paneer

Indian Creamy Spinach with Cheese Cubes

Palak Paneer

As Shweta Galway from Umreth, Gujarat State, India, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine.

Notes: Palak paneer is a spinach dish cooked with paneer cheese and spices. She served it with a kind of flatbread called roti. This is her quick weeknight recipe. For a more involved recipe, I enjoyed this one: www.vegrecipesofindia.com/palak-paneer. 

Click here to find Indian markets in your area. In Maine, I go to Masala Mahal, 798 Main St., South Portland, ME, 207-699-5555. 

Makes: 6 servings
Cooking time: 30 minutes (it's helpful to thaw the frozen spinach the night before) 

Ingredients

  • 8-10 oz. store bought or homemade paneer
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 boxes frozen creamed spinach, thawed
  • 2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
  • 2 pounds frozen chopped spinach
  • 1 tomato (optional)
  • 1 inch ginger (optional), peeled
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • flatbread (for gluten-free meal, serve with rice)

Instructions

1. Cut paneer cheese into 1/2-inch cubes. Fry paneer pieces in 1 Tbsp oil on medium heat in a saute pan. Turn cubes every so often. You want them to turn golden brown on many sides of the cubes. Dry the fried cheese on paper towels.

2. Add another Tbsp oil to pan and fry onions and garlic until soft. Mix in creamed spinach and chopped spinach. Mix in garam masala, chili powder, and salt. If you like you can blend a tomato and the ginger in a blender and mix that into the spinach. Mix in the fried paneer pieces to the spinach and simmer for 10-20 minutes. 

3. Eat palak paneer by breaking off a piece of flatbread and scooping up a bite of spinach and cheese with it. Repeat.

Indian Paneer Cheese

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Serves: 4 (makes 12 oz.)
Cooking time: 90 minutes total, 30 minutes active
Note:  Paneer cheese is a mild fresh cheese that tastes similar to ricotta but is drier, more dense, and and pressed into a block. It is the glorifying ingredient of palak paneer. Paneer freezes well, so if you want to buy many blocks, you can have them on hand in your freezer. It's also surprisingly easy and fun to make from scratch. Check it out.

Ingredients

  • 8 cups whole milk
  • juice of 1 lemon

Equipment

  • cheese cloth
  • strainer
  • 2 large pots
  • mixing spoon
  • spatula

Instructions

1. Bring 8 cups of milk to a boil. Mix in lemon juice until curds and whey separate. The curds look like cottage cheese, and the whey looks like limeade. Put a strainer inside a pot and line strainer with 2 layers of cheese cloth, overlapping all sides of the strainer with the cheese cloth.

2. Pour the curds and whey into the middle of the cheese cloth. Gather the edges of cheese cloth together around the curds so that now you have a sac of curds. Twist the sac round with some tongs (it'll be too hot to touch) forcing liquid out of the cheese cloth. Keep twisting until the curds get squeezed tighter and tighter and no more liquid comes out. Leave the sac sitting in the strainer for fifteen minutes to let it fully drain. 

3.  Put the cheese sac between two plates and press down, flattening the cheese ball slightly. Put weights, such as canned goods, on top of the plate to encourage the cheese to flatten and become more dense as it sits. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes. When cool, store in a Ziplock bag in the fridge and use within 3 days.