Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday, April 6th - Saag Paneer (Homemade!!)

I had Activia vanilla low fat yogurt with a sprinkling of yogurt for breakfast.

Lunch was two slices of the whole grain rye with 5 pieces of the gravlax I made yesterday. I know I changed the spelling but when I checked earlier, I got a spell check warning so I'm not sure which is right so I'm listing both. Grav lox and Gravlax. Strange.

Dinner was great. Ambitious for a Monday I must admit. I was expecting a cousin to pass through from Asia on her way home to Toronto for dinner and I had hoped to take her to Chow on 16th on Granville. Just an excuse to get a chance to go for their earlybird prix fixe menue for 38$. I really like their food but it'll have to wait. So I was still all jazzed up for a good meal and we had this jug of milk in the fridge. D and I are both lactose intolerant. I think I'm worse than he cuz I can't even handle a dash in my coffee without feeling bloated whereas he prefers making his lattes with real milk cuz he thinks steaming lactose free milk tastes funny. He won't drink straight up milk or have it in his cereal though or it's painful. Most people are and don't realise it. I might be pretty minor intolerance. It's best to keep drinking if you're genetically prone. But once you take a break, you will lose the enzymes necessary to process lactose. 98% of asians, more than 90% of African or Nordic decent are prone to intolerance. You have the necessary enzymes as a baby and child, curiously enough. Probably to be able to digest breast milk. My sister who is a milkaholic who never stopped drinking milk. She used to drink a glass of milk at dinner all through growing up with Korean food. How gross is that, with Kimchee and all. When I went away for university, I all but stopped drinking it. I assume when it started, that and that I wasn't drinking alot of it anyway. So O, my sister can still drink it ad infinitum but I have had painful, doubled over in foetal position pain.

We had this 4 l jug of milk in the fridge from a house guest. Who buys milk jugs anymore. I have had a jug of milk since I was a small child. Well, our guest last week was sailing with two other guys and all their kids. So of course, aboard, they had milk. It was 2/3 full when we got it. Well, we turned it down saying that we are both lactose intolerant. J wanted it cuz he and his son were staying over and they would want it. Well, it sat in the fridge for a week after they left. I think D used it this weekend for his cappucino. Still, I had 9 cups to work with and the darn jug had already served it's purpose by weighting down my grav lox.


9 cups milk
2 t white pepper ground
1/3 c white vinegar (or lemon juice)

9 cups sounds like a lot right? It's not in paneer terms. This is why I put this off for so long.

In a heavy bottomed put, bring the milk to a boil, gently, slowly so as not to burn the bottom. Stir to avoid this too. When it's steaming and looks like it's coming to a boil, control the temperature. Don't let it come to a rapid rolling boil cuz milk freaks out. Milk will be mean and boil over in a flash and cooks to your counter. The boil will take a while if you do it right, like 15-20 minutes. Add the vinegar. The milk and solids should separate right away. If it doesn't add a splash more. Keep stirring for a few minutes more.

Have a sieve lined with cheese cloth ready in the sink. Carefully and slowly pour the contents of the pot into the cloth. Rinse with cold water so you can handle it and to rince away any acidy taste. Draw up the egdges of the cloth together so the paneer is in a ball. Wring. Wring. Wring. Try to get rid of as much moisture as possible.

Spread in a dish. With this amount of milk, spread in a dish about the size of a block of tofu or 1lb of cheese. Press down firmly as you spread. Cover the surface of the cheese with plastic wrap and weigh down. You can keep it in the fridge overnight for pressing if you want. We used it right away so it was pressed for only 20 minutes. It may look crumbly. That's fine. It'll hold. You can toy with the acid level to get as mushy a paneer as you want. Cut into cubes for use in a curry.

SAAG Paneer.

I've made Saag Paneer from scratch in the past but used pre-made paneer. This time I made the paneer but bought the saag base. Saag is so easy generally but I wanted to make the whole affair easier. It's basically, spinach, ginger, onion, garlic and your favour spice or curry paste.

I used a tin of Joyti Saag from Capers (now whole foods). I beefed it up though. It said it had chilis and ginger on the can but it smelled of only spinach.

If you want to make it from scratch use 1 package of frozen spinach or 1-2 bunches of fresh. Either way I would use the following but more. With the tin pre seasoned I used:

1/4 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 inch ginger. mmmm fresh ginger can add a dimension you can't get from any substitute.
1t curry paste
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes because i had them.

melt 1T of butter and 1T olive oil on medium high. butter and oil to temper the heat and add flavour. fry the onions until soft. Add the garlic and ginger for about a minute. you don't want to brown either. add the tomatoes and the paste. empty the contents of the tin and stir. add a half tin of water to keep loose, consistency of clam chowder.

just before the end add the paneer cubes. stir very gently with fresh paneer so as not to disintegrate the cheese.

serve over fresh basmati rice with chopped cilantro.

We served it with Dona Paula Los Cardos Chardonnay. FANTASTIC.

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