Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

Once I discovered it, saag paneer quickly became one of my favorite Indian foods.  Saag refers to greens such as spinach, and paneer is a mild cheese.  I've made this version of saag paneer a few times, but this weekend was my first time making the paneer myself.  Long story short- YUM!  Both Mark and I really liked this.

Making the paneer was easier than I thought it would be.  You bring milk to a boil, and then add some lemon juice.  This causes the milk to separate into curds and whey.  Recite "little miss muffet" to yourself (optional), as you pour the curds and whey through cheesecloth to capture the curds.  At this point you drain out all the liquid, press the curds into a block, and refrigerate.  If you don't want to make your own paneer, you might be able to find it at the store.  You'll have more luck if you go to an Indian market.  But I really recommend making it yourself- it'll be fun and you'll be so proud!

Saag Paneer

This version of saag paneer uses 1 1/2 pounds of spinach, plus onions and lots of good for you spices.  It is cooked in some buttermilk (as opposed to heavy cream), which lightens it up a bit.  If you've had saag paneer in a restaurant, this doesn't taste exactly the same, but I think it is still delicious (just different!).  Full disclosure: the paneer is cubed and fried in a bit of butter, but it is totally worth it.  I served this over rice which was great for soaking up some of the sauce from the saag paneer.

Already looking forward to eating the leftovers for lunch.... :)

Saag Paneer

Saag Paneer

serves: 4


For the Paneer (makes about 1/2 pound of paneer):
  • 1/2 gallon (8 cups) 2% milk (or whole milk)
  • 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, divided

For the Saag Paneer:
  • cooked brown rice
  • 8 ounces of paneer (from above)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (plus more if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (or additional buttermilk if desired)
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • sesame seeds, for sprinkling on top (toasted if desired)


1)  Start by making the paneer (this can be done several hours before or a day in advance):  Line a colander with at least three layers of cheesecloth.  You should have enough cheesecloth so that you will be able to wrap it around the cup or so of curdles you will get.

2)  Pour all milk into a large pot over medium-high heat.  Bring to a gentle boil, whisking frequently to avoid burning the milk on the bottom.  Once boiling, add lemon juice, one tablespoon at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds or so between additions.  You should see a clearish whey separating from the curdles.   Cook another minute and then remove from heat.  Pour the curd/whey mixture through the cheesecloth/colander.  Let sit for a few minutes and cool.

3) Wrap the cheesecloth around the curdles and form into a rough block.  Put inside of a kitchen towel and place a book or a heavy item on top for about 10 minutes to get out as much liquid as possible.

4)  Unwrap the towel and cheesecloth from the paneer.  Transfer the paneer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

5)  For the Saag Paneer:  Make sure your rice is cooked or cooking.  Then, heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a medium sized skillet over medium heat.  Cut the paneer into small bite-sized pieces.  Add the paneer to the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until golden brown on most sides.  This will take about 10 minutes.  Once cooked, remove from heat and set aside.

6)  Meanwhile, heat the second tablespoon of butter in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the onions and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften (about 5 minutes).  Add the garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, ground mustard, red pepper flakes, cloves, and turmeric.  Stir to combine and cook for about two minutes.

7) Add all the spinach (this is easier to do all at once if it is finely chopped!) and stir to combine.  Turn  up the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until all the spinach is wilted.

8)  Stir in the buttermilk and yogurt and cook for a few more minutes.  Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the paneer (or serve on top).

9)  Serve spinach mixture over rice with paneer and sesame seeds sprinkled on top.

(recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks and The Curvy Carrot)

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