Indian restaurants have long been among my favorite places to eat, but I’ve never really tried to make Indian food at home. Gastronomike and I will sometimes add a curry paste to a set of basic stir-fry ingredients, and we often try recipes that use a variety of standard Indian spices, but we haven’t really tried to replicate any of our favorite Indian dishes at home (oh yes, there was that time we tried to make the yogurt curry and something seemed to go so terribly wrong).

So anyway, Gastronomike has been out of town all week, and I decided to make Palak Paneer at home for myself.

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of making cheese at home lately, so I decided to start off by making my own paneer. I spent some time scouring various paneer recipes across the internet, and finally developed my own version that seemed to meld the best and easiest elements of the various paneer recipes I found. Here’s what I finally came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 gallon whole milk
  • half lemon

Bring milk to boil in large saucepan. As soon as milk reaches a full boil remove from heat and squeeze lemon into milk, which will immediately begin to curdle. Stir, as curds form, for 3-4 minutes. Set aside for 10 minutes while curds finish forming. After 10 minutes pour into cheesecloth-lined collander in sink. Tie up ends of cheesecloth and gently squeeze out all excess liquid out of the lump of curds. Flatten the cheese to 1/2 inch thick and place something heavy on top (like a cutting board and brick) to press it for half an hour. After half an hour drain off liquid and refrigerate (still pressing).

Here is my paneer, unwrapped and ready to use after 4-5 hours in the refrigerator. It was mostly good, though the edges were a bit crumbly. To do this again I would look for some sort of round ring to press the cheese inside so that the edges would be just as firm and easy to cut as the center.

Next, I went to Manjula’s Kitchen for the rest of the recipe. I modified her version somewhat based on what happened to be in my kitchen (most importantly, I had 4 small tomatillos in my fridge that needed to be used, so I substituted them for the tomatoes and I could definitely tell the difference in the finished product). Here’s the recipe I followed:

Ingredients:

  • 10 oz frozen spinach
  • 4 small tomatillos, pureed
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp crushed coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/4 c water

Directions:

  1. Thaw spinach and blend briefly.
  2. Mix ginger, coriander, turmeric, chili with tomatillo puree
  3. Mix flour and milk
  4. Cut paneer into 1/2 inch squares and lightly fry
  5. Put oil and cumin in hot pan. Add tomatillo puree, cook until tomatillo separates from oil. Add spinach, cook 10 minutes on medium heat. Add milk and cook 5 minutes.
  6. Fold in paneer and simmer 5 minutes.

The finished product was delicious, though it was also definitely not like the palak paneer I’ve had in restaurants. It was substantially tangier (hello tomatillos) and more chunky (as opposed to creamy/soupy) than the restaurant varieties.

All in all, I’d say it was a success and was surprisingly easy to make.

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