|Cottage cheese with spinach - Palak Paneer|
I may have grown up with Indian neighbors but it is my husband and daughter who cannot get enough of Indian food. For years we would raid Little India's Tekka Market, lugging back beetroot, miniature ladies fingers and all sorts of eggplant on a weekly basis. At one stage , because of the over consumption of the nightshade group of vegetable, I developed huge ganglions on my feet. It could not have been a richer experience!
After years of romping Tekka Market, I could almost differentiate bryani by their stalls. We even became experts worming through the back lanes at alleys at Serangoon Road.
One of my daughter's favorite is this not-too-appetizing looking green dish called palak paneer. The magic is in the cottage cheese, or paneer in Indian. Paneer imparts a rich, grainy sensation on the palate, not unlike feta cheese. Together with cream, the spinach dish would turn into a rich, calcium enriched side dish.
Our girl's favorite palak paneer came ,however, from Chat Masala at Greenwood Ave and The Light of India at Gloucester Rd, London, both expensive options to satisfy her paneer cravings. Paneer alone is comparatively expensive for such a humble dish and I tried my hand at making this, first to understand what goes into my food and of course to cut cost, like a good housewife.
I eat with my eyes , so this dish is not my favorite, until I made it . Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the freshly made cheese is perfumed with the aroma of lemon, raw garlic and marsala. This attempt has made me a palak paneer convert, which would be good news to my daughter.
Enough for 4.
1 litre whole milk
Juice of 1 lemon
Line a sieve with muslin cloth. I place the contraption over a deep pot.
Bring the milk to a boil. Reduce heat.
Add the lemon juice and stirring and cooking for another 2 minutes so that milk curdles evenly.
Remove the boiled milk from stove.
Pour the curdled milk onto the muslin and drain.
After 5 minutes, gather the ends of the muslin and suspend the bag of cheese to drip dry.
Wait for 30 minutes.
Transfer the cheese to a fine sieve or container. Chill until ready to use.
2 litres of chopped spinach with stalk removed, steamed and finely chopped.
1 clove of garlic, crushed with a garlic crusher
1 generous pinch of salt
1 teaspoon masala powder ( I use mutton masala powder )
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup of cream ( optional )
Heat up spinach.
Remove from heat and stir in garlic, salt, masala and oil.
Stir to combine.
Break up the paneer to generous chunk. Top the spinach with the paneer.
For an extra omph, drizzle the paneer with cream before serving.