Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Palak Paneer, Evolution.

There has been a blog about Palak Paneer 4 years back,
but, 4 years is a very very long time in this age of culinary evolution. I also felt that as an experimentalist, it is quite important to try out new variations to attain higher flavor profiles without destroying the base. Hence, this version of Palak Paneer is a bit modified than its predecessor.

What I offer here is home cooking, not fine dining. So it is very important to have a high power blender that can blend in your whole spices. Alternatively, one can use pre-blended spice mix and a normal blender to attain similar results. Since I believe in not wasting anything, the blended sauce is not sieved to obtain silkiness.

Moving on to the procedure - 

1. Make your own Paneer (fresh cheese from milk) - This is a very simple procedure. Boil 1ltr high fat content milk and just as it begins to rise, add few table spoons of lemon juice and simmer down the heat. The lemon juice will incorporate a mild tanginess to the Paneer and this will taste much better that using vinegar. Once the milk is split, immediately filter it through a fine cloth (muslin is the best, however fine cotton towels also work) and squeeze it dry. Bring the cheese together within the towel and wrap it inside. Place a heavy pan filled with water over the folded towel and let it rest for 2 hours. The Paneer will get pressed and it will be easier to cut it into cubes! Freeze for later use or refrigerate for immediate use.

2.  Blanch 1 kg fresh spinach - Oh yes, please use fresh spinach! Removes the leaves from the bunch and wash them well. Drop them for 4-5 minutes in boiling water and then transfer them immediately to cold water. Squeeze them to remove the water and set aside.

3. The sauce - Melt 25g of butter is a skillet and add the whole spices (3 pods cardamom without skin, 1 tsp regular cumin, 1/2 tsp black cumin, 3 cloves, half a finger size of cinnamon and half a star anise). Saute for a minute and add finely minced garlic and ginger (according to taste), 2 finely chopped onions (medium sized, just 1 if big) and a few green chilies. Add salt to taste and close skillet with a lid. Allow the onions to sweat in medium heat. When the onions are almost cooked, add 1 (big) finely chopped tomato and 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro. Stir and close the skilled and allow the mixture to get cooked well. Once the tomatoes are cooked, transfer the contents to a blender along with the blanched spinach and blend till smooth. Add 2 to 3 tsp of hot water during blending to get a good consistency and transfer to a serving bowl. Top it off with cubes of Paneer and mix it in!

4. To Note - Instead of whole spices, one can also use "garam masala". Replace chilies with black pepper pods if chilies seem very spicy. A little sugar can be used to balance the sauce if necessary. Cream is totally unnecessary!