Sunday, August 12, 2018

RECIPE: Sag-Palak Paneer or Indian Greens and Cheese

For the past two months I've been preparing meals for our farmers once a week.  Last week I made an Indian meal, and they requested some of the recipes.  (You can see a description of the meals I've prepared HERE.)

This is one of my favorite Indian dishes.  I always thought it was made with spinach (palak) but I've just learned it can also be made with half mustard greens or arugula (sag) so use whatever greens you have on hand.  

Paneer is home-made cheese but most Indian restaurants use tofu.  Feel free to substitute tofu but it won't be as tasty. Paneer made with half-and-half will be richer than paneer made with milk.

This recipe serves 12 because it's one of my favorite ways to eat spinach!  You can easily halve it.

The original recipe is from Yamuna Devi's, The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking.

Sag-Palak Paneer
Serves 12


fresh paneer cheese (recipe below) cut into 1/2" cubes
1 c. coconut oil to fry the cheese

2-4 hot green chiles cut into pieces
1" piece of fresh ginger
1/2 c. whey or water
1 T. ground coriander
1 t. turmeric
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. paprika
1/4 c. ghee
4 pounds spinach or a combination of spinach, mustard greens and/or arugula
1 t. garam masala
2 t. salt
6 T. cream

12 c. half-and-half
9.5 T. lemon juice

Make the paneer: 

Pour half-and-half into heavy bottomed pot with plenty of room to boil (no more than 1/2 full!)  Bring to boil, stirring often to prevent scorching and sticking.  When it boils, it will bubble up to twice it's original size!!  Reduce heat to low and immediately drizzle in lemon juice.  Very gently and slowly move the spoon through the milk in one direction.  After 10-15 seconds, remove the pan from the heat and continue to gently agitate the milk until large lumps of soft curd form.

As soon as the cheese has formed, cover and set aside for 10 minutes.

Set a large colander lined with cheesecloth (I use organic cotton muslin)  over a bowl (to catch the whey) and pour in the cheese curds (I used a skimmer).  Fold the cloth around the curds and rest something heavy on them (I used a gallon jar filled with rice).  Press for 45-75 minutes  (I left mine overnight because it was more convenient for me).  

Fry the paneer: 

Unwrap the paneer and cut into 1/2" cubes.

Fill a very small (1 qt) sauce pan with 1 c. coconut oil and heat to medium.  Fry cheese cubes 10 at a time, stirring, until lightly browned.  Drain on paper towels and set aside until the greens are cooked.

Cook the greens:  

Place chilies, ginger and whey in a blender or food processor and process to a smooth puree.  Add coriander, turmeric, cumin and paprika and pulse to blend well.  Set aside.

Heat the ghee over medium heat.  Add spice mixture then pack in the greens.  Reduce heat slightly, cover and cook 8 minutes.  Using 2 forks turn the greens over so that the cooked leaves on the bottom change places with the ones on the top.  Cover and cook another 8 minutes.  

Optional: Puree the greens in a processor or blender and return them to the pan.

Add the garam masala, salt, fried paneer, and cream. Cover and cook 5 minutes.  Stir well and serve.

I have seen photographs where the cheese is sprinkled over the top of the greens and is not mixed in.  I'm going to try it that way next time.

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