In contrast to most saag paneer/palak paneer recipes I see these days, I don't believe in using frozen spinach or baby spinach for this dish. It needs to cook for a while with some pronounced spices, and for that you need a sturdy spinach. Besides, I like the greens to retain some of their structure, not to be a green cream. I like the 'wild spinach' that I can get at my Turkish greengrocer. I doubt that it is really wild—it's just robust.
Paneer is easy to make, but I sometimes wonder if it's worth the effort and time it takes to make—it is so bland. In future, I think I might try it with those mini mozzarella balls or some pressed tofu.
Saag PaneerServes: 4
Ingredients1 liter whole milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 pound spinach
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves, garlic, peeled and minced
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 chili, minced
1 teaspoon cumin, ground
1 teaspoon coriander, ground
1 teaspoon fenugreek, ground
1 tomato, chopped
2-4 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
MethodTo make the paneer:
- At least eight hours before you want to use it, bring the milk to a boil. When it begins to bubble, add the lemon juice, take it off the heat and let it sit for 15 minutes. The cheese curds will separate from the whey.
- Line a sieve with three layers of cheesecloth and position it over a bowl. Pour the curds and whey through. (You can use the whey in soups or for other cooking purposes.)
- Gather the curds in the cheese cloth and twist to get as much moisture out as possible.
- Flatten the curds in their cloth into a disk, place on a plate, and put a heavy weight on it. I use a cast iron frying pan. Let it stand in a cool place for 4 to 8 hours. Theoretically the fridge is the best place, but as long as it isn't a really hot day, I think you can get away with it at room temperature.
- When all the moisture is pressed out, use the paneeror refrigerate it.
- Cut the paneer in cubes.
- In a non-stick pan, heat the oil and fry the paneer, gently turning it to brown on all sides.
- Sprinkle with garam masala and paprika and set aside.
- Wash the spinach. In a large pot, cook it with just the water clinging to it until it wilts.
- Drain, squeeze out the excess water, and chop coarsely.
- Puré the onions, garlic, ginger, and pepper in a food processor with about half a cup of water, or reserved whey.
- In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat, then add the puréed onion mixture.
- Cook, stirring constantly for 10 to 15minutes until the vegetables begin to brown, adding a little more oil if necessary.
- Add a bit of oil, then add the cumin, coriander, and fenugreek, letting the spices fry for a minute or so.
- Add the spinach, tomato, and cream. Stir, cover, and turn the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 minutes.
- Add the paneeer, cover and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle with garam masala and serve over rice.