And herein begins my saga about my first attempt at saag paneer…
I have to start by saying I love saag paneer. It is one of my ultimate comfort foods and if I am in a new Indian restaurant, I always have to try their saag paneer to assess if I want to revisit (much like I use creme caramel in new French restaurants and pasta carbonara in new Italian restaurants as a test).
However, I’ve never tried making it at home. But when I was back in Vancouver in the summer, my mother handed over her saag paneer recipe that she had been raving about for months. And this week, as the weather got cooler and I was feeling a little under the weather, I figured it was time to try it out.
My first attempt at paneer (soft cheese) did not work out. The milk didn’t curdle and I was ready to give up but never one to admit defeat, I found an alternative recipe and headed back out to the store for another 2 litres of whole milk and fresh lemons. Success the second time…it curdled and I followed the rest of the instructions explicitly. Drain in cheesecloth for a few hours and then squeeze out all moisture and press in a plate with weights on top. I was feeling pretty good about things at this point.
So I made the saag (spinach sauce) last night with some tweaks – I added some crushed fennel and cumin seeds to the garlic & ginger paste, I didn’t have garam masala so I threw in a a dash of tandoori paste for flavour and I substituted yogurt instead of cream (as per my mum’s suggestion). Not quite restaurant quality but I was happy with the outcome.
Then…I pulled the paneer out of the fridge, cut it up into chunks and starting saute-ing it in a little canola oil (to substitute for ghee) and it was like fireworks…there were paneer curds popping all over the place. It was like I’d dumped a bunch of corn kernels into my pan…the paneer wasn’t holding together and I was fending off the wayward bits with my spatula (with the occasional shriek) while wondering the whole time how on earth I was going to resurrect this into something edible…
I went forward and instead of lovely firm pieces of paneer, last night’s saag paneer had a slightly different texture but it all did taste lovely. And now I am determined to figure out this out.
Does anyone have a fool/fail-proof paneer recipe to share?