North Indian Cuisine: Palak Paneer & Chapati

This piece also appeared in the Spring 2010 issue.

By Stacy Leung

Chapati is a staple in Northern Indian cuisine.  This flatbread-style bread is consumed as a starch side dish during a traditional Indian meal.  Similar to how a tortilla chip is dipped and eaten with guacamole, chapati is dipped, scooped up and eaten with the sauces of the dishes available.

Palak paneer is made up of pureed spinach and paneer, a buttery, soft Indian cheese.  Perfect for eating with chapati, palak paneer has the texture of creamed spinach with a spicy flair.

Ready In: 20 minutes
Yields: 6 servings

1 cup flour
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
salt and spices to taste

1. Place all ingredients in a large bowl.  Mix to combine.
2. Once combined, knead for a few minutes.
3. Divide dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a thin circle.
4. Using a pan, heat until hot.
5. Cook chapati one at a time, flipping over once.
6. Remove from pan just as brown spots form.
7. Serve warm.

Ready In: 3 hours
Yields: 4 servings

1 liter whole milk (2% can also be used, if preferred)
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. Bring the milk to a boil in a large saucepan.
2. Add the lemon juice and stir until the milk curdles.
3. Strain the curds through cheesecloth**.
4. Tie the cheesecloth up tight and form into the shape of a brick.
5. Place something heavy, such as a pot, on top and let it sit for 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator.
6. When ready, remove the paneer from the cheesecloth and cut into uniform bite-size pieces.

Yields: 4 servings

Ingredients for Paneer
1 tablespoon butter
2 cups paneer from recipe above, cut into bite-sized cubes

Ingredients for Spinach***
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 onion, pureed
2 green chili peppers, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, grated
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 cup tomato puree, canned
1-10 oz package of frozen spinach, thawed and pureed
1 teaspoon garam masala
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup water

Directions for Paneer
1. Melt the butter in a pan.
2. Add the paneer and fry until golden brown on all sides.
3. Remove the pan from heat and soak the paneer in warm water for 30 minutes.

Directions for Spinach
1. Melt the butter in a pan.
2. Add cumin, onion and green chilies and saute until browned.
3. Add garlic and ginger and continue sauteing until fragrant (about a minute).
4. Add red chili powder, coriander, turmeric and tomato puree and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Add in the spinach and simmer for another 5 minutes.
6. Add garam masala, paneer and water and simmer for 15 minutes.

*To add more flavor, use the water that was used to soak the paneer.

**Cheesecloth for the paneer can be found in any grocery store, kitchen supply store or hardware/fabrics store (i.e. Jo-Ann Fabrics).  Ask for coarse muslin and wash it before using to get rid of the starch.

***Cumin seeds, coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala can be found in the spice section of the supermarket.

Recipes adapted from Closet Cooking and Len.



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