Paneer butter masala

Butter masala has to be one of the best-known and beloved Indian sauces — and to have it with your own homemade paneer cheese makes it even better. You can make a no-onion, no-garlic version by skipping the garlic and onion.

Onions, cashews and tomatoes naturally lend a sweet flavour to the gravy, so use sugar only if needed to suit your taste.

Preparation 20 minutes
Cooking 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon virgin coconut oil
  • 1 large onion (250 g/9 oz), diced
  • 3 large tomatoes (450 g/1 lb), finely chopped
  • a pinch of salt, to taste
  • ½–¾ teaspoon Chaat masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 10–12 cashews
  • ½–¾ teaspoon Kashmiri red chilli powder (adjust for the best colour)
  • ¼–½ teaspoon sugar (optional, to taste)
  • 30 g (1 oz) butter
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods
  • 1 small cinnamon stick
  • 2–3 cloves
  • teaspoons Ginger garlic paste, or ¾ teaspoon fresh Ginger paste
  • 250 g (9 oz) Paneer, cut into cubes
  • ½ teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi); see tip
  • 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) thin (pouring) cream, plus extra to serve
  • crushed black pepper (optional), to garnish
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves (optional), to garnish

Method

Heat the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring now and then, for 3–5 minutes, unti translucent.

Stir in the tomatoes and salt and cook for 3 minutes, then cover and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the mixture turns soft and mushy.

Add the garam masala, ground coriander, cashews, chilli powder and sugar, if using. Cook, stirring lightly every now and then, for another 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to separate from the oil and begins to leave the side of the pan.

Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.

When the mixture has cooled, transfer it to a blender, keeping the pan handy. Add 250 ml (9 fl oz/1 cup) water to the blender and whiz until the sauce is very smooth.

Melt the butter in the same pan over medium heat, then add the bay leaf, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and cloves. Fry for 1–2 minutes, or until fragrant. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook, stirring, until the raw smell disappears.

Pour the blended purée back into the pan. Add more Kashmiri chilli powder if the mixture is not red enough, and if it is too thick, stir in 60–125 ml (2–4 fl oz/¼–½ cup) water. Cook, stirring for 4 minutes, or until the gravy thickens and reaches the consistency of a thick sauce.

Add the paneer and fenugreek, stir well and cook for about 3 minutes.

To enrich the sauce and impart that classic texture, stir in the cream just before serving.

Transfer the paneer butter masala to a serving bowl. Garnish with a little more cream, and crushed black pepper or coriander leaves, and serve.