Palak Paneer

BY SHOSHANA ISAACSON--THE OUT OF TOWN COOK


First, make the Paneer Cheese

 

Ingredients:

kadai-paneer-3.jpg

1 gallon whole milk

½ cup lemon juice or vinegar

½-1 tsp salt

 

Equipment:

4-quart saucepan

Slotted spoon

Strainer or colander

Mixing bowl

Cheesecloth for straining

Dinner plates

Weights, like a 32 oz can of tomatoes

 

Directions:

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, just below the boil at around 200°F. Stir the milk occasionally, scraping the bottom of the pot to make sure the milk doesn't scald. When ready, the milk will look foamy and steamy.  Remove the milk from heat and stir in the lemon juice. The milk should begin to curdle immediately, but it's ok if it doesn't.  Cover the milk and let stand for 10 minutes to give the acid time to completely separate the curds and whey. At the end of 10 minutes, the curds should be completely separated and the liquid should look yellow and watery. Set a strainer or colander over a mixing bowl and line it with cheesecloth or other straining cloth. Carefully scoop or pour the curds into the strainer, letting the whey collect in the bowl beneath.  Gather the cheesecloth in your hand and gently squeeze to remove the excess whey.  Open the cheesecloth and sprinkle ¼ teaspoon of salt over the curds. Stir gently and taste. Add more salt if desired. Transfer the curds (still in the cheesecloth) to a large dinner plate. Shape them into a rough square and then fold the cheesecloth tightly around the curds to form a neat rectangular package. Set a second plate on top of the package and weigh it down. Press for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour.  Once pressed, your paneer is finished and ready to use. You can use it immediately or refrigerate for up to two days. Refrigerated paneer will be firmer and less likely to crumble than fresh paneer.

 

Now, you are ready to make Palak Paneer (Punjabi--North Indian)

 

Ingredients:

10 oz package frozen spinach

8-9 oz paneer cheese

3 Tbsp oil

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½ tsp cumin seeds

1 medium to large bay leaf

1 medium onion, finely chopped

½ inch piece of ginger, crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle

6-7 small to medium garlic cloves, crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle

1 or 2 green chopped chilies (jalapeño or serrano)

pinch of turmeric powder

½ tsp black pepper

1-2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves

½ tsp garam masala powder

¼ cup heavy cream

pinch of sugar

salt as required

 

Directions:

Defrost the spinach and puree in a food processor or blender.  Set aside.  In a well-seasoned cast iron or nonstick pan, heat the oil.  Cube the Paneer.  Place the cubed paneer into the hot oil and sauté on one side until golden brown, then turn and sauté on the other side.  When evenly browned, remove the paneer from the pan and drain on a paper towel or cloth.  Add the cumin seeds and bay leaf to the remaining oil in the pan and sauté till the cumin seeds crackle.  Add the finely chopped onions.  Stir well.  Sauté the onions till they turn light golden.  Add the ginger paste, garlic paste, and finely chopped green chilies.  Stir and sauté until the ginger and garlic are fragrant.  Add the spice powders, a pinch of turmeric powder, ½ tsp black pepper, and the dried crushed fenugreek leaves.  Stir well and add the spinach puree.  Season with salt, and then add a pinch of sugar.  Stir well, and on a medium flame, simmer the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or till it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.  Add the ¼ cup of heavy cream, along with ½ tsp garam masala. Stir very well—the cream should be well-mixed with the palak gravy.  Then switch off the flame.  Add the fried paneer cubes.  Mix them well with the rest of the gravy.  Cover until ready to serve.

Rochel Lazar