Palak Paneer

One of my favorite Indian dishes is Palak Paneer (palak = spinach and paneer = cheese). I usually make it with store-bought paneer, but my sister got me a cheese kit for Christmas, so I thought I’d try to make the whole dish from scratch. I started using the recipe from Edible Garden, but then had my own way with it:

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The DIY Cheese Kit from Urban Cheesecraft: cheesecloth, cheese salt, citric acid.

I think the most time-efficient way is to start by making the paneer, and as it rests, to put together the palak. At the end, you just cut up the paneer into small blocks and stir gently into the palak. If you like having rice with your meal (as opposed to naan), it’s best to start the rice at the same time as the paneer, so it’s ready by dinner time.

This recipe makes enough for 6 servings, assuming there is also about 6 servings of rice.

Paneer Ingredients:

  • half a gallon of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp citric acid (alternatively you may use 4 tbsp of lemon juice, although I have not tested this)
  • 1 tsp cheese salt
    • The difference between cheese salt and regular salt is that cheese salt is flaky, non-iodized salt. Apparently the iodine in table salt inhibits the cultures of bacteria that you want present in the cheese.

Palak Ingredients:

      • 8 cups of spinach
        • I really like spinach, so I tend to go heavy on the spinach. A sensible person may use something like 4-6 cups instead.
      • 1 large onion, diced
        • I will probably use ~1.5 onions next time
      • 3-4 cloves of raw garlic, no need to mince
        • I also tend to go heavy on garlic; you could probably do half of this… but who doesn’t like garlic?
      • ~1 tsp raw ginger root, no need to dice
        • Some people use more like 1/2 tsp, but I really like ginger.
      • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (use more if you have a milder chili powder)
      • 1 tsp coriander powder
      • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
      • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
      • ~1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (also called kasoori methi at the Indian grocery)
      • 1 tsp garam masala (you can use a full tsp on this; only channa masala can get spicy)
      • salt to taste
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 cup of water
      • 1/4 tsp of asafoetida (also called hing at the Indian grocery)

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Paneer Directions:

        1. Dissolve the citric acid in the water, and set aside
        2. Heat the milk slowly over low-medium heat until it reaches 190F. Stir it frequently to prevent it from burning.

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          Only at 79F – got to keep heating!

        3. Turn to low heat, and gently stir the citric acid and water in the milk for about 1 minute.
        4. Remove from the heat and keep stirring until you get a clear separation of the curds (chunky white stuff) and whey (clear yellow juice).

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          If the separation is dubious/unclear, add a little more citric acid.

        5. Let the pot sit for about 10 minutes, undisturbed.
        6. Line a colander with cheesecloth in your sink, and pour the contents of the pot in the colander.
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        7. Gently twist the cloth to squeeze out the whey.
        8. Open up the cloth, stir in the cheese salt. Mix well.

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          To be a little fancier, you can add some herbs or spices with the cheese salt.

        9. Fold up the cheesecloth, and set a weight on top (e.g. a gallon of water). Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 min – 1 hour.
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Palak Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach by bringing a pot of water to boil and simmering the spinach in it for ~2 minutes.
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  2. In a food processor or blender, blend the spinach, garlic, and ginger together.
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  3. In a separate pot on the stove, heat the oil.
  4. Add the cumin powder and fry for about 5 seconds.
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  5. Add the onions. Saute until they are soft.
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  6. Add the coriander, tumeric, chili powder, and hing. Continue to saute.
  7. Add the spinach-garlic-ginger blend.
  8. Add the water, and bring to a boil.
  9. Add the dried fenugreek leaves and salt.
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  10. Cook covered for abut 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the spinach.
  11. Add the diced paneer, stirring gently.

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    After resting at room temperature for 30 min – 1 hr, the paneer should be ready to eat. Take it out of the cheese cloth and dice it into small cubes. The smaller the cubes, the more easily it will melt in the palak.

  12. Add the garam masala and mix well.
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  13. Serve with rice or naan.
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