Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thoughtful paneer :)

Isn't that a thoughtful and lovely name for a dish :). How else could i have named a dish, that was born out of deep thinking ;). This month, dear Sunita wants us to think about saffron/kesar/zafraan/kong/keshar/kumkuma, a really pretty, fragrant and alluring spice. So, i had no choice, but to put on my thinking cap and dish out something that would celebrate this spice :). Saffron usually graces a lot of Indian sweets and rice dishes such as pulaavs and biryanis. Now, i usually make sweets only when i have friends visiting and i had already prepared some plain rice for dinner. So, i was more and more inclined to prepare a savory side dish featuring saffron, to go with my rice :). A look into my fridge had some paneer waving at me.....and we all know how well saffron goes with dairy :). Hence the thoughtful paneer :).

This thoughtful dish brings together paneer, sour curds and a blend of spices, with saffron playing all the three major spicy roles: as an aromatic spice, a pretty garnish and a gorgeous coloring agent :). This dish also brings together the different flavors: saffron and shah-jeera for the warm, fragrant and bitter-sweet note, sour curds for the tangy taste, black pepper for the hot factor and a combination of cinnamon and star anise for mellow sweetness. The spices used along with saffron here complement its flavor, rather than overpowering it. I didn't have Indian saffron with me (which i consider to be the best), so i used whats available locally (which is quite good too). The end result was a really flavorful, fragrant and delectable side-dish :).

So here is how i thought out this dish:

Thoughtful paneer:

We need:

  • 25-30 bite size paneer cubes ( i am not sure about the weight of the paneer block i had, hence this measure)
  • 1 cup sour curds
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • A pinch of asfoetida/hing
  • 1/4 tsp. black cumin/shah-jeera
  • 1 star-anise/badiyun-khatai
  • 1 small cinnamon stick/dalchini
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper/kali mirch powder
  • Salt to taste
  • A few strands of saffron
  • 1 tbsp. oil
In a deep, flat pan, heat the oil and pan-fry/toast the paneer cubes to light brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. Next, splutter hing and shah-jeera in the hot oil, followed by star-anise and cinnamon. Roast the spices till a mild aroma is released. It takes about a minute-take care not to burn the spices. Now add one cup water to the pan and bring it to boil. Add the toasted paneer cubes and cook for 5 minutes on high. Meanwhile, mix the black pepper powder and salt with curds and whisk it well. Reduce the flame and slowly add this mixture to the paneer while stirring (to avoid curdling). Simmer on low heat for another 10 mins. The gravy should thicken at this point. Switch of the flame. Dissolve 4-5 strands of saffron in 2tbsp. warm milk and mix well with the paneer. Top the dish with few more strands of saffron and cover and let rest for few minutes before serving. Goes very well with plain rice and a spicy side dish/pickles of your choice :). Tastes even better the next day.

Do not use too much saffron. Its a garam taseer (heat producing) spice. A few strands are more than enough to get the desired color and aroma. Kala jeera should also be used in suggested amounts, excess leads the dish to taste slightly bitter. I like that taste actually, and hence the excess in the picture :). But if you like it mellow, then stick to 1/4 tsp. kala-jeera.

Good show Richa and Pel, this indeed drew influence from Kashmiri cuisine :)

Here a few saffron flavored favorites from blogosphere: do check them out.

Zafraani zamodod and kheer (Anita)
Kesaria (Richa)
Kesari bhath (Ashakka)
Zafraani Pulav (Manasi)

Enjoy :).


Suganya said...

This is such a rich and delicious entry Musical. Love the specs of kala jeera :)

Raaga said...

I like such thoughts... they travel easily from your mind to my dinner table :-)


Thoughtful paneer sounds easy to make without any usual grinding part in it...!!!Thanx for the recipe..:))

Saju said...

what a lovely idea, I have been racking my brain as what to make for Sunita's event. And only sweet things come to mind, and being diabetic, sugar is not the best thing for me.
I love the recipe, thanks

Sia said...

someone seems to be fallen in love with saffron again by the description ;) lovely dish musie. all i could think of pairing saffron was with paneer :)

Swaroopa said...

wow looks um!! its healthy too. thanx 4 sharing

Happy cook said...

Hey it is a very thoughtfull dish.
It looks wonderfully delicious

Richa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richa said...

'thoughtful paneer' e' tussi changa naam select kitta! lovely color :) thodajaya kashmiri yakhni di yaad dilanda e'! will take paneer anytime ;)
glad u liked the kesaria, sweetie :)

Asha said...

What a beauty!! Never thought of Saffron and Panner combo.Looks great Musie. Glad to see your post, been long!:))
Have a great weekend, hugs.

sra said...

That's a really unusual, lovely-looking dish, will prob be my Sunday Special!

Sandeepa said...

Your explanation was very exotic, really thoughtful :)
Paneer does go well with Saffron, lovely looking dish.
But I like my Sha-Jeera in moderation.

Cinnamon said...

Ita quite an interesting name, and suits it perfectly :)
The dish looks delicious!!!

Mishmash ! said...

Your description was enough to make me drool and wish for a pot of that with some rice or roti :) dont do thsi to us :) Btw, now I am confused too...Shah jeera , is it black cumin or caraway seeds..or Sah Jeeru ?


musical said...


Thanks dear :). I love my kala jeera ;).


Thats so sweet of you. Do try it and lemme know how you liked it.

Raks Kitchen:

Yes dear, indeed-no fine chopping, no grinding. Its quick and easy :).


