This – red (bell) pepper and cashew curry with paneer — was one of the first things I made out of Raghavan Iyer’s 660 Curries, the cookbook I ended up turning to most this past fall. I’ve made it twice, once roughly as written and another time with a variation I’ll get to later. It’s ridiculously easy and extremely tasty and, despite the flawed presentation above, very pretty to look at.
Simla Mirch Paneer (adapted from 660 Curries)
(in the book, it’s Cashew Cheese with a Bell Pepper Sauce, which I found impossible to remember as what I was looking for)
2 cups water
1/4 cup raw cashews
2 large red bell peppers (1 lb) trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cardamom pods
2-4 green chiles (jalapeno, serrano, Thai, etc.) coarsely chopped — don’t seed
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt (a little less if you’re using table salt)
1 teaspoon cayenne/lal mirch/chile powder (not the mix) of choice
8 ounces paneer, cubed and pan-fried
1-2 waxy potatoes, cooked and cubed, or a handful of fingerlings, cooked and cut to uniform size (optional)
2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped for garnish (optional)
Paneer: if you haven’t cooked with it before, treat it like tofu – it’s cheese, but it won’t melt. It’ll be found in the refrigerated section of your local Indian market. Cut it up and brown it in a skillet and you’re good to go.
Throw the water, cashews, both peppers, and cardamom, in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender, about 20-25 minutes.
Puree the contents, either in shifts with a blender or, much better, in the pot with an immersion blender. Make sure the cardamom pods get properly destroyed or else you’ll get an unpleasant surprise.
Add the salt, chile powder, paneer, and potato (if using) and simmer for about 5 minutes. Serve with cilantro garnish, if desired.
The addition of potatoes is entirely my invention. I found the ratio of liquid to solid not what I wanted and had a few fingerlings lying around. Feel free to omit.
Okay, so here is where I confess that the first time I made this, I used extra-firm tofu instead of paneer. My Bengali friend accused me, not without cause, of disrespecting the curry, but I have to say that it was perfectly fine. So, you know, feel free – especially if you don’t have any judgmental Indians you can horrify with your culinary confessions. Or maybe especially if you do.
Cut your paneer smaller than this. It wasn’t unwieldy, but I’ll go smaller next time. That said, you can see that it’s not saganaki – it’ll stay in shape.
This is actually a picture from my first attempt, since I realized after this that I didn’t need such a large pot. Chasing the peppers down with the immersion blender is much easier in cozier confines.
This curry does have some kick, especially if you’re like me and have a tendency toward a free hand with the chile powder. Which is why in addition to rice or roti or naan or whatever your accompaniment of choice is, I also suggest this: