Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Sun Never Sets on This Dish

For reasons that I cannot explain, I came home from the studio today longing for the unlikely combination of soda bread and saag paneer. While I have eaten saag paneer in Ireland, I have never in all my days paired it with soda bread. Saag paneer is an Indian dish, the name means "spinach with cheese".  The cheese in question is usually a fresh farm cheese.  I could have made the cheese and done it properly, but I had some shredded mozarella in the fridge.  As I stared into the depths of my fridge a plan evolved in my head.  It wasn't traditional, but then soda bread isn't traditionally eaten with saag paneer.  I would make creamed spinach with spices traditionally associated with saag paneer, as if I were an Irish soldier of the raj, retired to Sligo, longing for a taste of the subcontinent.

Okay, that's a stretch.  However it was delicious. And bright green.  Really really bright green.

I more or less followed the Joy of Cooking recipe for soda bread, except that I omitted the raisins and caraway seeds on the grounds that trans-British Empire dinner or no, I refused to contaminate my spinach with raisins.  I dumped some cheddar cheese into the batter instead.  If I'd had some chives, I would have added them too.

And now without further ado

Hiberno-Indian Saag Paneer 

All measurements approximate, possibly even more so than usual.  The only thing I measured was the milk.
1 generous tablespoon butter, olive oil, or other preferred culinary lubricant (I used bacon grease but the USDA would prefer I discourage that sort of behavior)
1/2 medium yellow onion minced fine-ish
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
An appropriate quantity of minced garlic from a jar -- I think I used a couple of teaspoons -- or a couple of cloves smashed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard (or a similar quantity of Grey Poupon)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (or to taste -- my tastes regarding nutmeg are conservative)
1/2 a 10oz block of frozen spinach, thawed
1/3 cup butter milk
1/3 cup milk
a handful of mozzarella (one of my handfuls is around 1/2 cup)
salt, black pepper, and Sriracha or other chili sauce to taste

Heat the grease in a largish skillet over medium heat.

Add the onion.  Idly wander around putting things away for ten or fifteen minutes, stir whenever you wander by. I cleaned out the fridge.  I'm not sure that this was necessarily the best choice while I was cooking dinner, but I did not kill my appetite.

Add the flour and garlic.  Stir more intently for about five minutes.

Add the spices and the spinach.  Stir for a few minutes.

Add the milks, there will be some curdling.  Pay it no mind.  Bring it to a simmer, and simmer until thickened.

Turn off the heat, and add the cheese.  Taste and correct seasonings.  I realize that not everyone likes quantities of chili sauce in their saag paneer, but I do.

If you timed it right, the soda bread should be coming out of the oven about now.  Tear off a hunk and dip it in the paneer like it's fondue.  Oh so good.

If one wanted my opinion about suitable adult beverages I would suggest an IPA or a very dry white wine.