My sister hates a lot of thing with a passion, and she is a very passionate person. So, if you try to sneak in things in her food and she gets to know about it, watch out! I rarely make the mistake, but the other day, Ma forgot and tried to feed her something she hated, and well, let’s just not think about what happened afterwards. I am still recovering from it by eating bacon jam by the spoonful.

One thing my sister used to hate, but now is in love with is paneer. The reason is simple – my father would always buy it from a popular brand which, till date, has never given me anything but tough, hard, icky paneer. Now I buy paneer from a particular individual in New Market, and he gives me soft, delectable, melt-in-your-mouth stuff which I can live on for the rest of my life.

This recipe is easy: It’s a version of Paneer Butter Masala without much work, and I made it for the first time when I was fifteen. Naturally, my mother was super-impressed by the gravy, and insisted I cook it for her again. The original recipe was probably from a Bengali newspaper, but I don’t remember it. I did make a lot of changes in the intermittent years, though, and after a point of time forgot all about it. But then, I got a package of secret ingredients from a friend, and I found a package of one of my favorite kitchen ingredients – Charmagaz or magaz, melon seeds, and I loved the idea of making this recipe again now that I had it.

Start by making a paste of 1 tablespoon charmagaz, 1 teaspoon poppy seeds and 5-6 cashew nuts together with some water. The paste should not be too runny or too dry. Then, make a paste of 1/3rd cup chopped onions. Subsequently, puree 2 tomatoes.

Heat 1 tablespoon vegetable oil and 1 tablespoon butter together and add a big pinch of shahi jeera (caraway seeds) in it along with a couple of whole dry red chillies and a stick of cinnamon. After 10 seconds, add the onion paste, stir briskly, and cook till the onion changes color, about 4-5 minutes over medium heat. Add the tomatoes, pureed, and cook till the mixture starts releasing oil, another 3-4 minutes, stirring over medium heat. To this, add 1 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder, 1 teaspoon coriander powder, 1 teaspoon garam masala powder, and 3-4 tablespoon water. Mix well and cook. Add the charmagaz-poppy seed-cashew paste. Stir well to incorporate everything.

At this point, add 2 teaspoons sugar, a good bit of salt, 1/2 cup water, and 1/3rd cup milk, along with 2 green chillies, chopped (these are optional, but I simply love the heat). Stir very briskly to mix everything, and then add 250 gm. chopped paneer to the concoction. Stir well, cover, and cook, simmered, for 5-6 minutes. Open cover, reduce to desired consistency of gravy, adjust salt and sugar, and finish with a couple of teaspoons of butter on top of the gravy right before you switch off the heat. Eat with rotis or parathas but I love it with jeera rice.

Written by Poorna Banerjee

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