Recipe: Saag Paneer

A few weeks ago, I was cheese making with Food Sorcery and Louise from Cutting the Curd. It’s fair to say, I fell in love with the processes involved, because since then, I’ve made my own butter, and baked with the resulting buttermilk, and, I have finally invested in some new bits and pieces for the kitchen, so I can actually get on with making cheese at home. 

I figured, I’d start simply and make paneer. Oddly, it’s not something I’ve made before, which is a shame, because it’s ridiculously easy. But it felt like the perfect opportunity to test the cheese cloths out, and it also meant I could cook enough saag paneer for lunch for most of this week. Bonus. 

Spinach curries as a whole are my favourites. There’s something about the green spice of chilli, softness of tumeric, and then the bitter green that I adore. I’ve got a chicken version scribbled somewhere which I may write up at some stage (also perfect for lunches).

So today, you get a 2 for one. A how to for the paneer, and then a how to for the curry that I shall be scoffing for lunch today. If you’ve not tried it, paneer is a cousin to halloumi – once you cook it, it too gets the same kind of charred squeakiness, but without the intense saltiness. If you use whole milk to make it, it’s much softer and crumblier, use semi and it’s much firmer – ideal if you want to skewer it like you would halloumi. For the curry, I went for whole milk – when you reheat it, the crumbly bits melt into the spinach, and it also means that the cheese itself crumbles in the pan when you fry it. More crumbly bits means more charred bits. Hmmm. Charred bits. 

So let’s start at the beginning. Paneer. 

 

Paneer

Ingredients

  • 1 2.2 litre carton of milk (semi skimmed, or whole, up to you)
  • 2-3 tbsp Lemon juice, vinegar, or natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 tsp Salt

Equipment you will need:

  • 1 Large pan
  • 1 Large bowl
  • 1 Colander (or if you're super fancy, cheese mould)
  • 1 Muslin/Cheesecloth/very clean tea towel.

Instructions

  1. Pour the milk into a suitable sized pan and pop it on a medium heat on the hob. 

  2. Heat the milk, stirring occasionally to avoid it scorching, until it comes to a rolling boil. 

  3. Turn the heat down low, and add the lemon juice/vinegar/yoghurt. Stir, until it starts to curdle, then turn off the heat and leave the pan for 10-15 minutes. If it doesn't curdle, add a little more acid. 

  4. Whilst the milk is curdling/cooling, set your cheesecloth inside the colander, over the bowl. The latter will collect the whey if you wish to use it. 

  5. Strain the cheese mixture into the cheese cloth. Squeeze out any excess whey, and wrap tightly in the cloth. This is the perfect opportunity to salt the cheese - sprinkle it over the curds as they strain.

  6. Leave the cheese in the cloth, inside the colander, and place a pate and a weight on top to drain out the excess whey for around an hour, until it has cooled. 

  7. Once cooled, use it immediately, or pop it into a tub in the fridge/freezer. 

You’ll notice from the recipe that there’s a fair bit of leftover whey. It’s actually quite delicious to drink (where do you think we get whey protein from?) but can also be used in cooking and baking. Instead of adding water to your next loaf or pizza dough, try adding a little leftover whey. Oh, and it can be frozen too, so you can stash it away for when you do want to use it. I know I’m going to try using it in my next sourdough loaf, just to see what happens. I’ll keep you posted! 

And now, your second recipe of this post, the curry itself. It’s a really straightforward dish, and ideal for anyone who is new to curry dishes. It’s also veggie friendly, so perfect for showing off a little, with little effort. You an even make the curry base while you’re waiting for the cheese to drain, and simply warm it through when you’re ready to add it. Oh and if you need to bulk it out a little, just add some more spinach. 

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do! 

Saag Paneer

Servings 4

Ingredients

  • 450 grams Paneer, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp Ghee, coconut oil, or vegetable oil
  • 1 Large onion, finely chopped
  • 450 grams Fresh or frozen spinach
  • 2 Cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 Piece of ginger (about 2cm) grated
  • 1 tsp Garam masala
  • 1 tsp Tumeric
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1 Green chilli, deseeded, finely chopped

Instructions

  1. Prepare the spinach first. If using frozen, let it defrost and squeeze out as much moisture as possible. If using fresh, blanch it in boiling water, drain, then again, squeeze out as much water as possible. Chop. 

  2. Heat the oil in a non stick pan. Fry the paneer in batches, until it goes brown and crusty, before removing it from the pan and letting it drain on kitchen paper. 

  3. Using the same pan, add the garlic, ginger, chilli and spices. Cook until the ginger and garlic are just beginning to brown, and the mustard seeds start to pop. 

  4. Add the onion, and cook until translucent.

  5. Add the spinach. Season, and stir until everything becomes combined. 

  6. Finally, add the paneer back to the pan, and cook on a gentle heat until it reheats. 

  7. And serve - this will serve 3-4 as a main, or up to 6 as a side dish. 

 

 

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