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Food Styling |Kadai Paneer or Quick Indian Cottage Cheese recipe – When hard work becomes a labour of love

14 November 2014 7 Comments

healthy kadai paneer recipes

“It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task which, more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome.” ~William James.

There is nothing worse than having to wake up every morning and getting ready to go to work you don’t like.

I joined my first corporate job after finishing my second masters’ degree, back in 1990.

But soon found myself jumping from one job to another, before settling for the one I liked. May be, I was not ready to adapt myself to my new routine and  probably was intimidated by those high-pressured corporate jobs, during the initial phase of my work life.

Hmm…I should have learned to love what I did and continued…too late.

Then came the time when I had to decide between leaving my corporate job and settling for a stay-at-home mom who will cook multiple meals a day, clean the house, do laundry, grocery shopping and repeat. The thought of sitting at home 24×7 and doing things which I never did and disliked doing at mom’s home, scared me. The result was that I could never accept the household chores whole-heartedly during my early marriage days.

But over a period of time, as I matured, I understood that there are some things in life which we cannot procrastinate. Working for a living and managing a home are two such mundane things which we may not find fun to do.

But the faster we find some meaning in doing such mundane things the better we are. 🙂

Probably, it took a dozen of food styling shoots for me to realize the fact that we should not only do just ‘what we love‘ but should  also learn to love ‘what we do‘.

There are moments during some of the photo-shoots when I feel completely drained and dull which demanded almost 15 man-hours a day.

But then, putting in the extra hours never hurt me. And the reason is pretty simple, I am passionate about what I am doing and try to look past all the difficulties and pain I incur during the same.

Initially, the thought of starting for a shoot as early as 6 am in the morning used to give me panic attacks. How will children manage their meals, who will drop them to school, my pending household works…were some of the questions which gave me sleepless nights.

But now, I am much organized and children have become more responsible and independent.

I had a 3-days shoot recently and nothing stopped at home in my absence.

I stored some ready-to-eat food for children and refrigerated some home-made chutneys, half-cooked Rotis and batter for pancakes and crepes.

I had time in hand for the first day of shoot and prepared Kadai Paneer and stored in refrigerator.

Three days of Food Styling Shoot

healthy kadai paneer recipes and food styling project

I was approached by the photographer Karthik again to do this restaurant shoot. I had already done a food styling shoot some time back and was very comfortable working with him.

But the shoot got postponed for many months due to unavailability of dates from both our sides. Finally it came to existence and we met the owner to decide upon the schedule and other detials of the shoot.

The shoot was divided into three days during which about 30 plus recipes were to be shot. Day one was kept for Grilled dishes, day two was for main course dishes and desserts and mocktails were shot on the last day.

healthy vegetarian recipes, food styling

Picture credits; Karthik and Grill Box

The styling part, lighting and the fun element added by the staff to each shot make a complete story. And every time that I see these images I recall the same and smile.

Some of the grilled dishes took hours to get that perfect grilled marks before the camera clicked.

healthy kadai paneer recipes and food styling project

Picture credits; Karthik and Grill Box

This is the same wooden tray gifted to me by friend Lata sometime back.

healthy vegetarian recipes.

Oh yes, there were many tricky shots during the shoot and writing about each will make this post way too long.

One such was to hold these prawn upright. Being a vegetarian I was slightly uncomfortable dealing with these delicate prawns. It took almost an hour of work to make these stubborn babies stand upright and get the shot approved.

healthy kadai paneer recipes and food styling project

Picture credits; Karthik and Grill Box

Well, coming to this brownie image…..I had already informed the staff a day before the shoot that they should not slice the brownie before we shoot it. But when they brought the Brownie to our make-shift studio it was all sliced into pieces.

I always pre-plan and draw my shots in a note book and had to instantly think a different theme for it.  That was when the idea of pouring shot came across and I was able to hide the roughly cut edges and pieces of Brownie to some extent.

It was a wonderful 3-days photo-shoot and we were completely pampered with some of the best food from the restaurant every now and then.

healthy vegetarian recipes

The very satisfied restaurant owner ‘M’, who was there with us on all the 3 days showered us with  compliments after the shoot was over.

