Paneer Rezala

A few days back I chanced upon a Chicken Rezala recipe by fellow blogger Sayantani. With the kind of photographs she takes, she can make you salivate for even a glass of bittergourd juice! Ever since I set my eyes on that dish, I knew I had to make it. 'When' was the question. With the torturous heat having subsided and mild to heavy rains lashing the city occasionally, the setting was perfect. I was waiting for a family gathering where I would cook this and earn a few accolades in the process (come on, who doesn't like to get appreciated!)
The first such occasion that came along was my pishai's (paternal aunt) birthday. Now, I've mentioned before that she is a vegetarian and I did not want to cook something that she would not be able to eat. Thus sprung the idea in my head. How about making it with paneer?
Now chicken rezala and paneer rezala are NOT the same and will never be. So I did not even expect the same outcome. In fact, I cooked it in vegetable oil (my dad can't stand the smell and taste of ghee) and after scooping out some for him, added a little bit of ghee at the end. It was delicious nevertheless. Soft pieces of paneer floating in a yoghurt-cashew-poppy seed gravy, enriched by that final dollop of ghee, this dish was a hands-down winner. But you must cook it in ghee if you want to savour the true taste of a Mughlai rezala. You can always exercise later, can't you? :P
Recipe inspired and partly adapted from Sayantani's A Homemaker's diary (check out the original recipe of Chicken Rezala here)

Paneer, cubed: 400 gm
Onion paste: 3/4 cup
Ginger: 1 1/2 tsp
Garlic: 2 tsp
Yoghurt: 1 cup
Cashews, soaked in a little water: 10
Poppy seeds, soaked in a little water: 1 1/2 tsp
Whole dry red chillies: 2
Green chillies: 2
Bay Leaf: 1
Clove: 2
Green cardamom: 3
Black cardamom: 1
Cinnamon: 2" stick
Peppercorns : 6-8
Mace: 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg powder: 2/4 tsp
Oil: 1 tbsp + for frying
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Pepper powder: 1/2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Sugar: 1/2 tsp
Kewra water: few drops

1. Heat a non-stick pan and lightly fry the paneer, turning it halfway through so that both sides are equally golden brown. Once done, drop them in a big bowl of salted water to prevent them from getting rubbery.

2. Mix the onion, ginger and garlic pastes along with the green chillies till smooth.

3. Make a smooth paste of the cashews and poppy seeds.

4. Beat the yoghurt till smooth, add half of the onion-ginger-garlic paste, salt, nutmeg powder and pepper powder.

5. Now heat the oil and 1 tbsp ghee in the same pan. Add the whole spices and stir for a minute.

6. Add the remaining onion paste and cook for a couple of minutes.

7. Now pour in the yoghurt mixture and let is simmer covered for 5 minutes or so.

8. Add the paneer and cook for another 3-4 minutes till they absorb the flavour.

9. Now add the cashew-poppy seed paste. Cook for a minute and pour a little bit of the water in which you had soaked the paneer.

10. Add sugar, adjust salt, cover and let it simmer for another 2-3 minutes.

11. Finally add the kewra water, the remaining big fat tbsp of ghee and you are done. Serve with roti, paratha or naan. I served it with pea polau and it was pretty darn awesome!
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