Another paneer recipe in the space of… *checks blog homepage*, 1.5 months? Who am I? Well, all I can say is, this Mama had a very eventful few months which involved two HUGE blocks of paneer. Cue lots of Paneer Jalfrezi recipe trials!
Long story short, we had a cross-country move which involved me spending 3 months at my Mother’s house, 1 month of which I was alone with the kids because she went on holiday. During this strang, and lonely time, I managed to get a few recipes down for the blog which I wouldn’t normally cook at home when my husband is around, including my Saag Paneer recipe. So much goodness, all thanks to two large, rogue blocks of paneer (which lasted for about 6 meals) hanging about in my Mother’s freezer.
So, aside from my related-but-unrelated-story of how this Paneer Jalfrezi came to existence, this recipe is a play on my Chicken Jalfrezi, with the addition of tomato puree just to richen things up a bit and compensate for the fact that paneer isn’t quite as naturally flavoured as chicken. It’s a very tasty curry that is sure to be a crowd pleaser!
What is a Jalfrezi?
Jalfrezi curries are, traditionally and on the non-traditional Indian takeout scene, curries with are cooked with cubes of capsicums. They consist of a thick, red masala made from onion and tomatoes and are fantastic served with rice or naan.
The most popular Jalfrezi curry is a Chicken Jalfrezi, however a Paneer Jalfrezi, Vegetable Jalfrezi, Prawn Jalfrezi and Lamb Jalfrezi is definitely nothing to be scoffed at. I, for one, absolutely adore a good Jalfrezi because of how capsicums play a big role here! I loveeee the aroma, the crunch, the taste, everything about capsicums!
How do you make Paneer Jalfrezi?
If you have ever made a standard Pakistani-style curry with an onion and tomato base, this curry is pretty much based off that.
We start off by preparing the paneer. We’ll need some cubed paneer, and we are going to fry them in some neutral oil. We’re going to fry them over a medium-to-high heat until they become golden and crispy. Be careful to stir very often to ensure they crisp up evenly! If you don’t like the idea of frying them, I have been informed by those who have tried this recipe that air frying works well too.
Heat a neutral oil in a pan. A pan is better suited to use for this curry as compared to a pot, since there will be a lot of hot-frying and stirring, like a stir-fry, and not much slow simmering.
Add in some chopped onions. Fry these on a medium to high heat, stirring often to ensure they brown evenly and do not burn.
Once the onions begin to turn gold, add in your spices, minced garlic and minced ginger.
Continue to cook this for a couple of minutes.
Then, add in some tomatoes and the tomato puree (this is an optional ingredient but helps intensify the colour and tomato flavour).
Fry the mix and stir vigorously, using your spoon to help break down the tomatoes. You can add water to deglaze the pan if you feel like the tomatoes are not breaking down. The more you cook this mixture down, the more flavoursome the curry will be, so this step is really important.
Continue to keep cooking this down till your mixture looks very dry, dark and glossy. It will likely be smelling of fragrant roasted spices.
Add in the fried paneer reserved earlier. Give them a few moments to sit in the mixture, then add in some water – about 3/4 of a cup. Stir to loosen the curry mixture, then cover and cook on low for 10 minutes.
Take off the lid and add in some vinegar and cubed capsicums. I use a mixture of colours because they look good! You can use any colour you’d prefer.
Then again, place the lid back on and allow the capsicums about 5 minutes to sit in the curry and soak up the flavours on a low heat. If you feel like the curry needs some more moisture and loosening up, now is the time to add some additional water till the consistency is to your liking.
When you take the lid off, your capsicums will still be crunchy – that’s exactly what we want.
Finish off by garnishing the curry with fresh coriander and serve hot, ideally with some naan or rice.
What kind of paneer is best to use in this recipe?
So here in the UK, paneer is available pretty readily from large supermarkets such as Sainsburys, Tesco, Morrisons etc.
The paneer is usually sold as either a block you have to cut into cubes yourself, or as a pre-cubed package. There are some pros and cons to each of them.
The block of paneer has the obvious downside that you’ll need to manually cube them yourself, which isn’t great if you’re in a rush. Sometimes, if you get a rather large block of paneer, cutting into the firm block can be quite laborious. Additionally, if you’re anything like me, you may begin to start obsessing and hyperventilating over making sure all the paneer pieces are the same size…. #typeApersonality. Having said all that, I prefer using a block of paneer is I find it is much firmer, does not crumble as much when frying and generally is more pleasant to handle.
The pre-cubed packages of paneer are convenient… in theory. I find whenever I try to use this kind of paneer, the cubes are sort of stuck to each other and you have to tediously pull apart the paneer cubes, very often damaging some of the cubes. Also, I have noted pre-cubed paneer crumbles A LOT when frying.
If paneer isn’t readily available to you where you live (I am aware it’s not very common in Pakistan), paneer is very easy to make yourself at home. There are so many tutorials on YouTube for it – all you need is milk, lemon/vinegar and a cheesecloth!
Do you have to fry paneer before adding it to the curry?
Yep, you definitely need to! If you don’t, it will not have a particularly interesting texture – I definitely think having a crunchy exterior makes paneer a lot more… interesting. Lets get real, it’s not really anything much on its lonesome. Also, leaving it as it is means it may crumble in the curry when it becomes hot.
Other recipes you may enjoy
- 500g paneer, cubed
- Oil, as needed
- 1.5 onions (preferably white), chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1tsp ginger, minced
- 1.5 tomatoes, chopped
- 2tbsp tomato puree
- 1tsp chilli flakes
- 2tsp coriander powder
- 1tbsp cumin seeds
- 2tsp paprika
- 0.25tsp turmeric
- salt, to taste
- 2 capsicums, cubed. I prefer using a variety of colours
- 3tbsp vinegar
- Fresh coriander, to garnish
- Heat a neutral oil in a pan and begin to fry the paneer on a medium to high heat, stirring often until the paneer is crispy and golden. Set aside
- Heat about 1/4-1/3 cup of oil (as per your preference), and then add the chopped onions. Fry these over a medium to high heat, stirring often until they begin to turn gold
- Add the spices, ginger and garlic. Stir and fry for a few minutes
- Turn the heat down a little and add the tomato puree and tomatoes. Stir, using your spoon to help break down the tomatoes (the finer you chop them, the quicker this will be). Add a bit of water if you feel there is a need. Continue to fry this mixture until it cooks down into a jammy, thick, dark and glossy paste.
- Add the paneer cubes, toss them around the mixture and allow them to sear with everything. Then add 3/4 cups of hot water, turn the heat to low and simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes.
- Take the lid off, add the cubed capsicums and vinegar and then allow the curry to simmer on low again with the lid on for 5 minutes.
- Garnish with fresh coriander and serve with hot naan or rice.