When I was a child, the ideas in my head were always too lofty. I wished for grandeur because I was vehemently opposed to the idea of simplicity. I thought simple, no, that’s not for me. Simple is for those who cannot have a bigger vision, who cannot look for smarter ways and who cannot aim for larger things. Needless to say, this philosophy didn’t take me very far in life. Soon enough, I learned that my ideas would have to remain, well, just ideas. I found beauty in the simplest of things. So, before I digress further, I’d like to point out that this recipe is for a very simple curry called Paneer Lababdar.
Now back to storytelling, if you don’t mind. Before I learned to appreciate the joy of the most unassuming things, I had to learn that sometimes too much can make a mess. When things are more than enough, they go unwanted. I talk about the importance of simplicity in my cooking today because I had to learn that about my writing once. The most important lesson that I remember is that simplicity is the key to making an impact.
Your vision need not be made smaller, your ideas do not have to be any less smart. They need to be simple if they are to be heard and understood. What’s always important is that your words and your food make you connect with people. And if things aren’t simple, you’re left with something that is too confusing to be appreciated completely. You should never let go of your vision. Your work should be layered with complexity. So that people can peel the folds away one by one and be delighted that there was much more than what appeared at the surface. Just like the layers of deliciousness in this Paneer Lababdar.
What will hit you first is the aroma of the beautiful spices that are toasted off and added to the curry. The creaminess and simultaneous tanginess of the gravy will make your mouth water. But it is the crispiness of the fried cottage cheese that binds the whole dish together to make it a winner.
And thankfully, this simple curry turned out to be delicious. So, indeed I left my prejudices about paneer at the door and sat down to enjoy the yummy Paneer Lababdar I had made.
- 400g Paneer or Cottage Cheese
- 2 Red Onions
- 5-6 Tomatoes
- 1 inch of grated Ginger
- 2 teaspoons Cumin Seeds
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 4 Cardamom Pods
- 2 teaspoons Kashmiri Red Chilli Powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Coriander Powder
- 2 tablespoons Butter
- ¼ Cup of Fresh Cream
- 2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- Salt to taste
- (Optional) Cut the paneer into large or small cubes, whichever you see fit. Heat a little oil in the pan and fry the paneer until it is brown on both sides. You can skip this step if you don’t like the taste of fried paneer.
- Make a puree of the tomatoes and keep it aside. Chop the onions finely and keep aside.
- Heat the oil and butter in a pan. Add the cumin seeds, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Let it crackle.
- Add the onions to the pan and fry until translucent. Add the grated ginger and pureed tomatoes. Fry until the raw smell has disappeared, about 5-6 minutes.
- Add the Kashmiri red chilli powder, garam masala and coriander powder. Stir the mixture so it is properly combined.
- Add a cup of water and let the gravy simmer for 5 minutes. Add the paneer to the pan. Add salt and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes.
- Before you turn the heat off add the cream, mix well, and let it simmer for 2 minutes.
And that’s all it takes to make your Paneer Lababdar absolutely delicious. I hope you enjoy it!