After searching for at least 25 years for a Saag Paneer* recipe that really hits the spot, we found one! This recipe is incredibly easy and relatively quick; it is well worth taking the few minutes it takes to make your own paneer. I’ve made a couple of minor tweaks to the recipe.
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 12 ounces paneer, cut into 1” cubes* (see recipe and photos below)
- 1 16oz package frozen spinach
- 1 ½ Tablespoons ghee or oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped finely
- ~ 1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, minced finely
- 4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 large Serrano chili, finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ cup water
- generous pinch of salt
- ¼ cup whipping cream
- ¼ cup plain yogurt
- (or ½ cup plain yogurt, with no cream)
In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and 3 tablespoons of oil. Gently add the paneer cubes, and toss very gently. Let the cubes marinate while you prep your other ingredients.
Thaw the spinach in the microwave, in a microwave-safe dish,, 5 minutes on high. Puree the spinach in a food processor until smooth, or mince by hand.
Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add the paneer as the pan warms. In a couple of minutes, give the pan a shake and turn the paneer cubes. You want the cubes browned on two or more sides. Remove the paneer onto a plate (this also tastes good without seasoning and frying the paneer; just cube it and add it at the end of cooking the spinach).
Add the ghee/oil to the pan. When melted and hot, add the onion, garlic, and chili. SLOWLY sauté the mixture until golden and the oil is shimmering on top, about 15 minutes.
Add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. Cook, stirring often, for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the spices are well toasted. Add a few drops of water if it is drying out and burning.
Add the pureed spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add generous pinch of salt, and the ½ cup water. Stir and cook for 5 minutes with the lid off.
Turn the heat off, add the cream/yogurt a little at a time to prevent it from curdling. Once the cream/yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, gently add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover, and cook until everything is hot.
Serve with basmati rice, and/or naan.
Making the Paneer
- Cheesecloth to line a colander
- 8 cups whole milk
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Line a colander with two layers of cheesecloth (available at the grocery store)
- In a large, wid pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom. Be patient!
- Add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low. Stirring gently, you should almost immediately see the curds and whey separate.
- Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contens into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Gently rinse with cool water to get rid of the lemon flavour.
- Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey. Tie the cheesecloth to the kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for at least 5 minutes.
- Twisting the ball to compact the cheese into a brick, place it on a plate with the twisted part of the cheesecloth on the side. Set another plate on top, and weight it down with tinned food, or a very heavy pot. A ziplock bag full of water will also work. Press for at least 20 minutes. In the photo to the right, I’ve used our very heavy granite mortar on top of a plate.