Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
mattar masala

I could assert that this green pea curry smothered in a rich and spicy tomato herbed sauce is restaurant quality, but that would be an understatement and wouldn't be quite the truth either, as this dish is even better than any such preparation I have ever enjoyed outside of my home.

There is something to be said for the tranquility and solitude of your own kitchen, complete with your carefully chosen staples and fresh produce. Oftentimes, home cooks can deliver bliss to dining tables that matches the ability of trained chefs or perhaps even outshines it, complete with the ambiance that makes for a fine meal. Surely that must sound arrogant, although I don't mean it that way, but cooking for fewer table companions may yield finer results than most of the alternatives that are readily available and affordable.

Intimacy is priceless.

pea pod

And cooking for yourself is sometimes equally rewarding.

There may perhaps be no substitute for working in an established kitchen with cooks and learning from them and sharing, but we can also learn from a distance and impart our small culinary footprint and nourish cherished fellow travelers wherever we may tread.

fresh peas

On to today's featured entrée — or side dish if you please — from my fragrant kitchen. Freshly shelled green peas are simmered in a vibrant spicy tomato gravy with fresh herbs and a hint of nuttiness from naked cashews. This classic dish has appeared on my table on numerous occasions and as with most of my favorite Indian classics, there is always yet another way to cook and spice it up. Exploring the spice and herb stash never loses it appeal.

Do take care not to overcook the peas. You want that pop-in-your-mouth quality from those green gems, not a contribution to a bowl of mush. The tomatoes provide the gravy and the peas ought not too. Texture is the key here. Serve with basmati rice or your favorite Indian savory flat breads for one fine meal.

mattar masala

Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)
Recipe by
Cuisine: Indian
Published on September 4, 2013

Thick, spicy and fragrant curry of fresh, plump and tender garden peas simmered in a seasoned tomato sauce

Preparation: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 to 40 minutes

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Masala paste:
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive, coconut or sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 black cardamon pods, slightly crushed
  • 2 dried whole red chilies, broken into pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 to 4 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive, coconut or sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 to 4 fresh red or green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • a few handfuls of dried curry leaves, crumbled
  • 3 cups fresh green peas (or frozen)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri or other chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
  • pinch of asafetida
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste
  • fresh cilantro or parsley for garnish
  • Begin by making the masala paste. Toast the cashews in a dry skillet over medium-low heat, tossing frequently, until slightly browned and fragrant — about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a food processor.

  • In the same pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds, and stir for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Toss in the cloves, cinnamon stick, cardamon pods and dried red chilies, and continue to stir for another minute.

  • Add the onion and stir for 5 minutes or until the onion is softened and begins to brown. Next add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilies, and stir for another minute. Now add the tomatoes to the pan and simmer, stirring often, until the mixture begins to thicken — about 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro or parsley and mint, turn off the heat, and let the pan sit until the herbs wilt. Let cool for a little longer and then add to the food processor with the cashews. Pulse into a fairly smooth paste, stirring as needed. Set aside. (This paste can be made the day before and refrigerated until needed).

  • For the curry, heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. When hot, toss in the onion and stir for 5 minutes or until it begins to brown. Add the chilies, stir for 1 minute, and then add the tomatoes and curry leaves. Simmer, stirring often, for 5 to 10 minutes or until the mixture begins to thicken. Throw in the peas and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often, until the peas are just tender.

  • Now stir in the masala paste, turmeric, ground coriander, chili powder, amchoor powder if using, asafetida, garam masala and salt. Stir in 1/2 to 1 cup of water depending on your desired consistency. Cover and simmer for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding more water as needed. Turn off the heat and let stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.

  • Transfer the curry to serving bowls or plates and garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley.

Makes 6 to 8 servings
mattar masala

More vegetable curries you are sure to enjoy from Lisa's Kitchen:
Aloo Gobi
Mixed Vegetable Curry (Sabzi Bhaji)
Bengali-Style Potatoes in a Seasoned Yogurt-Pistachio Crust
Cauliflower and Pea Curry


Valerie Harrison (bellini) said...

All of your recipes are packed with flavour Lisa.

Srivalli said...

That's one delicious looking can send this Side Dish Mela, and I see that you have Sandeepa's book on table, I am giving two of her book for the Mela as well..:)

Unknown said...

This looks fabulous! I'm tempted to try it out with frozen baby peas as that's all I can get my hands on. Do you think it'd work or not worth the try?

Lisa Turner said...

Thanks Val, Srivalli and Honey. Regarding frozen peas, they should work fine, though fresh is best. I cherish these green gems when they are in season. If you do use frozen ones, just add them in where I add the fresh ones. No need to thaw them first.

Bill said...

This looks just too good. I can't wait to try it. Fresh peas are here and I'm almost pea-ing myself in anticipation! thanks!

Juhi said...

I tried this yesterday and my husband and I both loved it! Thanks for the delicious recipe Lisa! (Oh and I used frozen peas and had thawed them earlier...)

Lisa Turner said...

That's great Juhi. Glad you enjoyed it. Also good to know that frozen peas worked well. Local peas are only in season for such a short time.

janet @ the taste space said...

This was a fabulous recipe, Lisa!! Phenomenal! Thank you so much for sharing it. I shared my version today.

Unknown said...

Nice photography lisa !