Mama’s Punjabi Recipes – Paneer Di Bhurji (Crumbled Cheese & Onion Mash)


Paneer (fresh milk soft cheese) is a favorite all over India, but its nationwide use has only grown rapidly over the past dozen years. Up till the mid 90’s, paneer was still a specialty item and used sparingly in select dishes like palak paneer (spinach and cheese), a universal favorite. But ever since the Green Revolution, milk has been in abundance and large wholesalers have turned to making paneer since it has a higher profit margin.

In most restaurant menus, paneer is now the most often used ingredient with any vegetable. The flip side of this overuse of paneer is that even vegetarian dishes are now quite fattening, leading to heavier people, especially when used with cream. In addition, there are large paneer pakoras, paneer samosas, paneer paranthas and of course, the sweetmeats like ras mallayi or ras gullas.

In the Punjab, two or three paneer dishes have been popular for decades – palak paneer and paneer mutter (paneer and peas) – which most families make at home usually. The recipe here is one that is a favorite of both mothers and children as it is both easy to make and still has lots of flavor and can be eaten with roti. As it doesn’t have any curry to it, it is also fast to make.

Paneer is an unaged, acid-set, non-melting farmer cheese made by curdling hot milk with lemon juice or vinegar to separate the whey. Although it is simple to make, it is somewhat time consuming to make paneer, so since paneer is easily available in stores now, if you like, you can use the ready-made variety for this recipe.

Ingredients for making paneer:  

1 liter doodh (whole milk)

½ cup sirka (white vinegar)

Ingredients for making paneer:  

2 large pyaaz (onions) – red onions will add more color

1 tbsp tael (olive oil or vegetable oil)

1 medium tamater (tomato) – chopped

1 tsp rang wali mirch (coloring red pepper) – this gives off its red color

Spices: 2 tsp dhania (coriander powder), ½ tsp garam masala, 1 tsp lal mirch (red pepper) and salt to taste.


1.  Pour the milk into a pot and let it come to boil over medium heat. When it begins to boil, add the vinegar and the milk will begin to separate into whey.

2.  Pour the liquid through a strainer lined with a soft cloth to capture the whey. Tighten the cloth into a ball and tie it off in a knot and let the water drip from the ball.

3.      Peel and chop the onions, then place in a medium skillet with the oil over medium heat till they are slightly brown. Do not overcook as the onions will lose their taste. Add the lal mirch and salt and stir.

4. Add the tomato and red pepper to give the bhurji a nice reddish color and stir.

5.  Now add the paneer to the onions, crumbling it in your hands as you drop it in. Mix it lightly but thoroughly.

6.   Add the garam masala and dhania and stir in. Cover the skillet and turn the heat off and let it sit for five minutes. This dish tastes best with warm paranthas or roti.

mamas recipe inside3

Shakuntla Malhotra is a skilled cook of Punjabi dishes made in the old-fashioned style that she learnt as a young woman in her ancestral home in Lyallpur, India before it became part of Pakistan after the Partition in 1947. People have often admired her cooking for its simplicity and taste that comes with each mouthful. Even in her mid-eighties, she continues to cook daily and agreed to share some of her delectable Punjabi recipes.



Cloves are a spice that is used sparingly in traditional Punjabi cooking and most people are in the USA are surprised to find them – as well as long pieces of dal chini (cinnamon sticks) – in dishes like rice and chole (garbanzos or chickpeas) since most restaurants here do not use them at all. Cloves add taste and color and when making Punjabi chole, it is important to have the dark color and lingering spiciness.

The trick is to take some cloves and roast them on a tava or flat plate, then let them cool down and grind them. Keep them powder in a tight sealed jar and use over chole for the dark color as well as to aid in digestion to cut down on gas.