Although the title of this post says that it's paneer with an apricot stuffing, it doesn't really end there. The stuffing I mean. Because the apricots are again stuffed with nuts and raisins. Thinking of this recipe reminds me of lines from a children's riddle...
There was a little green house/ And in the little green house/ Was a brown house/And in the little brown house was a ...
This dish is from a Jiggs Kalra (one of India's best known chefs) recipe that I came across in the late 90s and loved it so much that I still find it such a joy to make this dish. This is made with my own adaptations as I did not "save"/keep the newspaper cutting for posterity. But I remember it was such a treat to go through his columns in the weekend supplement of The Telegraph.
1. For the koftas:
200 grams paneer/Indian cottage cheese, crumbled
100 grams cheese, grated
2 tablespoons cornflour
A quarter teaspoon of pepper powder
Salt to taste
2. The apricots:
Wash and soak dried apricots ( I used 12 of them) in hot water for at least an hour.Drain and remove the seeds by cutting on one side. Reserve the water.
3.The nuts and raisins:
Chop up ten almonds into tiny bits. Wash a handful of raisins and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Chop them up. Mix the chopped ingredients and stuff the apricots with the mixture.
In a large bowl, mix the first set of ingredients. Take a lump of the mixture and roll into a ball using your palms. Make a little depression in the centre and place the stuffed apricot in it. Roll between your palms again till any sign of the apricot is concealed with the paneer/cheese mix. Continue till all the apricots and the paneer/cheese mix is used up.
Heat a pan and pour five tablespoons of oil in it. Fry the prepared koftas, a few at a time till golden brown on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.
4. The Gravy
2 tablespoons of oil
2 medium size onions, grated
1 teaspoon of ginger and garlic paste (fresh)
1 teaspoon of red chilli powder
1 teaspoon of coriander powder
3 tablespoons of tomato puree
A dash of turmeric powder
2 tablespoons of cashew nut paste (soak the nuts and grind)
A quarter teaspoon of garam masala
About 100 ml of hot water
Heat a pan and pour the oil in it. When it comes to near-smoking point, add the Indian bay leaves and then the onions. Fry the onions till they change colour then add the dry powdered spices. Stir. After a few minutes, add the tomato puree. When the curry comes together, add the cashew nut paste. Add the hot water and also the water left from soaking the apricots. Keep cooking for another five minutes or so. Now gently drop the fried koftas into the gravy. Stir gently and add the garam masala. Remove from the flame, take out and discard the bay leaves and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
Alternately you can pour the hot gravy on top of the koftas and let them soak up the liquid for twenty minutes or so before serving. This dish goes very well with Indian flatbreads and Vegetable pulao.
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