This classic dish of spinach and paneer is one of my favorites from the Indian repertoire. Paneer is a mild Indian farmers’ cheese that softens when heated but doesn’t melt. It takes on flavors really well. It’s fun and easy to make at home, but you can also use store-bought paneer if you’re in a hurry.
- 10 cups whole milk
- 1 cup warm water
- 5 tablespoons white vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 5 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
- Pinch of ground clove
- Pinch of chile flakes
- 3 pounds frozen spinach, thawed, chopped and squeezed dry
Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth. Set aside.
Bring milk to a simmer in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring often to prevent scorching or skin from forming. Mix the water and vinegar together and add it slowly to the simmering milk. When the milk starts to curdle, stop adding the vinegar mixture. Remove from the heat and continue to stir gently. You should have white curds separated from the yellowish whey. Strain the curdled milk through cheesecloth, draining thoroughly.
Gather the corners of the cheesecloth together and twist at the top. Place in colander. Place a small plate on top of the bundle of curds and weigh it down with a heavy pot or jug of water. Let press for 30 minutes to an hour.
Remove cheese from cheesecloth and cut into roughly one-inch chunks.
Heat half the oil in a large pan with high sides. Brown the paneer on all sides and reserve to a plate.
Add additional oil to the pan if needed. Add the onions, garlic, ginger, turmeric, chili powder, coriander seed, clove and chile flake. Fry until the onions are glassy, about 10 minutes.
Add spinach and cook until pan appears dry. Add the reserved cheese and season with salt and pepper.
Serve with cooked rice, if you like.
Photograph by Madeleine Hill.