paneer curry recipe

Easy paneer recipes that can be on the table in 30 minutes or less

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A hallmark of vegetarian Indian cuisine, versatile paneer is perfect for speedy meals – and Chetna Makan’s delicious dishes can be perfected in under half an hour.

As any fan of The Great British Bake Off can attest, experimentation in the mixing bowl can be a thoroughly risky business. Series five semi-finalist Chetna Makan, however, always handled the pressure with masterful flair. Week after week, the renowned “flavour queen” impressed the judges with her ability to fuse Indian flavours and traditional British bakes, creating everything from a cardamom, pistachio and coffee swiss roll to chocolate and mango eclairs.

Seven years after Makan first entered the Bake Off tent, she’s back with more imaginative flavour combinations in new cookbook Chetna’s 30-Minute Indian. Taking inspiration from the vibrancy and variety of Indian cuisine, the book features 80 speedy, straightforward recipes designed to help you whip up delicious homemade Indian dishes in half an hour or less. 

One ingredient that makes a frequent appearance in Makan’s tempting recipes is paneer. A star performer in south Asian cuisine, paneer is a fresh, unsalted white cheese traditionally made from cow’s or buffalo’s milk, and a great source of protein for those following a meat-free diet.

Though its mild, subtle flavour is delicious in its own right (try snacking on fried cubes alongside a cup of chai), paneer also has a wonderful way of absorbing flavour. As a result, it’s perfect for marinating and threading on skewers, filling samosas or sprinkling through a curry to soak up the spice. 

That being said, there’s no slow cooking involved here. As Makan explains, everyday Indian recipes are actually incredibly quick to prepare – and paneer is a perfect example of that. 

Chetna’s 30-Minute Indian cookbook by Chetna Makan
Chetna’s 30-Minute Indian by Chetna Makan is out now with Octopus

Below, Makan shares four paneer recipes for you to try at home. First up: paneer onion masala rolls. A moreish snack made with coriander peanut chutney, Makan invites you to get experimental with the filling once you’ve cooked the original version.

For a quick lunch or dinner, the paneer pav bhaji is a colourful street food-inspired mix of spiced peppers, potatoes and tomatoes, delicately balanced by the addition of grated paneer and served with soft bread rolls.

As much as paneer brings subtle flavour to a dish, its texture shouldn’t be underestimated either, and the peanut and paneer rice is a brilliant way to utilise its bite.

Lastly, the coconut paneer tikka is a vibrant curry that uses paneer as a blank canvas for a tandoori masala marinade. True to form, it only take minutes of your precious time for the cheese to soak up the spiced seasoning – not that guests will be any the wiser at your next dinner party. 

  • Paneer onion masala rolls (paneer pyaaz masala papdi)

    paneer onion masala rolls recipe
    Best paneer recipes: Chetna Makan’s paneer onion masala rolls

    Chetna says: “A delicious crispy snack to please the crowds, everyone from grown-ups to kids loves these rolls. This is a very versatile recipe, so once you have cooked up this version, you can try different chutneys with the paneer filling or mix up different variations that you like. Although the rolls are best served warm, believe me no one will complain if you serve them at room temperature.”

    Makes 18

    Ingredients

    • 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry, 320g plain flour, for dusting
    • 5–6 tbsp coriander peanut chutney (see below)
    • 1 egg, lightly beaten, for glazing

    For the filling:

    • 225g paneer, grated
    • 1 red onion, finely chopped
    • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp amchur (mango powder)
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • 20g fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

    Method

    Preheat the oven to 200°C, gas mark 6.

    Mix all the filling ingredients together in a bowl until well combined.

    Unroll the pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface and spread all over with the chutney. Spread the filling mixture on top as evenly as possible, then use your fingers to lightly press the mixture on to the pastry.

    Starting from one longer side, roll up the pastry into a log. Brush all over with the beaten egg and slice it into 18 pieces about 1.5cm thick.

    Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20–25 minutes until crispy and golden. Serve warm.

    Coriander peanut chutney (dhania moongphalli chutney)

    Chetna says: “I have shared a coriander chutney recipe in every cookbook that I’ve written. This clearly illustrates how big a fan I am of this simple yet powerful little chutney and also that there are many different ways of making it.

    “Here, the peanuts add warmth to this very refreshing mix of herbs and lemon. I have a small bowl of this chutney in the refrigerator at all times, and you will be surprised how amazingly well it goes with absolutely anything you are eating.”

    Makes 1 small bowlful

    Ingredients

    • 30g raw, blanched peanuts
    • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 2 green chillies, roughly chopped
    • 40g fresh coriander leaves
    • 20g fresh mint, leaves picked (stalks discarded)
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • ½ tsp salt
    • juice of ½ lime
    • 75ml (5 tbsp) water

    Method

    Heat a frying pan, add the peanuts and dry-roast over a low heat for 1–2 minutes until golden.

    Transfer the roasted peanuts to a blender (preferably) or food processor, add all the remaining ingredients and blitz until smooth.

    The chutney will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4–5 days.

  • Paneer pav bhaji

    paneer pav bhaji recipe
    Best paneer recipes: Chetna Makan's paneer pav bhaji

    Chetna says: “Pav bhaji is a very popular Indian street food and here I have made my own version with paneer and peppers. The list of spices might seem rather long, but you need them all to recreate the taste of the authentic pav bhaji. 