Thanks a lot :). I understand your predicament, dear and am sure you'll come up with something lovely which will be healthy and delightful.

musical said...


He he, i agree-i bring out saffron only rarely :). Actually saffron goes well with other dairy and rice products too. Thanks, dear :).


Thanks, dear :). Am glad you enjoyed it.

Happy Cook:

Thanks, dear. That makes me happy :).


Haanjji, cooking style Kashmiri hi adapt kita e. Somewhat like the yellow paneer dish, except that the spices had to be changed totally to accomodate saffron. Yup, Kesaria was yummy!

musical said...


Thanks (blush), you are so generous :-D. He he, i was hiding making an excuse of my long gone cough and cold ;). You too have a fantastic weekend, dear.



Thanks, dear :). Do try it, and remember, shah-jeera and saffron in moderation. Enjoy it with some hot achaar :-D.


He he, this indeed was thoughtful :-D. Kya karun, i don't use saffron much in savory stuff. And you are not alone to go easy on shah-jeera. I am the one who's into excess here, i love the nutty after taste :-D.

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). I am glad you enjoyed the name and the dish :).


Thanks ji :). You flatter me, sweetie. You know what, there' so much confusion with the names:

Caraway is called vilayati cumin and is a relative of ajwain (ammom/carum seeds). Botanical name is Carum carvi.

Shah-jeera is blck cumin, botanical name Bunium persicum. It has bitter taste.

Nigella is called kalo-jeero in Bengali.

And in Punjab we used to get this super-bitter spice called kali-jeeri!!

I will try to make a small spice index for everyone's convenience. Pictures would be helpful in guiding us which spice to pick.

Tee said...

your thoughts are on the right track! ;) I love this dish...keep thinking like this :)

Sharmi said...

Hey Surili, the gravy has got a lovely color to it. very creative to add saffron to it. never added saffron to subzis or gravies till now. maybe only to pulaos right? with all those lovely spices in there it must be real heaven:)

musical said...


That is really so sweet of you :). Looking forward to your thoughts too :).


Thanks, dear :). it was my first attempt as well to cook with saffron in a gravy :). It did turn out really fragrant and yummy. But the spices don't overpower at all. Saffron eventually got to be the main ingredient here!

Rohini's kitchen said...

Looks delicious.

remya said...

cool idea... very thoughtful indeed!!...lovely panner dish....colorful.

Pelicano said...

Serve with rice AND PICKLES! Of course...and don't use too much kala zeera... :-D This looks quite tasty Musical, but I can't help but notice that it is like a Punju'd-up Kashmiri yakhin! Where's Anita? ;-)

Mansi Desai said...

Nice gravy musi! loved the use of unique spices:) but I've never heard or seen Star-Anise...what is it?? known by any other name???

and your next dish better have peaches in it!!:)

Rina said...

Uhhhhh!! can't resist the paneer gravy.Nice entry.

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). It does taste great!


Thanks ji :). Am glad you liked this idea :).


Yup indeed :). The cooking style is Kashmiri (kinda'). But Punju-fied, he he, thats funny :). See, no onions, no ginger, not even garam masala-how is it punju-fied;). its "something-fied/modified" though:-D. I normally make ledar tsaman (yellow paneer), but that has turmeric and very different spices (saunf, shonth, big elaichi). Saffron made me play around with the spices :).

musical said...


Am glad you liked this, dear :). Star-anise is called badal-phool in Marathi. and a picture is shown here (the flower like spice).

I have to be thoughtful about peaches now :).


Thanks a lot, dear :). Paneer is irresistible indeed :-D.

TBC said...

What an interesting name. And your dish is fab:-)

Anita said...

It looked ledar chaaman inspired to me too! It has gotta be good with rice.

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). i love the dish too :).


It definitely is :). And ofcourse it should look inspired to you :-D. But i still differ with Pel, its adapted but not Punju-fied ;). The original plan was though to make ledar tasaman/ the same time i was wondering about the event, and when i saw paneer, i finally decided that i would do this!

Rachna said...

musy such awsome creations u come up with....ive only seen saffron paired with sweet things...this is def a try for me....coz i love panner anyway :D

Pelicano said...

Intriguing recipe though Musical...I have never before seen this combo of spices, so it makes me curious of course, like the cat that I am! I have tasted kala mirch/ dalchini/ kesar combo before- in Morroccan food, but the hing, kala zeera, badiyan-khatai combo makes it very Desi....ledar tsaman/chaaman? Is this a Kashmiri dish? The traditional is turmeric, saunf, saunth, badi elaichi?... it must be! OK...not yakhin, but very creative around the saffron!

musical said...


Thanks, dear :). It is based on a traditional Kashmiri dish. I too have used saffron mostly in sweets and rice.....but needed to make something savory, hence this experiment!


Yes ji, ledar chaaman is Kashmiri. and now this adaptation is Anita approved :-D. I think there will be lots of ledar chaaman in December, for RCi :).

Sig said...

That is a great entry musie... and a very fitting title too... :D... Had me thinking :)

musical said...

Hey Sig:

Thanks, dear :). So what did you think of :).

Sreelu said...

Musical, Lovely combo never imagined it, well matched title

musical said...


Glad you liked it, dear :). Enjoy :).

Hima said...

That dish is looking really good. The colour of it is so mouthwatering.

musical said...


THanks, dear :). and yup, it did taste really good :).

Ruchi said...

It is similar to pahadi palda...I just love it..