I still haven’t found a go-to Indian spot in LA yet so I have really been missing a lot of spice in my life! I never actually order saag paneer when I do frequent an Indian restaurant, but this recipe in the cheese issue of the Food Network Magazine looked too delicious to pass up. You may be put off at the thought of having to make your own paneer, but believe me its worth it and really doesn’t take much effort at all. I’ve used pre-packaged paneer from an Indian market and the homemade version is infinitely better. Just trust me on this one! And the spinach curry tastes so much fresher than anything I’ve had at a restaurant–I’m guessing they mostly use frozen spinach. But the fresh spinach here really brightens the flavor, texture and appearance of this dish. And of course I paired it with my coconut cauliflower rice.
Saag Paneer (Adapted from Food Network Magazine) (Difficulty-Intermediate; Serves 3-4)
For the Paneer:
- 3 c. organic whole milk
- 1/2 c. greek yogurt
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. arrow root powder
- 2 Tbsp. organic extra virgin coconut oil, for frying
For the Saag:
- 1 jalapeno pepper
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1/3 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. garam masala
- 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 12 oz. organic baby spinach
- 3/4 c. greek yogurt
- 1 c. water
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- sea salt
Make the cheese: Line a mesh sieve with a layer of damp cheesecloth; place over a large bowl. Bring the milk to a simmer in a wide nonreactive pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Remove from the heat and stir in the yogurt, lemon juice and salt. Continue to stir gently until large curds form and separate from the whey, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Gather the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to squeeze out any excess whey (run the sides of the bundle under cool water if it’s too hot to handle). Tie the ends of the cheesecloth around a wooden spoon handle and lay the spoon over the sieve, letting the bundle dangle; let drain, 10 minutes. Transfer the whey to a jar to store for later use.
Untie the bundle and twist the cheesecloth again, squeezing out any more whey. Lay the bundle on its side on a plate. Top with another plate and weigh it down with a large can. Refrigerate until a firm cake forms, about 1 hour; unwrap and refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use, or up to 2 days.
Fry the cheese: Cut the cheese into 3/4-inch cubes. I just crumbled mine as it was already delicate when unwrapping from the cheese cloth. Toss in the arrow root powder until well coated, shaking off any excess. Heat coconut oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Carefully add the cheese and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Be careful not to over cook the cheese, or the center will become too firm. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Season lightly with salt and set aside.
Make the curry: Bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil. Working in batches, cook the spinach until just tender, about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a colander to drain, running under cold water. Squeeze dry, then chop and set aside.
Pulse the garlic, jalapeno, ginger, coriander, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, cayenne and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor until finely chopped. Whisk the yogurt, 1/2 cup water and 1 teaspoon salt in a small bowl.
Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until deep golden brown, about 7 minutes. Add the ginger mixture and cook, stirring, until toasted, about 5 minutes (add a splash of water if the mixture is sticking). Reduce the heat to medium low; add 1/2 cup water and scrape up any browned bits, then add the cooked spinach and stir until heated through, about 4 minutes.
Stir in the yogurt mixture and simmer gently until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Add the fried cheese and the remaining tablespoon butter and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Season with salt. Serve over coconut cauliflower rice if preferred (half of the recipe is plenty!).