He thanked me for the work and handed over the cheque, but was puzzled to see the childlike smile on my face after I got this rustic board from him after the shoot was over.

Am sure you know which one of the two would have brought a bigger smile on my face, the cheque or the rustic board… 🙂

Quick Indian Cottage Cheese Curry or Kadai Paneer

healthy kadai paneer recipes and food styling project

Kadai paneer is yet another popular Indian cottage cheese recipe. The tern Kadai refers to ‘wok’. The recipe is cooked in a Kadai or wok, hence the name Kadai paneer. 

The crunch and the freshness of the vegetables perfectly contrast the softness of cottage cheese in Kadai paneer recipe. While the dried Kashmiri chilies and red tomatoes give the lovely deep red colour to it, addition os dried coriander seeds and fenugreek leaves lends the wonderful aroma to the recipe.

The gravy is thick and can be used to make many other Indian curries such as vegetable Jalfrezi or Navaratan korma. This recipe has very little amount of oil in it unlike the restaurant style Kadai paneer where oil floats over the dish and makes it look rich and tempting.


(serve 2)

  • 200 gms fresh Cottage cheese
  • 4-5 large tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 2 capsicums
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • Salt to taste


  • 2 dry kashmiri red chilies
  • 2 tsp Kasuri Methi
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala powder

cottage cheese or paneer, kadai paneer recipe

Method; Dry roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dry red chilies in a pan and pound them ina mortar and pestle or grind them into a coarse powder.

Peel and chop onions. Dice tomatoes and slice the capsicum into thin stripes.

Heat oil in a Kadai, add chopped onion and sauté till translucent.

Add ginger-garlic paste, chopped tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat.

Let the onion-tomato mixture cool and then blend it into fine paste.

Pour this paste in the same kadai again and keep the flame to medium.

Add capsicum stripes, coarse powder-mix, salt, cottage cheese cubes in the kadai and gently stir to coat the spices on all the ingredients.

Cover the kadai and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add garam masala, Kasuri methi and take the kadai off flame.

Serve the spicy Cottage cheese or Kdai Paneer with Indian flat breads, Naan, roti or Kulchas.

cottage cheese or paneer, kadai paneer recipe

Check this Kadai vegetables with Tofu recipe.


  1. Do not overcook the vegetables to retain the crunch and bite in capsicum.
  2. The recipe has very little oil and looks dry, you can increase the quantity of oil to make it more rich and exotic.
  3. Add a few pieces of diced tomatoes (seeds removed) and some ginger juliennes to the recipe before serving.
  4. The recipe is a dry dish, add little water if you want gravy in your recipe.
  5.  Use Kashmiri dried red chilies if you can to give that perfect red hue to the recipe.
  6. Replace cottage cheese with Tofu for yet another delicious and healthy version of the recipe.
  7. Shallow fry the cottage cheese cubes for a few seconds for better taste.

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  • aparnarajeshkumar said:

    sanjeetha , i loved the styling, esp brownies, nice idea. Kadai paneer looks tempting too

  • ratna said:

    Beautiful shots Sangeeta.

  • Sowmya said:

    Lovely recipe and nice captures Sanjeeta.

  • Sandhya Hariharan said:

    Sanjeetha , it was a pleasure to read your post till the end!! The patience does earn it’s virtues and am soo happy for you 🙂
    The kadai paneer is literally jumping out of my iPad . Thank you for sharing.

  • easyfoodsmith said:

    Any paneer dish is lapped up by us Punjabis and I am no different. My bihari marital household is at times unable to stand my love for paneer 😛
    Fabulous food shots and I am especially in love with that sturdy and rugged bluish grey board.

  • Priya said:

    I tried this mouth watering kadai paneer and it turned awesome!!! Yo Sanjeeta!!

  • sanjeeta kk (author) said:

    @Priya, Glad to know that you liked what you cooked from Lite Bite. Happy cooking and have a wonderful year ahead!

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