Are you a pickle lover? If you have answered ‘Yes’ to that – read on…
Have you ever tasted a lick-your-plate-clean paneer dish? Well today I’m taking you on a gestational journey with Achari Paneer (pickled paneer). Pickled paneer tastes sooo yummy. Ideally any kind of mango pickle gravy is suited for this dish, well if you don’t have any sitting in your pantry, just make do with any pickle gravy you may have…I used my mom’s homemade -‘kadu manga vizhuthu’
However the most important and distinct ingredient for this dish is the spice mix- ‘Panch Phoran’ – a combination of 5 spices in equal parts -mustard seeds (traditionally it is the radhuni seeds(wild celery), but mustard seeds are a good replacement for it), cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and nigella(or kalonji) seeds. Mix them in equal parts and panch phoran is ready! All of the spices in panch phoran are seeds. It is one of the essential and important ingredients of Bengali cuisine rendering a very unique aroma and taste to Bengali dishes.
Panch Phoran spice mix- 1 tbsp -store brought or home mixed (I mixed the 5 spices at home in equal portions)
Onion- 1 large- slicely thinly
Tomato – 2 small ones – finely chopped
Ginger – 1 tbsp grated( you can reduce this if you want, I love ginger and love biting into pieces of it, so I’m kinda liberal in its usage)
Coriander- cumin powder – 1 tsp
Whole red chilly – 2 nos.
Tumeric powder – a pinch
Asafoetida – a pinch
Garam masala- 1/2 tsp – optional
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tbsp
Lemon juice – optional
Paneer – cubed – One packet of 10oz – defrosted or fresh homemade panner.
Tumeric powder- a teeny pinch
Pickle gravy – 1 tsp (Preferably any mango pickle gravy, else any pickle gravy will do. I used ‘kadu manga vizhuthu’)
Kala Namak – 1 tsp
Yogurt- about 1/4 to 1/2 cup.
Brown sugar/sugar- 1/2 tsp – optional
First combine all spices under the section ‘for marination’ with yogurt, mix well and then add paneer. Marinate the paneer for at least 2 hours.
For the main dish, first on a tawa, lightly roast the panch phoran mix till an awesome aroma comes out. Take care not to over roast or burn them. Set them aside when done and when cool, coarsely grind them in a mortar and pestle. I used a chapati belan and lightly crushed them..Ah ! what a fragrance!
For those people racing against time , you can avoid the above roasting and grinding step and directly add the spices to hot oil. Roasting and grinding the spice mix enhances the taste and gives a whole new dimension to the dish. Either ways the dish will taste awesome.
To prepare the dish, heat oil and add whole red chilies (don’t break it). Once it is turning dark, add the spice mix(with whole spice mix or the roasted and ground one). Once the seeds start popping, add a pinch of asafoetida and add the onion, ginger and saute . Add little salt and saute till onions are wilted and raw smell disappears. Add the tomato, tumeric and coriander-cumin powder and let it cook well. You can add the garam masala here if you like it. It gives a nice balance of flavour if added sparingly. I didn’t add any. Don’t add too much garam masala if using…just a bit. Once it becomes mushy and well cooked, lower heat and add the marinated yogurt mixture to this and mix well. Adjust salt and once blended well, it is done. You can let extra water evaporate if you like it in a more dry form. Serve hot garnished with coriander leaves. Squeeze some lemon juice if you love a citrusy touch to it!