Saag Paneer

Spinach curry with cheese

Saag Paneer

Makes: less than you might think because spinach cooks down a lot, but probably a quart
Takes: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb paneer cheese
  • 1 lb chopped spinach
  • 3 Tbsp ghee or oil (do NOT use butter)
  • 1 fresh green chile (deseeded, finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed) OR 1 1/2 Tbsp jarred minced garlic
  • 1/4″ piece fresh ginger (grated) OR 2 tsp frozen grated ginger (thawed)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 cardamom pods (cracked)
  • 1 small cinammon stick
  • 1/2 cup light cream, half-n-half, or yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg (grated if you can, ground otherwise)

Instructions

  1. Cook down the spinach in a covered pan with a bit of water – approximately 4-5 minutes. Be amazed by how small it gets. Put cooked spinach in a colander to drain.
    (Tip: save the drained liquid for drinking or making stock or whatever, it is full of good stuff)
    Alternately, defrost the frozen spinach. I use fresh because I hate stems; you do you.
  2. Cut the cheese into 3/4″ cubes (basically, bite-sized).
  3. Heat the ghee/oil in a frying pan and fry the cheese until it’s deliciously golden on the outside. You probably want the ghee/oil hotter than you think.  Keep them moving around and flipping them so they don’t stick.  It’s better to do them in multiple batches than sticking together.
  4. Add the garlic, spices, and salt to fry briefly (lower the heat a bit).
  5. Add the dairy and bring to a simmer.
  6. Squeeze/press the spinach a bit to get more liquid out and then stir it into the pan with everything else.
  7. Let simmer for a few minutes until all the flavors blend and it’s not too wet.
  8. Take out the cinnamon stick and serve with rice.

Notes

This is a combination of a couple recipes I have in a little cheap cookbook of curries, 1 for lamb saag and 1 for saag paneer, that I’ve tinkered with until it does approximately what I want.  I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this recipe, and would be interested opinions on that.

DO NOT USE BUTTER TO FRY THE PANEER. You will get a lot of splatter and probably 2nd degree burns on your hand from the splatter.  Learn from me and just go buy ghee or use oil!

Paneer is an Indian farmer’s cheese.  I hear it’s pretty easy to make, but it is available at better regular grocery stores with an “ethnic” section.  It may be in with other cheeses.

The choice of chile pepper is yours, though I would recommend not going to the habanero end of the Scoville scale.  Jalapenos do pretty well and are readily available.

Misr Wat

Misr Wat – Ethiopian Red Lentils

Makes: about 3 cups
Time: 30-45 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils (rinsed)
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp fresh ginger (grated)
  • 2 Tbsp berbere
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 2 Tbsp cilantro (chopped) (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils and cook according to the package directions, though leave them a little al dente, as they will simmer in a spiced liquid a little later in the recipe. About 5 – 10 minutes, depending on the size of the lentils.
  2. Drain the lentils and set aside.
  3. In a large saute pan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger, cook for 2 minutes.
  5. Stir in the berbere to form a paste.
  6. Add the lentils, half teaspoon of salt, and water. Bring to a simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated and the mixture has thickened into a stew-like consistency.
  7. Finish with fresh lime juice.
  8. Garnish with cilantro (if desired) and serve immediately.

Notes

As with most of these Ethiopian recipes, authenticity and source are unknown because I’m borrowing this from my spouse’s stack of papers with recipes.