Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mutter Paneer (cottage cheese and green peas in creamy gravy) - simple pleasures of life and a delicious side dish

How are you all doing? Hope the transition to cold weather has been easy for all. Folks back home in India were complaining about the cold, rain and morning frost when we called them this weekend. We are moving along slightly jerkily since it has been a warm day followed by cold rains :-).
Last Friday, I left work a little earlier than usual as I had to take care of stuff and got into the bus. If you are a regular commuter, you will most definitely nod your heads when I say, commuting is one of the mundane, necessary evils in life. After a while, you tend to become a zombie, routinely going over the motions of getting on & off the bus without really paying attention to the goings-on around you. Growing up in India, I was one of the privileged ones to have a bicycle and then a two wheeler during my high school and college days, never had to ride the city buses except to go to an aunt's house. Buses in Mysore at the time were few and sparse and never used to be crowded, Mysore has time, space and patience for everyone and everything :-), and hence remains forever my favoritest city in the whole wide world. My short stint as a resident Bangalorean left me gaping open mouthed at the overflowing BTS buses as people rushed back & forth from wherever it was they were going/coming.
Coming back to what I was going to tell you earlier, since I have started riding buses here, I have noticed they are sometimes crowded and at other times, easy to commute. No matter what the time or state of the bus is, everyone is so busy and hustled that they don't look around. To top it all, the hand held devices have conquered the world and lets us build our own secluded cocoons in the midst of all the hoopla of life. We don't stop anymore to look up, make eye contact, smile or say hello.

Anyways, it was a Friday afternoon bus ride back home and most of us who got in the bus belonged to the classic 'weary passengers' category, having spent a long work week and trying to get back home and have a peaceful weekend. When I got on the bus, I noticed the driver being unusually chirpy and was greeting every single person as we climbed in but most people just ignored the greetings and went past. We were all in a hurry to get in, find a seat and settle down before the seats were all taken. If you are lucky and get a seat to settle in, you will wish that the bus speeds up (safely ofcourse) and takes you home sooner.
We made our couple of stops in the downtown before hitting the long freeway stretch and as we entered the freeway, an announcement comes on the loudspeaker, "Hey, welcome aboard the non stop service to xxx, sit back, buckle up and relax for the next 4 hours as we make our way to ... " and a ..pause. People who don't even generally lift heads off their mobile devices, suddenly jolt up and look towards the front of the bus to make sure if they got on the right bus (yours truly being one of them). When, he has sufficient attention from passengers, the driver looks up, grins and says, "just kidding, this is xx on its way to the beautiful mm, we will be reaching your destination in 20 short minutes and I am your driver Kyle", a few laughs and people relax back to whatever they were doing on their devices.
A couple of minutes later as we pass the bridge, another announcement comes on, "if you would all take a moment to break the monotony of your candy crush saga games and look out the window, you will see the beautiful .. waters". Now a few more heads come up to gaze off the window and indeed enjoy the beautiful day. 

Kyle continued these one off remarks throughout the 20 mins or so of ride keeping all of us moving in and out of our secluded worlds in that bus filled with fellow passengers. It felt like we were co passengers instead of strangers stuck without a choice on a motor ride. In his own way, he was making small talk with strangers and making everyone a bit cheerful which I am sure was not part of his job description. It was a bright and sunny afternoon but more than the weather, Kyle's attitude made a lot of difference (it sure did to me). All I could do was to wish him a good evening and thank him for the ride before trotting off home humming a tune. It was a great note to start a weekend :-).
For me personally, it seemed like a BIG deal, why do some people go beyond the call of their duties and take every small opportunity to make a difference while some people despite their blessings always choose to look at only the negative side? Can more of Kyle's attitude with simple gestures of civility help us form a better society for our kids, create a safer atmosphere in schools? This is not about invasion of privacy or being 'nosey' in other's business, it is about being approachable and open if there is a need. For those of you that may not have a context of what I am alluding to, there was a school shooting recently very close to home in which 5 kids died for no reason. It is a situation that no parent or child have to go through. All I could do when I heard the news was, come home, hug DD and say thanks for my blessings. There are many issues here but we can all help create a better, safer environment for the younger generation by being there in the moment always, by soaking in the experience as it unfolds, by being aware of surroundings. Takes effort but not impossible. More of Kyle's chirpy, friendly approach than the, "life is a burden" attitude.

I am switching back to the recipe here as I do want to keep riding the cheery note. Here is very delish and 'favorite in Indian restaurants' recipe of mutter paneer of spicy cottage cheese and tender green peas in gravy. Perfect with rotis or naans but also goes well with simple rice. Green peas are summer vegetables but since we get them frozen, this dish can be made any time of the year :-), all it takes is a 'can-do' attitude.
What do you need to make Mutter paneer? 
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
1-1.5 cups paneer chunks (I used home made)
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 inch piece fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup milk
1/2 Tsp kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)
1/4 Tsp amchoor (dry mango powder) or juice of 1 lemon
1 Tsp cumin seeds
2 Tbsp oil (use butter if you would like)
1/2 Tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
3/4 Tsp dhania/coriander powder
1/8 Tsp turmeric powder

How do you make Mutter Paneer? 
  • Soak almonds in warm water for 30 minutes and grind them with 1/4 cup of milk into a very smooth paste. 
  • If you are using fresh green peas, cook them until tender.
  • Crush garlic & ginger together into a fine paste. 
  • Wash, pat dry and chop tomatoes into quarters and make a puree. 
  • Heat oil in a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven. 
  • Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle. 
  • Add the finely chopped onion and fry until it turns light pink and becomes limp. 
  • Add the crushed ginger and garlic. 
  • Fry for about 30 secs before adding the tomato puree.  
  • Add salt and let cook until the raw smell of tomatoes is gone and the sauce thickens.
  • Add the dry powders and let cook for a minute until they blend well.
  • Add the almonds paste, remaining milk, mix in and adjust consistency with water. 
  • Add the peas and let cook until the gravy starts to boil. 
  • Add the chopped paneer pieces and let it come to a boil. 
  • Crush kasoori methi between palms and drop it on top of the gravy and switch off. 
  • Serve warm with roti, phulka or naans. We had it with home made naans and cucumber raita. 
  • You can use cashew nuts in place of almonds for a restuarant taste, I generally avoid the higher calorie cashew nuts. 
  • Make sure almonds are soaked before and grind to a silky paste, this is what gives the texture to the gravy. 
  • I haven't used garam masala in this recipe, I feel the solitude of coriander flavor does more justice to this dish than the combined garam masala flavors. Feel free to use it if you prefer. 


NamsVeni Pothas said...

nice bus ride and mouth watering recipe. very tasty must try every one.

kitchen queen said...

delicious mutter paneer sabzi