Sunday, January 8, 2012

Saag Paneer

When the craving for saag paneer hits, you just have to roll with it. 
Nothing else quite does it.

Sagg is a spinach or mustard green based dish, and paneer is a delicious fresh cheese that holds it's texture when fried.

It's one of those dishes that is made a little bit different wherever you go. Some places use ghee where others use oil. Heavy cream or yogurt may be used. I've even heard of using cashews to lend creaminess to the dish. The spices vary from region to region, so you never really know what you are going to get other than greens and cheese.

When done right it's delicately spiced and creamy but not floating in a puddle of oil which is common at most Indian/Pakistani restaurants.

My version of sagg paneer is probably not authentic by any means, but it's delicious and alot healthier than what you would typically get dining out. It satisfies the craving without having to eat your daily allowance of fat in one sitting.

Do yourself a favor and make some naan too...

Saag Paneer (serves 2 as a main, 4 as a side) adapted from Manjula.

2- 10 oz. packages frozen spinach, thawed
6 oz. paneer, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 medium tomatoes, cut into 1" chunks
2 T. neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, sunflower etc..)
1 1/2 T. ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
pinch of asafoetida (opt)
1 t. cumin seed
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. tumeric
1 t. garam masala
1 t. amchur (dried mango powder)
1 1/2 t. salt
4 T. whole wheat flour
1/3 c. heavy cream

Place thawed spinach in a food processor and pulse a couple times until creamy. Set aside.
Place tomatoes and ginger in the food processor and blend until combined. Set aside.
In a small bowl combine the whole wheat flour with 1/4 c. water.
Heat a small amount of oil in a large sautee pan. Add the paneer cubes and fry until lightly golden on all sides. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil.

Using the same pan that you fried the paneer in, heat 2 T. oil over medium high heat. Add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. When cumin seeds crack, add the onion, a pinch of cayenne, tumeric and coriander. Sautee for 3-4 minutes until onion softens up a bit. Add the garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in the tomato/ginger puree, reduce the heat to medium and cook until reduced by half, about 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach, cover and and cook for ten minutes.
Stir in the flour/water mixture, followed by the cream and salt. Cover and cook for an additional 4-5 minutes.
Fold in the paneer, cover and let simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Season with garam masala and amchur powder.

Serve immediately with hot naan.

Naan bread (from Manjulas kitchen)

Makes 6 naan
  • 2 cups of All Purpose flour (Plain flour or maida)
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of baking soda
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons yogurt (curd or dahi)
  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
Also needed:
  • 1 teaspoon of clear butter or ghee to butter the Naan
  • 1/4 cup All Purpose flour for rolling
  1. Dissolve active dry yeast in lukewarm water and let it sit for 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes frothy.
  2. Add sugar, salt and baking soda to the flour and mix well.
  3. Add the oil and yogurt mix, this will become crumbly dough.
  4. Add the water/yeast mixture and make into soft dough.Note: after dough rise will become little softer.
  5. Knead until the dough is smooth. Cover the dough and keep in a warm place for 3-4 hours. The dough should almost be double in volume.
  6.  Heat the oven to 500 degrees with pizza stone for at least thirty minutes so stone is hot. Using a pizza stone will help to give naan close to same kind of heat as clay tandoor.
  7. Next turn the oven to high broil.
  8. Knead the dough for about two to three minutes and divide the dough into six equal parts.
  9. Take each piece of dough, one at a time, and roll into 8-inch oval shape. Dust lightly with dry flour to help with the rolling.
  10. Before putting the Naan in oven, lightly wet your hands and take the rolled Naan, and flipp them between your palms and place onto your baking/pizza stone into the oven.
  11. You can place about 2 Naan on the baking/pizza stone at a time. The Naan will take about 2 to 3 minutes to cook, depending upon your oven. After the Naan is baked(Naan should be golden brown color on top).
  12. Take naan out of the oven and brush lightly with clear butter or ghee.
  13. wait 2 to 3 minutes before baking the next batch of naan. It gives oven the chance to get heated again to max.

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