This week on Glasgow Sprout we have our first ever guest post!
HUGE thanks to my good friend Paul Swinton for agreeing to share his delicious Butter Paneer recipe, which I’ve had the total pleasure of making with him many a time. Before I met Paul, I wasn’t much of a curry person and hadn’t really branched out beyond the standard vegetarian fare of saag paneer and aloo gobi. Thanks to Paul’s passion for Indian food my eyes were opened and now there are few things I look forward to more than a good curry night with a few beers.
As well as being a curry aficionado, Paul is an extremely talented musician – so talented, in fact, that his band, Cloth, were shortlisted for the Scottish Album of the Year in 2020. You can give them a listen here.
When my good friend Erin (or, as I now like to call her, simply ‘Sprout’) asked me if I would be up for contributing a curry recipe to her cookery blog, I was both flattered and excited. Flattered because she deemed my cookery worthy enough for The Internet, and excited as I immediately knew the recipe I wished to share with her followers. That recipe is my Butter Paneer.
As a passionate enthusiast of Indian cuisine for as long as I can remember, and having spent many years dedicatedly studying Indian cookery books, there are a handful of dishes which I routinely revisit as I know the outcome will always be mouthwatering. My Butter Paneer is one such dish. Both richly decadent in (as the name would suggest) butter, and delicately spiced with fennel, coriander and cumin seed, this is a dish perfect for a Friday night in with a few beers and (when not illegal) friends.
You Say Tomato, I Say a Whole Tin of Tomato Purée
A key ingredient responsible for the huge depth of flavour in this dish is the tomato purée. When making tomato-based curries, very often recipes will call for fresh or tinned tomatoes, which are then cooked down into a thick sauce. By using tomato purée as a base instead, not only do you retain the fresh, rich flavour of tomato, the potency of the purée brings an incredibly deep and satisfying quality to the dish which, when combined with the cream, makes for a luxurious, velvety sauce.
For those of you aghast at the notion of using a whole tin of tomato purée in one dish, check out Claire Saffitz’s recipe for Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce (a dish which, incidentally, Glasgow Sprout introduced me to). You’ll never look at this humble cupboard-dwelling ingredient in the same way again.
A few tips and tricks
While not completely essential for a delicious result, there are a few simple ways you can bring an even greater depth of flavour to this dish. The first – fry the paneer on all sides. Often when eating a paneer curry from an Indian restaurant or takeaway, the cheese has simply been cut into blocks and added to the sauce. This leaves the paneer with a softer texture and somewhat blander taste.
By frying the cubes of paneer on all sides, not only do you get a pleasingly crispy texture (the inside will remain nice and soft), the heat really brings out the incredible nutty flavour of the cheese. When cooked this way, it’s difficult not to eat all your paneer before it’s time to add it to the butter sauce.
Nice and spicy
Another way you can elevate this dish is by toasting your spices before using them. Toasting spices is a tried and tested way of enhancing their flavour, as the heat brings out their natural oils. Just be careful not to burn them as it is nigh on impossible to rescue your curry if this happens. If this does happen, you’d be best phoning the Mother India and ordering a takeaway.
A note on Mother India
Glasgow is deservedly renowned for its plethora of fantastic Indian and Asian restaurants, however, my personal favourite has got to be the Mother India on Westminster Terrace. An institution of the city’s West End, it was here that I first sampled the butter sauce that would prove to be the inspiration behind my own experiments with the dish.
Whilst this recipe deviates in a number of ways from theirs, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the tremendous influence (and joy) I have taken from this restaurant’s food over the years and would urge anyone who has not yet had the pleasure of a meal there to do so as soon as possible.
What to serve alongside Butter Paneer?
When I make this curry, I’ll often serve it with fluffy basmati white rice, although any type of rice would make for a suitable accompaniment. The zesty tang of lemon rice, for example, would work particularly well; its sharpness providing a lovely contrast to the rich tomatoey sauce. There are also not many things in life that beat the combination a butter paneer with a garlic naan bread, or a hot, flaky paratha.
If you are looking for something a little on the lighter side to balance out the richness of the dish, I highly recommend Meera Sodha’s coriander chutney. It’s super-quick to make and packs a sweet, fresh hit which pairs excellently with this curry.
Butter paneer curry
- 400 grams paneer
- 1large onion
- 4 cloves garlic
- 6 cm piece ginger
- 3 small bird's eye chillies
- 75 grams salted butter
- 140 grams tomato puree
- 1 small bunch coriander
- 200 ml single cream
- 1 tsp salt
- 6 pods green cardamom deseeded
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground clove
- 3/4 tsp deggi mirch
- 3/4 tsp turmeric
- Cut the paneer into small square blocks roughly 2.5cm x 2.5cm. In a frying pan set to medium/high heat, fry the pieces on all sides until golden brown. Add a touch of vegetable oil if the cheese begins to stick to the pan.
- Chop the onion finely. Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onion. Fry until softened and translucent.
- Chop the garlic, ginger and chilli finely and add to the onion. Stir the mixture and let it cook for five minutes.
- In a separate pan toast the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds and cardamom seeds until fragrant. Use a high heat for this but be careful not to burn the spices. Once toasted, add to a spice grinder and blitz to a powder. Add the spice mix and clove powder to the onion, chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for a few mins, adding a splash of water if things begin to stick.
- Add the tomato purée and cook this out for 5-7 mins until the initial vibrant red colour darkens. Add water as you go to reduce the thickness of the paste and to achieve your desired consistency.
- Add the turmeric, deggi mirch and salt and cook for a further 2 mins before adding the paneer. Fold the paneer through the tomato sauce to coat it and let this cook for 3 mins, adding more water if needed.
- Stir in the cream and allow to cook over a medium heat until the sauce begins bubbling very slightly.
- Place the pan under a grill set to a medium-high heat. Cook for 5 mins or until the top of the curry darkens in colour slightly and begins bubbling around the sides.
- Carefully remove the pan from the oven using oven gloves. Serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped coriander on top and with accompaniment of choice.