Monday, December 12, 2011

Mattar Paneer Masala (Peas and Cottage Cheese in a creamy gravy)

The US I came to a while ago was a lot different place than it is now. The proliferation of 'Made in China' and Walmart had not completely taken hold. I am talking about the retail landscape here. The list of once been stores are strewn around. Woodward and Lothrop, Montgomery Ward, Hecths, Zany Brainy,Borders and many others. Most of these might have been chain stores which caused the demise of mom and pop stores.

The one that bothered me most was the closing of Woodward and Lothrop a store that was headquartered in DC and had been around for a hundred years shuttered for good. The next was Hechts which also had its head quarters in the DC area. The ones that replaced these stores have made retail shopping experience in any of part of the US essentially the same. Every mall looks the same anchored by the very same department stores.

Anyway the reason for this retail talk is because the Indian government bowed to pressure and said no to Walmart and Tesco. Would it have been a good for the Indian consumer if the Indian government in all its corrupt glory had allowed these retailers into the Indian market.

The shopping experience in India is a lot different than the experience here. Shopping with shopping carts in not typical. We mostly shopped (this has changed now to a great deal with many stores which do provide shopping carts for shopping pleasure) at a single counter. You either pointed at what you wanted or told the shop keeper or his assistant what you wanted and they retrieved it from the back of the store.

I still remember the store I frequented when I was a wee elementary schooler. This tiny store had all the stuff that I dreamed off. Scented erasers, pencils and candies. The one I remember and liked the most was a mini egg shaped pastel colored oval candy with bright yellow inside made to resemble an inside of a boiled egg. Dean's store shopping experience on the way to and from school still lingers in my mind. I bet many of you have your own Dean's store experience. Walmart is most definitely not going to provide a personalized shopping experience that most of these mom and pop stores provide.

There are positive reasons stated for allowing FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) into the Indian market. The ones that caught my attention are :
1. Cutting out middlemen and helping the farmer sell his produce at a far more profitable price.
2. Bring supply chain efficiencies to prevent the rotting of produce which apparently in India happens a lot.

But how about Walmart and it practices in the US? Is it going to leave them State side when it enters the Indian market? Walmart would surely not be leaving behind its cut throat prices and everything else be damned attitude. Once a Walmart enters a landscape it leaves retail carcasses in its wake. Has the entry of Pepsi and Coco-Cola really helped the Indian consumer?

That is enough retail talk for day I think. Now on to the recipe.
Paneer is not something that I am fond of and I rarely ever cook with it. But unlike me the DDs love paneer and the request for Mattar Paneer has been a long standing one.

Mattar Paneer Masala
1. 14 oz package of low fat paneer cut into cubes
2. 1-2 cups of fresh or frozen peas

3. 1 onion chopped roughly + 1/2 onion chopped very fine
4. 8 cloves of garlic
5. 2 inch piece of ginger
6. 2 juicy tomatoes chopped (I used canned crushed tomatoes)

7. 6 green chilies
8. 2 tsp of chili powder (see note)
9. 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
10. 2 tsp turmeric powder
11. 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon, few cloves roasted and powdered (garam masala)
12. 2 bay leaves + 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

13. a handful of chopped coriander leaves
14. 2 tbsp roasted cashews
15. salt to taste
16. 2 tsp oil + 2 tsp ghee

1. In a saute pan heat a bit of oil and saute the onions, garlic and ginger till the onions are browned. Take care not to let them get black. Cool and blend to a paste with maybe a tiny bit of water. To this add the chopped tomatoes and blend.
2. In a wide mouthed pan heat the ghee and when hot place the panner cubes and brown them evenly on all both sides. Drain and set aside.
3. Add the oil to the pan and when hot season with cumin seeds and bay leaves. Add the green chilies and onions and saute till the onion turns translucent.
4. Add in the powdered garam masala followed by the turmeric powder and chili powders and give a good mix.
5. Add the blended paste with 1 1/2 cups of water and let it come to a boil.
6. Add in the green peas and salt and let it cook till the gravy thickens a bit (about 8-10 minutes)
7. Add in the paneer and mix it in gently.
8. Now make a paste of the cashews with a tbsp of water and add to the gravy.
9. Sprinkle the coriander leaves and let simmer for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.

This is absolutely a great accompaniment for any Indian flat bread.

Be careful when adding the red chili powder. This was a slightly on the spicy side.


  1. I had a conversation with my Dad about FDI and I was the opinion that Walmart will eliminate the small retailers and that local business will die but he was of the opinion that the consumer matters most at the end of the day.
    To him in the growing days of inflation the retailer who gives at a lesser price matters most. I agreed to what he said based on my experience here as well. Will I pay more just because I have good shopping experience? of course NO.

    Matter Paneer Masala looks good, my daughter likes paneer too and she loves this masala.

  2. love this combo...looks tempting and delicious.

  3. Even without Tesco andWalmarkt the shopping expirence is totally different than the one I had when I Was young. There was this shops next to moms place and we did our shopping there for everything, and now there is a supermarket next to that shop and sadly nobody goes to that old shop anymore,
    Love the pea masala curry looks delish.

  4. Mattar paneer masala looks absolutely divine..

  5. We love all things paneer.. very nice gravy and adding cashew always elevates the dish.

  6. Walmart will not abandon any of its practices as far as I can see - but at the same time the need of the hour is to cut down all the layers between the producers and the consumer that exist today and assist in sending inflation to sky rocketing levels while not benefiting the producers at all. Not to mention the huge inefficiencies in distribution which result in complete wastage which is criminal in a nation where poverty can be seen at close quarters!

    Matar Paneer was such a popular restuarant dish in the "Mughlai" restaurants of the 80s that I almost stopped making it for a very long time. Only now come back into our menu and that too because one gets such fresh paneer here in Delhi. Like your version because it isn't too rich!

  7. I have never been to a Mom-Pop shop in the US !!! There weren't any when I came and where we live. I guess they make more sense in the cities with close neighborhoods.

    I go to this one Italian shop which stores Italian ingredients as well as some cooked food and is run by a family. I like it but then again being family-run they have their own idiosyncrasies like not very punctual, closes early, some items are more expensive than norm etc. But I still go because I buy little and I like that it is different. For bulk buying I am not sure if I would choose them over a Shop-rite.

    Mattar paneer is a big favorite with BigSis too, the little one hates paneer though

  8. Miri, I heard on a news program that India produces enough and more to feed its population. It is in distribution that there is a lot of wastage and the criminality of dumping in the ocean.

    Sandeepa, you are right in that mom and pop stores here in the US are found mostly in majority minority areas. Walmart and its like has killed off mom and pop stores for regular shopping.

    This is very different from India where most stores other than the recent Reliances and Super Freshes are mostly mom pop stores where prices are reasonable and most Indians do buy from these stores.


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