Recipe by KateL
Entered for ZWT. From Madhur Jaffrey's "World Vegetarian." Known in India as "Saag Paneer." This comes from Punjab, eaten with whole wheat rotis (flatbreads) through the winter when spinach is plentiful. Sometimes spinach is cooked by itself, and sometimes with other greens such as mustard greens and fenugreek greens. A few green chiles are always thrown in, partly for their heat and partly for their vitamins. The mixture is cooked until buttery soft and lightly mashed, almost churned, with a special wooden masher not dissimilar to the Mexican implement used to froth up milk. A medley of tomatoes, ginger, and onions is then sauteed separately and added to the greens. Paneer is thrown in only for the last 5 minutes of cooking. Fresh or dried fenugreek greens are optional; if using fresh, take the leaves off the stalks and wash them well. Note: few restaurants use fresh greens or fresh paneer. Many use a jalapeno for the hot green chile.
- 2 quarts rich whole milk
- 3 -4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 3⁄4 lbs fresh spinach, trimmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
- 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves (see recipe description) (optional) or 2 -3 handfuls of fresh fenugreek leaves (see recipe description) (optional)
- 1 fresh hot green chili pepper, coarsely chopped
- 1 teaspoon cornmeal
- 3 tablespoons peanut oil or 3 tablespoons canola oil
- 1⁄4 cup onion, finely chopped
- 1 1⁄2 by 1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated to a pulp
- 1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 1⁄4 teaspoons salt
- 1 1⁄2-2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds (Put a few tablespoons of cumin seeds in a small cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat, stirred )
- 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Directions See How It's Made
- Put the milk in a large, heavy pan and set over medium-high heat.
- Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink and line it with a clean dish towl or 3-4 layers of cheesecloth at least 24 inches square.
- When the milk begins to boil, turn the heat down to low. Quickly add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar and stir. The mixture will curdle at this point, the thin, greenish whey completely separating from the white fluffy curds. If this does NOT happen, add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar and repeat the process.
- Empty the mixture into the lined colander. Most of the whey will drain out.
- To make small patty: allow most of the whey to drain out of the colander. As soon as the curds have drained, gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to squeeze out as much water as possible. You will now have a round bundle and a well-twisted section of cloth just above it, which you can tie firmly with string or just leave tightly twisted.
- Lay the cloth and its contents on a flat board set in the sink. Flatten the bundle into a pastry shape, making sure that the twisted section or knot holds the cheese in place. This section can be folded over to one side. Put another board on top of the patty. Now put a 5-pound weight on the patty and press for 3-4 minutes. The cheese is now ready. It may be unwrapped, covered with a clean, damp cloth, and kept in the refrigerator for 24 hour but is best if used immediately.
- Cut Paneer into 1 x 3/4-inch cubes. Set aside until last step in recipe.
- Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a large pan. Put in the washed spinach, dried or fresh fenugreek leaves, if using, and green chile. Cover the pan and cook gently for 25 minutes.
- Now mash the spinach with a wooden masher or potato masher until you have a coarse puree. (You can blend the spinach in a blender but that texture is too fine for Jaffrey's taste.) Blend in the cornmeal and cook gently for another 5 minutes, stirring now and then.
- In a separate frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and stir and fry until it begins to brown.
- Add the ginger and stir once or twice, then add the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the texture thickens and the color of the tomatoes intensifies.
- Stir the tomato mixture into the spinach mixture, then add the salt, roasted cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon and stir to mix.
- Cook gently for 5 minutes.
- Finally, add the cubed paneer, stir gently, and cook, covered, on low heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot.