Mattar paneer, or mutter paneer, is an Indian vegetarian dish that combines paneer, which is a type of soft cheese, and green peas in a rich, thick curry. It is primarily a North Indian dish that has its origins in Punjab but can be found all over India. Mattar stands for peas, while paneer stands for the cheese. It is similar to aloo mattar, which uses potatoes, or aloo, instead of paneer and also palak paneer, a dish that contains spinach. Typically, mattar paneer is served for lunch or dinner with different types of Indian bread.
While it is normally eaten with breads such as naan, parathas, kulchas, and rotis, some do prefer to eat mattar paneer with mildly flavored rice preparations, such as ghee rice, jeera rice, pulao, and steamed basmati rice. Malai mattar paneer contains cream, or malai, that is normally added at the end of the cooking process. Another variation called matter paneer butter masala uses butter in the recipe instead of oil. The dish is quite easy to make from scratch, and many prefer to make their own fresh paneer for the dish.
The paneer, or cottage cheese, is prepared beforehand by boiling milk and stirring in a certain amount of lemon juice. This causes the milk to curdle and the cheese and the whey to separate. The cheese is then placed in a muslin cloth, squeezed to remove all the liquids, and allowed to drain. The crumbly cheese obtained this way is wrapped in foil, and a weight is placed on it. It is left overnight in the refrigerator to harden slightly; fresh paneer made this way can be used for cooking the next day and is cut into little, bite-sized cubes.
Some prefer to buy ready-made paneer cubes from stores instead. Either way, the cubes are first sauteed in oil until they turn a golden brown color and then placed on a paper towel to get rid of the excess oil. The other major ingredients in mattar paneer include onions, tomatoes, ginger garlic paste, and peas. Some of the spices that give the dish its delicious flavor are cumin powder, turmeric, garam masala, and coriander powder. Ground-up onions form the base of the gravy to which tomato paste and all the other ingredients are added.
The dish is allowed to simmer until the gravy attains a thick consistency and is garnished with coriander leaves. Matter paneer is typically eaten hot and tastes best when served immediately. Some cooks may add other spices, such as paprika or cayenne pepper, for more color and flavor. Other recipes also use yogurt to thicken the gravy. An extremely easy dish to make at home, especially with ready-made paneer cubes, this is a favorite choice for many homemakers when cooking a meal on the spur of the moment.