I’m always testing recipes. They’re usually my own recipes that I’ve transcribed from jotting down notes collected from years of observing older Indian women cooking, in India and here. From my mom to mother-in-law to other people’s mothers and great-aunts and even many hired cooks (maharaja is the term in India, but we call it personal chef here), I’ve learned a lot. A LOT. But when I try something new that I didn’t grow up cooking, it needs work. A LOT of work. Paneer korma is one of those dishes. It’s of Punjabi origin, and I surprisingly have no family living in any area of Punjab (and I probably have 100 or more relatives spread out all over India). So why do I want to write this recipe? For these reasons:
- It’s a popular Indian restaurant dish in the Western Hemisphere, as are many Punjabi dishes.
- It’s part of a menu for a class I’m teaching coming up soon.
- It’s family friendly: not too spicy and suitable for my vegetarian daughter without lacking in protein (paneer cheese=protein substitute)
- It has been a crowd pleaser, in the past.
Notice I say in the past. I have served it many times, but the most recent time the dish was not so winsome. My guests’ comments resonated the same way I felt about the dish. It was “teekh”, which translates into “so so” or “good but not great”. I’m always looking for “great” as is any cook. We cooks aim to please and to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
So I was disappointed in my dish, but not myself. You might be surprised; you would think a cook and/or cooking instructor ought to feel embarrassed perhaps? Nah, not me. It’s become part of my job. To test recipes repeatedly and I just test them on my unsuspecting guests!
So I made my dish again a week later. It’s actually now DELISH!, but I plan on making it a few more times. It takes a minimum of 3-4 times over a long period of time for me to get a basic recipe. Then I tweak and test and taste and tweak. That’s an additional 3-4 more times, sometimes more. Sometimes, it’s met perfection. Sometimes, it’s almost there. And sometimes, I have to re-test with substitutions because I’d rather not tell a student to sub an ingredient in a dish without trying it myself first. The process is labor-intensive, exacting, time-consuming, and totally gratifying. I feel like an artist at the end!
Though I haven’t considered this to be a recipe blog, I occasionally have put one in. I implore you to write me in the comments if the recipe did not work for you and it will be my job to fix it! When this one is ready and I’m pretty happy with it, I promise to post it!