My coworker Cathy always seems to have the best leftovers for lunch, so it came as no surprise when she told me she also happened to be the proud parent of her own food blog The Pigtailed Chef. Filled with recipes she’s been collecting, practicing, tweaking and perfecting over the last few years, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we started collaborating on a few food adventures. A far better cook than I am, I had been encouraging her to do a guest post on Just Add Cheese and as soon as she mentioned the words “homemade cheese” to me recently the topic-of-choice for said guest post was a no-brainer. So without further ado, allow me to introduce Cathy Lessard, here to show you how to make your own Saag Paneer without homemade Paneer cheese. And be sure to check out her blog for more easy-to-follow recipes and healthy eats.
When I lived in London for a year, I became obsessed with ordering take out Indian food because it was everywhere! At least in London, the British people we lived with ordered Indian food as frequently as Americans would order Chinese food back home. My favorite dish was always the Saag Paneer. I loved how the spinach was so creamy and the cheese cubes are almost hidden inside. Upon my return to the States, I found a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that explained how to make your own paneer cheese and I came up with the recipe for the spinach on my own from trial and error. Making the cheese is really fun, just make sure you have cheesecloth on hand. This dish is great also because it is vegetarian but meat eaters will definitely find it filling as well! Also, if you don’t think you have the skills to make the cheese, you can always purchase paneer cheese from any Indian specialty store and just make the spinach sauce using the recipe below.
For the cheese you’ll need:
- 2 quarts whole milk
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cheese cloth
Pour milk into sauce pan and let it come to a boil. Stir it while waiting as you do not want the milk to burn on the bottom. Right when the milk has come to a boil, turn the heat to low and add in lemon juice and vinegar. You should see the milk curdle and the curds will start to separate from the way.
Strain the cheese through the cheese cloth and twist cloth to secure cheese into a ball. Press out all of the liquid and discard. Put the cheese in between 2 plates with a book on to flatten. Let rest while you make the rest of the recipe.
For the spinach you’ll need:
- 3 tbsp oil1 onion (diced)
- 1 tbsp each of cinnamon, curry power, cumin and which ever Indian spices you like, I used garam masala as well1 tsp salt
- 2 bags frozen spinach (thawed or microwaved until soft)
- 1 tomato (diced) or 1 can of tomatoes (drained)
- 2 cloves garlic (diced)
- 1 tbsp diced ginger
- 2 tbsp butter or ghee
In a saucepan, heat oil and add spices. Stir in onion and salt. Cook until soft. Add garlic and ginger. Add spinach. Add tomato and cook covered for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Puree in batches in the blender. Add water to make sure it is not too clumpy. Pour the spinach back into the pan and add butter or ghee. Be careful to taste many times to make sure there is enough salt and that the spice is to your liking. You can also add in cream if you want a creamier consistency. Add in the paneer cheese and stir.
Once you are done you can serve it over rice or Naan, and enjoy!!