Paneer Kurma | Paneer Korma (Cottage Cheese in a Spicy Yogurt Gravy)

I know this sounds silly but I feel so triumphant today! I have finally made something out of paneer and it turned out great! You see, I never really tried making paneer at home as the husband wasn't too fond of it. The problem was that he had eaten the chewy sort, from his experience of eating out at places that perhaps used aged paneer which tastes absolutely rubbish (once you've begun to eat fresh paneer that is). Over the past few years I have tried convincing him to eat it but he wasn't too keen. I then decided to start preparing it at home as I felt that it was about time my kids got used to it. Paneer is a great meal option especially if you are a vegetarian and your intake of protein is limited to just lentils/dals/legumes. In my case, my son doesn't enjoy chicken anymore, fish and eggs are a no no with him and red meat is something we don't bring so often. What else can give him the nourishment he needs? Paneer and soya ofcourse. While I had prepared a few dishes with soya before, it was my first tryst with paneer. I didn't really have the time to make the paneer from scratch and plus I have had satisfactory results with the fresh paneer that we get here at the Lulu supermarket
However, I only buy fresh paneer on weekends and if I want to whip up something during the week then I have no other option but to wait for the weekend! Last week when we went to a small grocery store near our place to enquire if fresh paneer was available, the grocer promptly showed me a pack of the frozen Amul paneer and I turned it down instantly. He insisted that it was good but I wasn't convinced as I had read too many bad reviews about the frozen variety. Anyway, since beggars can't be choosers I decided to buy it anyway and find a way to work with the frozen variety. Since the list of ingredients on the package was pretty short with no preservatives listed on it I was like what the heck! Lemme give it a try. 

I decided to apply the same logic with the paneer as I had done with the special soya chunks curry recently. I soaked the frozen chunks of paneer in hot (not boiling) water for half an hour, discarded the water and soaked again in a mixture of milk and hot water again for another 30 minutes and then used it in my dish. The result was far better than I had expected as the paneer had softened by then. True that nothing can beat absolutely fresh paneer but what can one do when the fresh variety is not accessible easily? 

Coming to this recipe, I found it in my old copy of J.B Lobo's book and while I have not had great results with his veg recipes I decided to try this dish as I was anyways in an experimental mood. Surprisingly the results were great! 

My next venture will be to make paneer from scratch as I guess that will be the ultimate test for me. That has been on my to-do list for so long that I better take the plunge soon and hopefully my next paneer recipe on the blog will be with homemade paneer. 

The first time I made this dish it turned out way too salty. I realised that the recipe called for a lot of ginger garlic paste and since I had used store bought pastes I didn't realise that they had tons of salt in them. I went ahead and added more salt without tasting the dish and yeah, you are right, the dish reeked of salt and preservatives. I decided never to go back to store bought ginger garlic paste again. The second attempt was great, my son loved this dish a lot and I soon hope to try out many more paneer dishes.

The difference between a Kurma and a Korma is just the way it is spelled :). Down South we call it the Kurma or Kuruma and it is nothing but a dish made of veggies or fish or meat that has a yogurt/curd, seed or nut base. Usually the meat is marinated in meat but some recipes also have coconut in them. Anyway, what was passed down to us by the Mughals has tonnes of versions today and we all have our favourites. This one is my favourite currently as I plan to make it for some guests next week too! Do give it a try and let me know if you liked it. 

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Paneer Kurma
Prep time: 15 mins (does not include soaking time if frozen paneer is used) | Cook time: 15 mins | Serves 2-3

1. Heat ghee in a heavy, wide based kadhai/wok and fry the onions till golden. Add the slit green chillies and fry. Toss in the cardamoms, cinnamon, cloves, black cumin and bay leaf and fry for a few seconds. 
2. Reduce the heat, add the ginger and garlic paste and fry for a few seconds. Now add the paneer pieces (if using frozen paneer that has been soaked, then lightly squeeze the liquid out before adding) and the powders (make sure to turn down the heat to low/sim to avoid burning) and mix everything till the paneer pieces are coated with the masala. Add salt to taste
3. Add the whisked yogurt and mix gently. Add the water (or the milk+water solution in which the paneer was soaked) little by little until you achieve the desired consistency of the gravy and mix.
4. Simmer the mixture for about 2 minutes (on a low heat or else the yogurt may curdle), add the chopped coriander and kasuri methi and remove from heat
5. Add cream to finish (optional) and serve hot with chapathis or rice

1. While there is really no match for fresh paneer, if you are unable to find it you can very well substitute it with the frozen variety. I made this dish with Amul frozen paneer. Rinse each piece in plain water (to get rid of icicles) and soak it in salted hot water (not boiling hot but hot enough) for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes discard the water and repeat the process - soak again for another 20-30 minutes. The second time around you can soak the pieces in a solution of 1/2 cup hot milk and enough hot water to just about cover the paneer pieces. You can use this liquid instead of discarding it - do note, however that the gravy may become less spicy if you use the milk solution, so adjust the spices and other flavours accordingly. 
2. If you are using frozen paneer, while adding the salt to the dish go easy on the quantity used if you are going to use the milk+water solution which already has salt in it. Always taste before adding more.
3. If you are using store bought ginger and garlic paste it may already contain salt so go easy on the addition of salt.

Recipe adapted from: J.B Lobo's Home Encyclopedia

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