Pea, Potato, and Panir Curry

I have notes on this from 2002 and 2003 saying that Michael likes this. He still does. It’s from Neelam Batra’s The Indian Vegetarian.

I have made it in my pressure cooker before, and I find that gives the right just-falling-apart texture to the potatoes. If you don’t have one, you can still make it – you’ll just have chunks of potatoes rather than nubbins. No biggie.

Two notes to append to the wonderfulness of this recipe: 1. I think flatbread is a better foil for this than rice is. 2. This is very good as written, but if you want to gild the lily, dose it with a few tablespoonfuls of heavy cream. If you don’t have heavy cream around (and I understand if you don’t, believe me), you can toss in a couple tablespoonfuls of plain full-fat cream cheese, believe it or not, and it will do the same thing. Cream cheese keeps a lot longer than heavy cream, too.

2 T. clarified butter or vegetable oil (I use a mix of oil and regular butter)
1 t. cumin seeds
1 T ground coriander
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. dried fenugreek leaves (I know these are hard to find unless you’re near a well-stocked Indian grocery – it’s not the end of the world if you leave them out.)
1/2 t. paprika
1/2 t. turmeric
1 t. salt, or to taste
2 c. finely chopped fresh tomatoes (canned will work, but it’ll throw the acid balance off – fresh plums are better, even if they’re only so-so in terms of ripeness)
1 serrano pepper, seeds & membrane included, minced
1 c. loosely packed finely chopped cilantro, soft stems included
1 T. peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 c. chopped potatoes (I use a waxy type, not bakers)
2 1/2 c. frozen peas (or 1 1/2 lbs. in pods)
1 – 1 1/2 c. water
8 oz. panir cheese, cubed
1/2 t. garam masala
3 T. chopped cilantro

Heat the butter/oil in a large nonstick saucepan over moderately high heat and cook the cumin seeds, stirring, until they sizzle, about 10 seconds. Stir in the coriander, ground cumin, fenugreek, paprika, turmeric, and salt, then add the tomatoes, serrano, cilantro, and ginger and cook until most of the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, 7-10 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, until all the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates, 3-4 minutes. Add the peas and water. Cover the pot and cook, first over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, then over medium-low until the potatoes are tender, 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Mash a few potatoes to thicken the gravy. Add the panir and simmer for 4-5 minutes, stirring carefully. Sprinkle in the garam masala and cilantro, and serve.

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