29 November 2011

Saag Paneer for Lisa's Kitchen

Saag Paneer
When you have been blogging for many years there are those kind-hearted bloggers who have shared the journey right along side you. One blogger I would like to call my friend is Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen who hails from my old stomping grounds in Southern Ontario. I have participated in many No Croutons Required events which are spearheaded by Lisa and our friend Jacqueline of Tinned Tomatoes. Even if time does not allow me to participate in as many blogging events as I would like, her event A Celebration of India was not to be missed. It is a culmination of her love for East Indian cooking which she shares on a regular basis through her blog. She has attempted to demistify East Indian cooking for me and there have been many successes throughout this journey.

Forget the mystery of the Taj Mahal, the residence of the Dali Lama or the sacred waters of the Ganges River the true mystery for me has aways been producing outstanding East Indian cooking and the intricate layering of spices. Most Indian dishes are easily constructed but complexly layered. The assortment of mouthwatering recipes for Indian food is simply awe inspiring and for a "newbie" like me rather daunting. It is often said that `variety is the spice of life, and never has a proverb held so true than it does to describe Indian cuisine.

Nowadays I can at least spell asafetida and make paneer but finding most of the exotic ingredients used in Indian cooking is a fruitless safari here in K-town. A while back Lisa of Lisa's Kitchen came to the rescue and sent me a care package of some of her favourite spices and combinations to get me started. This gave  me the confidence to skim, saute and sneeze my way through layers of spices, vegetables and meats and demystify East Indian cooking for life. I have looked  forward to the day I no longer need to stop for East Indian takeout at one of our local hangouts and can move the cooking and recipe development into my own kitchen. I want to thank Lisa for getting me started , motivating me and developing a life long passion for another cuisine.

One of my favourite ingredients when making East Indian food is paneer.  This fresh pressed cottage cheese is not only a special favorite with Northern Indians with its delicate milky flavour but is used all over India to make delicious dishes ranging from curries to desserts. Until now I had to make my own paneer cheese if I wanted to recreate any of my favourite dishes. Imagine how thrilled I was to find ready made paneer at one of our local grocers!! You can use other fresh cheeses if paneer is unavailable such as Mexican or Spanish style fresh cheese which are especially good.

Saag paneer literally means “spinach cheese.” This classic northern Indian dish has become so popular that it's sold here in the frozen food section, but, as always, homemade is best.  Since Lisa has a vegetarian blog it seemed only fitting to recreate this dish in my own kitchen. This recipe is the perfect way to ease yourself in to East Indian cooking and open up the gateway, or in my case the flood gates. With a good cookbook, a visit to Lisa's Kitchen and some guidance you can demystify East Indian cooking as well.

**Saag Paneer**
By The Canadian Living Test Kitchen

2 bunches spinach, trimmed
2 tablespoons (25 mL) vegetable oil
3/4 tsp  (4 mL) cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon (15 mL) butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons (10 mL) finely grated ginger root, or minced
1/4 cup (50 mL) finely chopped fresh coriander or parsley
2 teaspoons (10 mL) ground Indian hot pepper, or 1/2 teaspoon/2 ml cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL) salt
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL)  turmeric
1  pinch cinnamon
3 plum tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped
1/3 cup (75 mL) plain Balkan-style yogurt
2 teaspoon (10 mL) lemon juice
3/8 teaspoon (1 mL) garam masala
8oz (227 g) paneer, cubed

In large pot of boiling salted water, blanch spinach just until wilted; drain, chill under cold water and drain again. In food processor, purée spinach with 1/4 cup (50 mL) water; set aside.

In large deep skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat; cook cumin seeds until slightly darkened, about 10 seconds. Add onion and butter; cook until onion is golden, about 8 minutes.

Reduce heat to medium; stir in garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute. Stir in fresh coriander, hot pepper, salt, ground coriander, turmeric and cinnamon; cook, stirring, until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring, until tomatoes break down, about 3 minutes.

Stir in puréed spinach; cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adding 1 to 2 tbsp (15 to 25 mL) water if mixture is no longer saucy, until steaming hot, about 3 minutes.

Stir in yogurt, lemon juice and garam masala; bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low; add paneer. Cover and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author and or owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison. Best Blogger Tips

16 comments:

  1. look absolutely yummy Vall:)

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  2. This is a must try recipe; now I am curious and have to go visit your blogging pals.
    What a great world we live in...always learning from each other in the kitchen.
    Rita

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  3. One of my favorite dish...Yummy

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  4. You sweetheart. Thank you for your kind words and your dish sounds just perfect.

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  5. I'm sad you have difficulty finding ingredients. Saag paneer is one of my favorites.

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  6. Lisa's blog is one of my favorites to go to for wonderfully flavored vegetarian inspiration...I adore saag paneer. It's one of my favorite indian dishes. This looks spot-on wonderful!

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  7. Your post reminded me that one day I set about to make paneer to make this dish, but then I made channa instead, so saag paneer is still on my to-do list. The photo tells me your rendition was lovely.

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  8. What a delicious dish! I haven't gone Indian yet... but want to try some day. Have a great day!!!

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  9. That list of ingredients is really something, Val! I've never had saag paneer...you can be sure I'll look for it in my market now. Glad you can find paneer in your market now.

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  10. I usually love all Canadian Living recipes that I have been making. This probably would be a success in my home.

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  11. What a lovely dish, Val. It is a great recipe for novice and pro alike. I ope you have a great day. Blessings...Mary

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  12. Indian food used to intimidate me so much, Val. :-) But over the last few years I've been trying one dish after another, getting braver and braver. I've made paneer before, but your dish has some additions I've never tried. I hope to soon! :-)

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  13. I saw paneer in our local Costco for the first time a few days ago and was wondering how it is used. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe, Val. I love to find a new ingredient.

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  14. Such an interesting post - I honestly haven't done much Indian cooking but I thoroughly enjoy it - and now you have me very intrigued which can be quite dangerous! Thanks for this wonderful sounding recipe!

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  15. I LOVE Indian flavors. I have never had paneer though - mainly because I can't get Grumpy to eat Indian food and he hates it when I cook it. He doesnt like the smell of all the spices! He's such a stinker, but I guess you know that. ;)

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Welcome to my home. Thank you so much for choosing to stay a while and for sharing our lives through food. I appreciate all your comments, suggestions, daily encouragement and support.

Val

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