This dish originates in Punjab, northern India. However, it is well known all over India, and there are hundreds of variations of the same dish. But the same main ingredients are always there: peas and panir cheese in a spiced, minted tomato sauce. Here’s a delicious version that can be served with any meal, anytime. It especially lends itself to special feasts and dinners and can be kept warm for some time, actually improving the flavour of the dish. Serves 5 or 6.
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
5 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 or 2 hot green chilies, minced
8 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced fine
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon ground fennel
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander leaves or parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves homemade curd cheese (panir) made from (2 litres) milk, pressed until firm and cut into small cubes ghee or oil for deep-frying
2 cups cooked fresh or frozen peas
2 cups whey or water
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1½ teaspoons salt
Heat 2 tablespoons ghee or oil in a 5-litre/quart saucepan over moderate heat.
Saute the mustard seeds until they crackle. Add the cumin seeds and stir until they darken a few shades. Add the ginger and green chilies and saute momentarily. Add the chopped tomatoes, powdered spices, sugar, and half the herbs. Partially cover and, stirring occasionally, simmer for about 15 minutes or until the tomatoes break down and turn pulpy.
Heat the ghee or oil in a pan or wok over moderately high heat. When hot (185°C/365°F), deep-fry the cubes of panir cheese a batch at a time until golden brown. Remove and drain.
Add the peas and water or whey to the tomato and spice mixture. Boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and salt and mix well; then add the panir cubes and simmer for 5 more minutes. Before serving, add the remaining herbs. Serve hot.