Paneer and a Pen Pal
So this post is a fun little diversion from my usual experimentation with weird ingredients – except that I still experimented with weird ingredients. I’m addicted, really.
Anyway, I’ll explain. This month I finally signed up for “Foodie Pen Pals.” Lindsay at theleangreenbean.com runs a pen pal program where foodies are paired together to trade food items by mail, and then they blog about what they received at the end of the month. So this is that blog!
I was excited to receive my package from Ashlee at Twitter handle @missashlee286. I opened the box to find…
Very considerate that Ashlee had planned a whole family meal for me within our $15 limit! Maybe I should hire her as our personal chef, because that’s the kind of budget that I should really obey on a more regular basis.
So I was excited to get started, and liked the idea of a chicken curry, but if you know me well you know that chicken isn’t quite weird enough for my strange tastebuds (unless it’s mixed with something strange, of course), so my mind started to veer and swerve until I was at Costco and found this:
A gigantic package of Paneer, or Indian cottage cheese. The picture really doesn’t do justice to how big it was. You may be wondering how many people I was looking to feed with a huge double pack of something I had never cooked before, and the answer to that question is two, because there was no way my kids were going to try it. You may also be wondering, “Why wouldn’t she just go to a regular grocery store and get a teensy pack once she knew that was what she wanted to do,” but again, if you knew me well you would know that I do everything in my power to reduce the number of times I have to wrestle my children in and out of car seats. If I can buy everything at one store I do, even if it means I’ll be filling my fridge with a supply of cheese that would feed the entire cast of Slumdog Millionaire for a year.
I’ve eaten Paneer from restaurants with peas (mattar paneer), and also with spinach (palak paneer), and I love both, but my family is more partial to peas so I bought a bag of those big enough to feed the island nation of Australia and rushed home to get cooking. I Googled recipes for a while to figure out what else needed to go in this dish, finding only that ghee (clarified butter which you may remember from Helen Bannerman’s kids’ story is actually made of tigers) and onions were the main elements that were consistent, other than the spice and sauce elements which I was already lucky enough to have received. So here’s what I did:
Ooh, but wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. I forgot that Ashlee had planned for me to have a kid-friendly appetizer, so I boiled up some grapes in 1/3 bottle of leftover wine and 1/2C sugar, added them to the crackers and Wow butter (awesome substitute for peanut butter which she knew I liked due to earlier blog post – peanut allergic daughter) and made little fake-PB&J snackers. And before you call the Children’s Aid, Mom (again?), I boiled the wine and sugar together for a good long time so there was no alcohol left when the grapes were coated.
- 2 cups paneer cheese, cut into small cubes
- 2Tbsp butter – I didn’t have ghee, using regular butter rather than the tiger variety
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 package Kitchens of India Curry Paste, or your favourite curry mix or recipe
- 2 servings of rice, per package directions
Directions: Melt butter in pan over med-high heat. Add cubes of paneer, cooking until browned.
Results: My first foodie pen pal experience was a great success! Dinner, which I cooked a few nights ago, was enjoyed by all, and I cooked the identical meal again tonight using spinach instead of peas and it was just as good. I also unloaded a great portion of the leftover paneer on my friend to prepare, so it may be the recipe that keeps on giving. Thanks again Ashlee! Recipe Rating: 3 Yums
Bonus Fun Facts about Paneer: People have been eating it since before 6000BC, and now it’s served as the “McSpicy Paneer,” at McDonald’s India. It has probably reinvented itself even more often than Madonna has.