Saturday, December 3, 2011

Saag paneer and variants

I'm having a bit of a spinach binge at the moment, have been for the last couple of months. This post shows how I started making saag paneer (from a recipe), and I'll tell you the much easier way I figured out. It's so much easier that saag paneer, or some variant thereof, has become one of my quick and easy, whip up after work, every day dinners.

The recipes said steam spinach in a steamer over a pot of boiling water:

I have replaced this with wash spinach, put it in a bowl or jug and microwave for 6 minutes on high, turning it over with tongs half way through.

The recipe said blend together, or mash in a mortar and pestle, onion, ginger root, garlic, and green chili …

 … until it's a paste, before frying off in butter:

My adaptation is to grate the onion, ginger, chili and garlic directly into a buttery frypan using a very fine microplane grater.

Then both the recipe and I add powdered spices (cumin, mace, and I use a vegetable masala mix) to the frying onion etc:

The recipe says to put the squeezed, steamed spinach into the food processor …

… and whizz until it's a paste …

… before adding to the onions, spices etc in the frypan, along with some yoghurt and a little cream:

What I do is squeeze as much wetness out of the microwaved spinach as I can, then add the onions etc, the yoghurt, and a little cream (sometimes) to the spinach in the bowl I microwaved it in, then whizz the whole lot up with my stick blender. Making a collar-like arangement for the stick blender out of a paper towel stops it from decorating the kitchen with green splotches.

Then, return the spinach mix to your pan, add paneer …

… and heat through …

… before serving on rice:

This spinach sauce, although traditionally eaten with paneer, is also delicious with lightly steamed cauliflower and/or cooked carrot chunks. Actually, I think it would be delicious with just about anything, but carrots and cauliflower are low calorie and have some bulk so that's what I eat it with.


Saag Paneer

2 litres milk
half a cup yoghurt
half a cup white wine vinegar or lemon juice
some muslin and a colander

or you can buy paneer (panir) instead of making it.

a big bunch of spinach - 500 grams or so I think my bunches are
an onion
a big clove of garlic
1 green chili about 3 inches long
about an inch of ginger root
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground mace
1 heaped teaspoon vegetable masala or garam masala
a cup of yoghurt
half a cup of cream (optional)

Put milk into a pot and bring almost to the boil. Turn off heat. Add yoghurt, then half the vinegar/lemon juice and stir well with a wooden spoon. You should end up with white curds in a greenish whey. If the whey is still white, add more vinegar/lemon, until all the whiteness has curdled out.
Pour the curds into a muslin lined colander and leave them to drain. I hurry this process up by wrapping them up in the muslin and putting a heavy object on top to squeeze out the whey, but you're supposed to leave it for a couple of hours.
The hotter you cook the milk, the less likely the curds will be to melt later on when they're in the curry. I like them a bit melty, so I don't take it quite to boiling. If the milk boils, the curds will be completely melt-proof.

Wash the spinach and remove any roots and thick stalks. Put the spinach into a microwave proof bowl (I use a 2 litre pyrex measuring jug) and nuke on high for 6 minutes, turning it all over half way through with tongs to make sure it all gets cooked through.
While the spinach is in the microwave, melt a couple of teaspoons of butter (more or less) in a pan, and grate the chili and the peeled onion, garlic and ginger into the butter using a fine microplane (or similar) grater. If the chili is not crisp enough to grate, chop it finely. It's going to be blended later so you don't need to be too worried.
Stir around and cook at a high enough temperature that it sizzles but doesn't burn. Cook until it's translucent - or would be if the bits were big enough to see.
Add the spices to the pan and cook until fragrant.
Squeeze the cooked spinach against the side of the cooking bowl with tongs and tip out as much liquid as you can.
Tip the onion/spice mix into the spinach, making sure you get all of the bits of chili if it was chopped.
Add the yoghurt and cream to the spinach. Put your stick blender into the bowl. Get a paper towel and rip it half way through the centre. Wrap this "collar" around the stick of your blender, arranging it to cover the bowl and catch splatters.
Blend like crazy, holding the collar around the stick, until the spinach is a homogeneous sauce.
Pour the spinach mix back into its pan, heat it back up and add salt to taste.
Add the drained (or squashed) paneer that has been cut into approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) chunks and heat through.
Serve with rice.

Serves three or four as a main.

The paneer can be replaced with any chunky cooked vegetable, or cooked chicken.

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