I never tried Indian food until I was in my early 20s, and once I did, I was hooked. I love the complex flavors and intricate spice profiles of Indian food. Trouble is, when you try to cook Indian food, the methods, ingredients and descriptions are quite different than Western recipes. But I am stubborn, so I kept on keepin' on and came up with this (slightly Western-ized, but still authentic) version of my favorite Indian dish, Mater Paneer.
Mater Paneer is a dish of paneer (a firm Indian cheese), cooked in a tomato sauce with peas (mater). But to try and describe the flavors without ever having tasted them is challenging at best, like trying to describe a particular color to someone born blind.
So throw your food inhibitions aside and try this dish. It pairs perfectly with rice, couscous or another grain.
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes (canned is fine)
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 cup water
2-3 cups frozen peas
8 ounces paneer (Indian cheese)
Combine the cashews and hot water in a small bowl, set aside.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the canola oil to medium high and add the onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes and then add the garlic and ginger, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne and turmeric and cook for 5-6 minutes. Let cool a bit.
Combine the tomato mixture and cashews in a food processor or blender until well blended.
Return to the skillet and add the water and peas and cook until the peas are no longer firm.
Cube the paneer cheese into 1/2 cubes, and add to the mixture. Heat until the cheese is warmed, and serve immediately, over rice or couscous.
PS--Turmeric? Garam Masala? Paneer? Yeah, I know, probably not things in the typical pantry. So either go out and find some at your local Indian/International grocery store (Bhavani is my local favorite, for all you Columbus folks) or hit up a friend. Side note: I have a fair amount of these spices for any local friends who want to try some...