Saturday, May 4, 2013

Curried Spinach and Cheese

I used to cook Indian dishes quite often.  For some reason, I don't do much anymore.  It popped up in my mind the other day and I remembered this dish I was introduced to while in a class at Central Market (in San Antonio, TX) way back in 1999.  You might think of this as an Indian version of creamed spinach.

The really fun thing about this recipe is that you make the cheese that goes into it.  This was the first and only time I've ever made cheese.  It is so much fun and so very easy.  The cheese, called Panir, reminds me of something in the mozzarella family.

So if you're making any Indian-inspired entree, think about trying this as a side dish.

(I'm including the recipe as I received it, but I cut it in half, both the Panir and the Spinach.)


1/2 gallon low-fat (2%) milk (I used 1%)
1 quart buttermilk (I used fat-free)

Bring milk to a boil on medium heat.  Do not use non-stick pan.

Add buttermilk and stir.  When whey separates from solids, about 1 minute, turn off heat. Stir until solids are completely separated.

Keep a strainer lined with a double-layer of cheesecloth ready.  Pour the panir and whey into cheesecloth.  Discard whey (the liquid).

(The fun part....) Tie the cheesecloth loosely on kitchen faucet over the sink for 5 minutes to let it drip (no more than 5 minutes).  Open cheesecloth, flatten panir with hand and twist ends of cheesecloth tightly to enclose panir.

Place wrapped panir under weight on edge of sink with ends of cheesecloth dripping into sink.  Leave for 30 minutes.

Remove and use as required.

NOTE:  Store up to 4 days in frig, wrapped in plastic wrap.  Can be frozen for up to 3 months.

CURRIED SPINACH and CHEESE (8 servings...can be made ahead up until the last step)

1 recipe Panir, cut into 1/2" cubes
2 Tbsp oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 Tbsp peeled and minced ginger root
2-3 minced green chilies, preferably serranos (seed for milder, or leave seeds in if you like a lot of heat)
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
4 bunches fresh spinach, washed, chopped, cooked, and drained or
     2 (10 oz) packages chopped frozen spinach
Salt to taste
1 cup skim milk (I used 1%)
2 cups plain nonfat yogurt (must be at room temperature) stirred to a creamy consistency.

Heat oil in large pan.  Fry onions, ginger, and chilies about 6-8 minutes until soft.  Add coriander and turmeric and fry 2-3 minutes, stirring well.

Add spinach and salt.  Mix well.  Cover and simmer 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree in a blender with milk.  (Dish can be made ahead at this point.....from that morning to several days ahead.)

Return to heat and stir in yogurt and panir.  Mix thoroughly.  Cover and simmer another 5 minutes to heat through.

NOTE:  Consistency of spinach should be creamy.  If too dry, add a little more yogurt.

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