This is one of the simplest and fastest Indian dishes I know. Start to finish, you'll have dinner on the table in a little over half an hour. Cubes of cheese and strips of peppers are briefly blistered over high heat before meeting a tomato gravy as easy to assemble as any basic Italian tomato sauce. The secret ingredient is fenugreek, both leaves and seeds—it's bittersweet and complex, making this simple, homey dish feel rich and luxurious. Just be sure to go heavy on the lime juice to balance out the sweetness.
If you can't get paneer, other firm frying cheeses will do. Hispanic markets often carry them (though they may get a little melty on you), and many mainstream supermarkets sell halloumi, a salty grilling cheese. Or you can make your own: Scald some milk, add some lemon juice, and strain the coagulated curd in a cheese cloth for a couple hours before pressing it into a block. You'll need a gallon of milk to make a pound of cheese.
- Total time:40 minutes
- 5 tablespoons clarified butter, neutral oil, or niter kibbeh, divided
- Pinch asafoetida
- 1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seed, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seed, toasted and ground
- 1 teaspoon half-sharp Hungarian paprika
- 2 medium onions, finely diced or grated
- 2 large tomatoes, or 1 15 ounce can, diced
- 1 pound paneer or other firm frying cheese, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2 large green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
- 1 tablespoon dried (2 tablespoons fresh) fenugreek leaves, crumbled
- Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste
In 3-quart saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of ghee on medium heat. Add asafoetida, coriander, fenugreek seed, and paprika. Stir and cook for thirty seconds.
Increase heat to medium high and add onions with pinch of salt. Stir to coat and let cook until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Stir often to keep spice mix from burning. Add tomatoes, scrape browned bits off bottom of pan, and cover. Keep at a simmer for 20 minutes.
Heat large wok or cast iron skillet until lightly smoking. Add 1 tablespoon ghee, then fry paneer until browned on several sides. To reduce sticking, let paneer fry for at least 30 seconds before trying to stir. Set aside on paper towel-lined plate.
Let pan come back to high temperature. If it's looking dry, add last tablespoon of ghee, then peppers. Stir frequently and cook just until they blister and begin to tenderize. Return paneer to pan and pour gravy on top. Add fengureek leaves, stir to combine and cook for one minute. Squeeze on lime juice and add any additional salt to taste. Serve immediately.