Sunday, March 21, 2010

Saag Paneer

Saag paneeer is one of my favorite Indian dishes. The spinach and cheese dish is rich, warm and comforting.

Making cheese may seem like a complicated task, but I encourage you to try making this paneer. This cheese recipe is great for beginners as it only requires two ingredients and basic kitchen skills. It is very similar to the ricotta recipe I featured earlier except paneer is pressed into a solid form.

My passion for cheese began when I started working for a local cheese company making goat and cow milk cheese. In addition to working in the kitchen, I sold cheese at local farmers markets on Saturday mornings during the summers. It has been my favorite job I have held so far and really sparked my interest in food.

Saag Paneer

adapted from Saveur Magazine

For Cheese:

8 cups milk

¼ cup fresh lemon juice

6 tbsp. ghee or vegetable oil

For Spinach:

1" piece ginger, peeled and chopped

3–4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped

4 bunches spinach, washed, trimmed and finely chopped (about 6 cups)


½ tsp. garam masala 

1-2 pinches cayenne

6 tbsp. heavy cream

For the cheese:

Line a colander with 4 layers of cheesecloth, draping it over sides, and set colander aside in sink. Put milk into a large saucepan and bring just to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon to prevent it from scorching, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low, add lemon juice, and very slowly and gently stir until large curds form, about 30 seconds. Carefully pour milk mixture into colander and gently rinse off under cold running water any foam and residual lemon juice from curds. Gather corners of cheesecloth together and gently squeeze out liquid. Tie opposite corners of cheesecloth together to make a sack, and hang it from a large kitchen spoon suspended over a deep bowl. Set aside at room temperature until excess liquid has thoroughly drained from cheese, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer sack to a large plate, untie cheesecloth, and loosely drape corners over cheese. Place a large heavy pot on top of cheese, then set aside for 30 minutes to compress cheese. Remove pot and unwrap cheese.

Cut cheese into1/2" x 1" pieces. Heat ghee in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4–6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

For the spinach:

Put ginger, garlic, chiles, and 1/4 cup water into a blender and purée to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger–garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add spinach, season to taste with salt, and cook, stirring often, until spinach wilts, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until spinich is very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and spinach is silky soft, about 15 minutes more. Serve with naan or over rice.

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