Add red chilly powder and salt. Cook for about 5 mins till the gravy has thickened. Next reduce the flame  add whipped yogurt or curd cook for 3-5 minutes till it thickens. Next add the cut paneer or cottage cheese. Cook for 1 minute, or till the paneer softens. Now you can add the cream, this is an optional step, the cream will make the gravy a little more decadent.

Add the powdered cardamom and the sugar. Mix. Add the saffron liquid. Combine and serve hot.

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