Fresh Herbs

A fresh and fun recipe catalog by a girl who likes to play in the kitchen the "from scratch" way.

|THE SAAGA CONTINUES: PANEER PART DEUX| 02/15/2012

Filed under: cheese,CILANTRO,CORIANDER,GARLIC,Savory — |FreshHerbs| @ 7:45 pm

So I cubed up my paneer and fried it (2 min per side, just two sides) in a combo of sesame oil and canola oil. Why sesame? Because I had it (and it was suffering from a severe case of pantry fatigue)…I also like the way it smells, it’s great for frying, it’s a traditional oil used in South Indian cookery (I’ve always wanted to use the word ‘cookery’), and it’s actually brimming with anti-oxidants and good fats.

Paneer can be frozen after it's been fried.

This amount of paneer will fry up in two batches in a large frying pan. I drained it on a paper towel and let it cool completely. Then, having none of the ingredients for Saag Paneer on hand, I added my fried cheese {swoon} to a freezer zip lock bag, as per instructions from my friend Shubh, and froze it. Apparently, freezing fresh paneer is a bad idea, but freezing fried paneer is ok. I would suspect that, as with any frozen cheese, the consistency changes slightly after freezing so that frying would be difficult. Hence, fry then freeze.

Fast forward about a week and I was able to procure the necessary ingredients to make Saag Paneer (or Palak Paneer). Hubs loves chicken saag. Neither of us have had paneer before, so I thought this would be a good introduction for us. The key ingredient here is garam masala, a traditional Indian spice blend. The blend typically includes a variety of spices like pepper, cardamom, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cumin. I prefer natural and organic spices and I chose a garam masala made by Frontier. Different brands will have a different combination of spices so look around and choose one that has the spices you like. The recipe below makes A LOT OF SAAG. Next time around, I’ll make this in a half batch. I also made the mistake of using the entire batch of paneer- unnecessary. The recipe below reflects this adjustment. It’s also very important to salt the dish. The original recipe I based mine on called for salting after the paneer has been added, but at that point it’s hard to stir without breaking up the paneer, so salt first, then add the paneer.

 

Saag Paneer (Palak Paneer)

It's not from Little India, but it's pretty good for my first attempt at Indian cuisine.

Probably 8 servings; 1/2 recipe for smaller portion

Handy equipment: immersion blender

1 large onion
6 cloves of fresh garlic
1 oz fresh ginger
fresh cilantro, to taste
2 10oz packages of frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 cup plain greek yogurt
4oz buttermilk
pinch red chili powder (adjust for spiciness desired)
1 Tb garam masala
1 C heavy cream
salt to taste
3 oz homemade paneer (defrosted if previously frozen)

Grind the onion, garlic, cilantro, and ginger into a fine paste. I used my immersion blender for this step and it was the perfect tool.

In a medium saucepan, combine the paste, spinach, yogurt, buttermilk, chili powder, and garam masala. Simmer at medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. Use your immersion blender again to cream the mixture to desired consistency (you could also use a potato masher). Add the cream and simmer until the mixture has a creamy consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Add the cheese, simmer 5 minutes.

Serve with basmati rice (I flavor mine with a bay leaf, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick and a cardamom pod) and hot naan bread (homemade or store-bought).

The verdict? Well, it’s not Little India saag, but for my first attempt at Indian cuisine I was pretty pleased and I learned some valuable lessons for next time. The flavor seemed pretty authentic and I really liked the consistency of this dish. The yogurt makes it thick, so I may try to omit that next time for a creamier consistency. Like I said above, this made A LOT of food. Way too much for 2 people (we have a limit to the number of times we’ll consume leftovers before our eyes roll into out heads), so I’d certainly suggest halving this recipe and with the ratios above that’s very easy to do.

|Cook often and Eat Well!|

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