Achari Paneer – which basically translates to “pickled cottage cheese” – is a delicious dish from North India where pieces of chewy paneer are served in a creamy masala sauce accented with pickle spice and tangy curd. Here I show you how to make this delicious Punjabi recipe.
Why this recipe works
In my many years as a cook I have tried many achari paneer recipes which were quite disappointing. This recipe is the culmination of many years of experimentation, and the results were too good to have to share!
The robust flavor of the pickling spices is pronounced without being overwhelming, and the acidity of the fresh curd complements the spices perfectly. If you love pickles, you will love the achari paneer!
▢ 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
▢ 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
▢ 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
▢ ½ teaspoon of black seed (kalonji)
▢ ¼ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
Also Read: Shahi Paneer
▢ 200 to 250 grams Paneer cut into cubes or squares (cottage cheese)
▢ 1 cup of fresh whole curd (yogurt) or 240 grams of curd
▢ 1.5 teaspoon of ginger-green pepper paste or ½ inch of ginger + 1 or 2 green peppers
▢ 2 dry red peppers
▢ 1 pinch of asafoetida (hing)
▢ 1 medium tomato, chopped, about ⅓ cup of tightly packed chopped tomatoes, 75 to 80 grams of tomatoes
▢ 10 to 12 cashews or 2 tablespoons of cashews or 2 tablespoons of cashew powder
▢ ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
▢ ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or paprika or red chili powder
▢ ½ teaspoon coriander powder (ground coriander)
▢ ¼ teaspoon ground cumin – optional
▢ 1 or 2 teaspoons of mango pickle masala (optional)
▢ 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of besan (gram flour)
▢ ½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves
▢ 3 tablespoons of light cream or low fat cream or 1 to 2 tablespoons of whipping cream
▢ 2 tablespoons of ghee or mustard oil or sunflower oil
▢ 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves
▢ 1 teaspoon of chopped mint leaves
▢ salt as needed
Roasting pickling spices
- First take the achari or the marinating spices in a saucepan – fennel seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, black cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds.
- Heat the pan and toast the spices over low heat until fragrant. Do not brown them.
- Once cooled, add the spices in a small dry mill or spice grinder and grind them into a semi-fine powder.
- Take away the achari masala powder and keep aside in a bowl.
Make the masala base
- In the same mill, add 10 to 12 cashews. Grind into a fine powder. If any oil escapes during grinding, then everything is fine.
- In a bowl, take fresh whole curd / yogurt and whisk until smooth. Use fresh curd, not sour curd.
- Heat ghee or mustard oil or sunflower oil in a pan.
- Over low heat, add 2 dry red peppers and a generous pinch of asafoetida. Sauté for a few seconds until the red peppers change color.
- Then add the ginger-green pepper paste. Stir and sauté until the raw ginger aroma disappears. Then add the crushed tomatoes and stir.
- Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, cilantro powder and cumin powder (optional).
- Again, stir very well and sauté the tomatoes until they completely soften and become plump. You should also see oil leaking out from the sides.
- Now add the cashew powder. If you are using store-bought cashew powder, add 2 tablespoons of cashew powder. Check the mean life of store-bought cashew powder before adding it.
- Over low to medium heat, stir and sauté the mixture for 2 minutes after adding the cashew powder. Store 1 teaspoon of ground achari masala and add the rest. Stir very well.
- Add 1 tablespoon of besan. We add besan so that the curd does not condense. You can put back besan (gram flour) with chickpea flour. Stir the besan very well and include it into the rest of the masala.
Make Paneer Achari gravy
- Keep the heat low and add the beaten curd.
- As soon as you add the curd, start stirring the mixture fastly. Stirring fastly, incorporate the curd into the rest of the masala.
- Add salt to taste. For 2 to 3 minutes, simmer over low heat.
- Add the paneer cubes. 200 or 250 grams of paneer cut into squares.
- Cook the paneer cubes for about 20 to 30 seconds and turn off the heat. Do not cook any longer as the paneer cubes may lose their softness and become hard.
- Then add light cream or light cream. Also to the gravy, add crushed kasuri methi. Stir gently very well.
- Turn off the heat and add the chopped coriander leaves and the chopped mint leaves. Stir gently again.
- When ready to serve, sprinkle the reserved achari masala on top and garnish with a sprig of cilantro or mint. Serve the achari paneer masala with chapati, naan, plain paratha, rumali roti or tandoori roti.