Fresh Cheese in Saffron Sauce
375 g/12 oz panir or 1 block ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons ghee
2 tablespoons oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
500 g/1 lb ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
3 whole cloves
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1 teaspoon sugar or to taste
1/4 teaspoon saffron strands
Cut panir in slices about 1 cm (1/2 in) thick and cut each slice in half to make serving-sized pieces. Fry in half of the ghee and oil until golden. Put on a plate and set aside. If using ricotta cheese (it must be in a block, not in a tub) it should be baked to make it firm as panir. Cut block into 3 or 4 thick slices. Place on a baking tray lined with non-stick paper and bake in a moderate oven for 30-35 minutes until slices are golden.
Heat remaining oil and ghee in a saucepan. Fry onion until golden brown. Add tomatoes, spices, salt and sugar and simmer until gravy is thick. Add the slices of cheese and allow them to simmer in the gravy. Toast saffron in a dry pan over low heat for about 1 minute. Crush with the back of a spoon and dissolve in a tablespoon of hot water. Stir in about 5 minutes before end of cooking. Serve with rice or chapatis.
Recipe excerpted from Encyclopedia of Asian Food by Charmaine Solomon (Periplus Editions, 1998)