This Saag Panner Recipe has been one long in the works. You know that rare occasion when you find someone who shares your passions and interests?!! Well a few years ago I met Becky Olsen who blogs at Project Domestication. We instantly connected over travels, our faith, and of course… food! At blog events we found ourselves often talking about our latest creations weather it be Israeli food for her or something of Spanish or Greek origins for me. Had she tried labneh yet, or had I tried making homemade cheese? At one gathering, we whispered indiscreetly in the back, about making this, Saag Panner.
It only took us a year or so, maybe even more, to finally gather together and make this dish happen. It was after I asked my teacher from Park City Culinary Institute to show me his way of cooking Saag Panner, that we finally had the motivation and expertise to make this at home. And guess what… it’s way easier than you’d ever think!
This coveted Indian dish can be made in less than an hour (cheese and all), making it easy enough for a weeknight meal or perfect paired with tiki masala or another dish for a bigger Indian food feast.
As we followed the few easy steps, we were finally able to get our long awaited time of connection in. Before this shared afternoon together, Becky and I had only had brief tastes of each others lives as we met at gatherings from time. This meal and that afternoon, we connected over more than just food. And after having such success with this dish, I think we’ll be making more food together soon. Here are a few of her latest creations:
A traditional, and yet easy, recipe for Saag Paneer.
- 4 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or lemon juice
- cheese cloth
- 20 ounces spinach
- 1/2 teaspoon of each seed:cumin, mustard, coriander
- 1 cardamom pod crushed
- 2 tablespoons oil (canola or grape seed oil are best)
- 1/2 onion, finely diced
- salt and pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cumin, red pepper flakes, garam masala, nutmeg and turmeric
- 1 can full fat coconut milk
Line a large colander with cheesecloth and set it in your sink or over a bowl.
In a medium pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom (a nonstick pot works really well for this purpose). This will take a little while so be patient!
Add the lemon juice or vinegar and turn the heat down to low. Stirring gently, you should almost immediately see the curds* (white milk solids) and whey (the liquid) separate. Don't fret, this is what you want!
Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contents into the cheesecloth-lined colander. Gently rinse with cool water to get rid of the lemon flavor.
Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey. Tie the cheesecloth to a wooden spoon and allow the cheese to drain for about 5 minutes.
Twisting the ball to compact the cheese into a block, place it on a plate with the twisted part of the cheesecloth on the side (this will ensure your block of cheese is nice and smooth!) and set another plate on top. Weigh the second plate down with something heavy (sriracha or a can of food). Move to the refrigerator and let it sit about 20 minutes.
Unwrap your beautiful disc of homemade cheese! You did it!
Toast paneer cheese in 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Toast for 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve hot over Saag.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil.
Meanwhile, in a hot pan, toast the seeds, extracting the oils from their pods. Keep seeds in pan after toasted for 3-4 minutes or until fragrant.
Add oil. Once oil is hot add onions and season with salt and pepper. Then, add garlic and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add ground spices and mix to a paste with the other ingredients.
Drop spinach into boiling water. Once wilted (this happens quick so be ready with a slotted spoon), transfer with a slotted spoon to the oil and spice blend. Sauté for just a few minutes then add in coconut milk. Transfer to a blender or a bowl with an immersion blender and puree until smooth.
Serve with toasted paneer cheese.
*Cook's Note: If the milk doesn't separate, juice some more lemons and add another tablespoon or two. Boost the heat again and the milk should separate. Stir in a motion that gathers the curds together rather than breaks them up.
Here are photos to guide you in making the Paneer Cheese. Please feel free to comment below if you have any questions!
After bringing the milk to a boil and adding in the lemon juice or vinegar, it will start to curdle and separate, looking like this.
After you pull the curdled milk off the heat, pour it through cheese cloth that is set over a strainer over a bowl. Let this set and drain.
When the cheese has mostly drained, gather the edges of the cheese cloth and let the cheese settle at the bottom in a ball. Squeeze out any excess moisture. Tie two of the ends of the cloth together around a spoon and let the cheese further drain.
Once it is mostly drained, place the cheese in between two plates with something heavy on top. Set this in the fridge to set and cool for at least 20 minutes.
Your cheese should look like this once its done.
Then slice into even squares and toast in hot oil. Season with salt and serve over the spinach saag.