It might seem weird but I genuinely had no idea what tofu was until I moved to Australia. As a Northern Indian, I grew up on a steady diet of ‘Cottage Cheese’ – or Paneer – the most popular cheese in India. Easy to make and a staple in our homes, it has been a huge part of my culinary experience. There are so many ways in which we use this cheese that life without it is almost unimaginable.
Used as stuffing in flatbreads, cooked in a gravy, curries, made into desserts and also grilled in Tandoor (clay ovens) marinated with sauces are just some of the ways in which we eat Cottage Cheese. When I moved to Australia I was surprised that Cottage Cheese was not easily available in supermarkets as it was back home. While I tried making it at home a few times, I was always unhappy with the end result because it never tasted like the way my mom made. Maybe it was the milk, or the way I tried to put it together, but not having Paneer (Cottage Cheese) was giving me the blues.
While this Indian cheese can be easily found in Indian grocery stores in Australia, I find they are not the best in terms of freshness and taste, and can be pretty expensive.
While shopping for my weekly groceries at Woolies some time back, I came across tofu!I I saw that the ‘look’ and texture of tofu resembles Paneer in many ways even though, I found out later at home, they don’t taste the same I destroyed tofu the first time I attempted to cook with it.
However, the resilient cook in me did not give up, and over time, with gentle encouragement I have learned to tofu successfully it in Curries and other recipes I created from scratch. Now I feel like I have done full justice to this beautiful ‘cheese’ that is not really a cheese.
This recipe of Tofu Makhani is my take on the very popular butter chicken (Makhani means Butter) and I have used the same recipe but substituted the Chicken or Cottage cheese with Tofu for a delicious meal that everyone can enjoy!
If you have a favourite tofu recipe I would love to hear about it! Please comment below and if you make my Tofu Makhani, I would very much like to know what you think. Feel free to tag me on Instagram or Facebook.
- 450 gms firm Tofu (For a non vegan version you can use Cottage Cheese or Chicken)
- 4 large ripe tomatoes (Blanched in hot water and pureed)
- 1/2 cup unsalted cashew nuts, soaked in 1 cup water for 15 minutes.
- 1/2 cup curd (you can also use lactose-free curd or for a vegan version skip it completely)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp store-bought Tandoori masala (If you don’t have Tandoori masala, make a mixture of
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder or Paprika powder, 1 tsp Turmeric powder, 1 tsp Coriander powder)
- 6 Green Cardamoms
- 1 Cinnamon Stick
- 2 Bay Leaves
- 6 Cloves
- 1 ½ tsp Ginger Garlic and Green chili paste
- 1 large tbsp vegetable oil
- Almond slivers & pomegranate for dressing
Grilling the Tofu
Mix the Tandoori masala, Lemon juice, and curd together. If you are making a Vegan version then you can skip the curd completely.
Cut the Tofu into pieces and marinate in the Tandoori masala for at least 30 minutes. You can leave this in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Heat 2 tsp vegetable oil in a nonstick pan and shallow fry the Tofu till golden on all sides. Alternatively preheat an oven to 180 degrees C, line a tray with baking paper and place the Tofu, brush some oil on it and grill until slightly crispy on all sides. With Tofu, you need to ensure that you do not overcook it or it will taste weird.
You can do the same with Cottage Cheese or Chicken if using that.
Preparing the Sauce:
Throw away the excess water in which the cashew nuts were soaked and grind to a smooth paste with 1 tbsp fresh water.
Heat Oil in a pan and add the Cumin seeds, Cardamon, Cloves, Bay Leaves, Ginger Garlic & chili paste. Add the Tomato puree and cook on low heat till the oil starts to separate from the sides.
Add the Cashew nut paste, Salt, red chili powder and cook for 10 minutes on a low flame. You can add ½ cup of hot water if the gravy is too thick. Season the gravy if needed. At the time of Serving put the Tofu in the sauce and let it come to a rolling boil and turn off the heat.
Garnish with Almonds and Pomegranate and serve with Naan bread.
Note: If using Chicken the cooking time will increase.With Tofu or Cottage cheese always ensure the sauce is cooked before you add the Tofu or Cottage cheese. You do not want to overcook them. So I usually only add them at the last minute.
The Tofu/Cheese and Chicken can be used as a stuffing for a sandwich or wrap on their own without the sauce.
The tomato sauce can be made in advance and frozen. I sometimes also like to just add vegetables and make a Vegetable korma using the same sauce.
You can also add some Cream to the sauce while cooking it and for garnish to give it that extra touch of silkiness.