    “If you can get hold of some ready-made pav bhaji mix from an Asian supermarket or food supplier, or make some yourself to keep in store, then simply add 2½ tablespoons of that instead.”

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 4 soft bread rolls or pav, split in half horizontally
    • 2 tsp salted butter, plus extra to serve
    • finely chopped red onion and fresh coriander leaves, to serve

    For the bhaji:

    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 2 onions, finely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, grated
    • 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
    • 1 red pepper, cored, deseeded and finely chopped
    • 1 green pepper, cored, deseeded and finely chopped
    • 3 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • 2 potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm pieces
    • 200ml boiling water
    • 225g paneer, grated
    • juice of ½ lemon
    • 2 tbsp salted butter

    For the spice mix:

    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp ground turmeric
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • 1 tsp ground coriander
    • 1 tsp amchur (mango powder)
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
    • ½ tsp ground cardamom
    • ¼ tsp ground black pepper
    • ¼ tsp ground cloves

    Method

    To make the bhaji, heat the oil in a pan, add the onions with the garlic and ginger and cook over a high heat for 4 minutes until they start to soften. 

    Add the peppers and cook for 4 minutes, then add the tomatoes and cook for another 4 minutes.

    Meanwhile, put the potato pieces into a pan, cover with water and bring to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes until cooked through.

    Drain the potatoes, add to the bhaji mixture with the salt and all the spices and pour in the measured boiling water. Mix well, then cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

    Add the paneer and use a potato masher to mash the mixture until it is mushy and well combined. 

    Cover again and cook for a final 3 minutes. Then add the lemon juice and butter and mix well.

    Meanwhile, heat a griddle pan or heavy-based frying pan, add ½ teaspoon of the butter and toast the halves of one bread roll over a medium heat until golden on both sides. 

    Repeat with the remaining butter and rolls.

    Serve the toasted rolls warm with the bhaji, topped with a little finely chopped red onion and coriander and an extra knob of butter.

  • Peanut and paneer rice (moongfalli and paneer chawal)

    peanut paneer rice recipe
    Best paneer recipes: Chetna Makan’s peanut and paneer rice

    Chetna says: “A great way to use up leftover rice, but if you don’t have any, this easy recipe is worth freshly cooking rice for. The addition of paneer and chickpeas brings bite and flavour to this lovely rice dish, while the peanuts give it crunch. 

    “It’s beautiful just with some yogurt, but if you have any chutney in the refrigerator, do serve it with this. It’s also great with toor dal.”

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    • 300g uncooked basmati rice or 900g cooked
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 50g raw, blanched peanuts
    • 10 fresh curry leaves
    • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
    • 3 dried red chillies
    • 2 tomatoes, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp chilli powder
    • 1 tsp ground turmeric
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 225g paneer, cut into 2.5cm cubes
    • 400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

    Method

    If not using previously cooked rice, wash the rice in cold water and drain, then cook in a large pan of boiling water for 8–9 minutes until tender. Drain well.

    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan, add the peanuts and cook over a low heat for 2–3 minutes until they are golden and toasted. 

    Then add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chillies and let them sizzle for a few seconds.

    Add the tomatoes and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes until they have softened. 

    Then add the salt and ground spices followed by the paneer and chickpeas. Mix together well and cook for 2 minutes.

    Mix in the cooked rice and cook over a high heat, stirring, for 2–3 minutes until heated through, then serve immediately.

  • Coconut paneer tikka (nariyal paneer tikka)

    paneer curry recipe
    Best paneer recipes: Chetna Makan’s coconut paneer tikka

    Chetna says: “I love paneer in any form – as a snack or for curries, kebabs or barbecues and even in desserts. Here, the tandoori masala marinade lends a lovely flavour to the paneer, and the many vibrant ingredients in the masala make the dish mouth-wateringly delicious. 

    “Enjoy with spiced flatbreads or just stuff it in a wrap for a quick lunch, or as a sabji on the side of a dal or curry.”

    Serves 4

    Ingredients

    For the paneer:

    • 200ml natural yogurt
    • 1 tbsp tandoori masala
    • ½ tsp salt
    • 450g paneer, cut into 2.5cm cubes
    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil

    For the masala:

    • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
    • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
    • 1 tbsp urad dal
    • 10 fresh curry leaves
    • 2–4 dried red chillies
    • 3 onions, thinly sliced
    • 60g fresh coconut, grated
    • ½ tsp ground turmeric
    • ½ tsp chilli powder
    • ¼ tsp salt

    Method

    For the paneer, mix the yogurt, tandoori masala and salt together in a bowl. 

    Add the paneer cubes and gently turn in the marinade until well coated. Set aside while you start to prepare the masala.

    Heat the oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and urad dal and cook over a low heat for a minute. Then add the curry leaves and chillies and cook for a few seconds.

    Add the onions and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until lightly golden. Then stir in the coconut and cook for 5 minutes.

    Meanwhile, heat the oil for the paneer in another pan, add the marinated paneer with all the excess marinade and cook over a high heat for 5 minutes, turning halfway through, until lovely and golden all over.

    Add the cooked paneer to the onions and coconut with the turmeric, chilli powder and salt. 

    Mix well and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes, then serve.

    Adapted from Chetna’s 30-Minute Indian: Quick And Easy Everyday Meals by Chetna Makan (£20, Octopus), out now

Photography: Nassima Rothacker

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.