Monthly Archives: April 2011

No Whey! (Palak Paneer)

Hello everyone and welcome to todays instalment of a really bad play on words!

First off – I couldn’t help myself – so let’s just get the apologies out of the way to start with, and then on to the cheese-making! (I could put a few more bad jokes RIGHT THERE but I will control myself.) Anyways, sorry.

Secondly, many of the photos here were taken by my boyfriend Adam – just so you know! I found it very difficult to make cheese and be a photo taker at the same time so he stepped in valiantly. Timing is everything.

All that said – I would like to share with you a recipe for the simplest most delicious homemade cheese I’ve ever had. (Mind you, it’s the ONLY homemade cheese I’ve ever had – I haven’t experiment with rennets and things and made cheddar and the like… I hope to – but I digress…)

First a little backstory.

Every time I head home to Nanaimo, I essentially force my parents (I’m a terrible daughter) to take me for dinner at Amrikko’s Indian Grill. It is, by far, my favourite place for Indian food – it is just so, so freaking good. I always overeat there – (the onion bhaji – so crazy delicious)(navrattan korma)(butter chicken)(everything vindaloo)(and then the dips – THE DIPS – some sort of crazy delicious mint dip and then a sweet delicious one..) – and then, my favourite dish, Palak Paneer. Palak Paneer is essentially a light but firm cheese (paneer – it has a similar texture but totally different taste to something like Haloumi or Feta – and can be grilled) tossed in a deliciously spiced spinach (or palak) sauce.

When I’m not home in Nanaimo, I often find myself dreaming of palak paneer – and finally I have been pushed over the edge, and have decided to make my own.

Paneer, the cheese part of the palak paneer, is actually amazingly simple to make, once you get the hang of it. It has taken me a few times to get said hang of it, but I think i’ve got it down to a rough art now. (…not to be confused with a fine art. – I still screw up sometimes.) If you love cheese as much as I do – AND I REALLY LOVE CHEESE – the spark that the following knowledge to be shared will give you in your heart is nothing short of an emotional epiphany.

YES – you can make your own cheese. It may take a few times to get the hang of it – but get the hang of it you will – and will be forever changed.

I’ve made this a few times for veggie curries and things, this being the first time I’ve ever made full-on palak paneer – and here are the ingredients.

Paneer

  • 1 Litre Milk (I use %2, but if you want a richer cheese go for full fat – and apparently you can even use light or skim milk)
  • 2 tbls of lemon juice

And that’s it.

Here’s what to do:

Put the milk on to boil – making sure to stir it enough so that it doesn’t burn on the bottom. I’ve had the most success with a large metal pot – large enough to hold boiling milk – and have failed miserably with a porcelain dutch oven type pot. Perhaps someone sciencey can tell me why. Something about reactions and metals and science. Sure, why not.

Anyhow, once the milk comes to a boil (and you will know, it expands like CRAZY so keep a close eye on it – and, once again, make sure your pot is large enough to handle this or else you’ll have a milky mess on your hands – it’s happened to me – and it is not pretty), add your lemon juice to the mix and reduce the heat to medium low while stirring – until large curds are formed and they seperate from an almost clear whey. You will know when this happens – the seperation should be pretty obvious. If it’s not, put it on to boil again and add more lemon juice (or vinegar if you like – or citric acid and water apparently) and try again.

When you are happy with how your curds have separated from the whey, pour the mixture in to a cheese cloth hanging above a bowl. Myself, I don’t have a cheese cloth – so I used a sieve and a piece of paper towel…

When I realized THAT was a horrible mistake, I quickly transferred the almost papery cheese (oops) to an unused pair of silver tights with the legs tied off. Perfect. (I didn’t taste any silver when I ate it…)

Once all of your liquid is drained, depending on how firm you want the cheese, weigh down with a custard dish and small waving happy stone cat and put in the fridge while you make your sauce. (or, you know, whatever you have to weigh it down.)(And yes, that is cat food in the background – we are protecting it from the dog. Gross? Maybe. Necessary? Definitely.)

I find with this cheese, timing is everything. Don’t add the lemon juice before it totally boils like crazy – and make sure to keep on the heat until the curds are separated to your approval.

For the palak part, I simply boiled about 5 or 6 big handfuls of spinach in water for about 5 minutes, drained, and pureed in a blender with 2 chopped tomatoes.

I added that mixture to already toasted and heated vegetable oil, garlic, ginger, onion (you’ll want to chop yours smaller than mine – I was really really hungry and impatient by this point), and spices. I am pretty sure there was cumin, fennel, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, white pepper, salt and chili powder in there, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I have a bunch of unnamed bags from bulk barn. I made sure to not add anything like cinnamon sugar – and that’s all I know.

For a better and more exact recipe, do google palak paneer recipes – there are tons out there. I always find the simplest the best!

While that was happening, I chopped the paneer in to pretty little bite sized pieces (I sprinkled it with sea salt first – to taste) and fried in a touch of oil on both sides til nice and golden brown – tossed it all together, and enjoyed copiously.

I hope that you enjoy this as much as I do. Because I do. A lot.

I’m headed on tour soon, so in my next entry I will add a few tour dates to the recipe.

Take care and talk soon,

still waiting for spring,

Alley :O)

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Sweet Cuppem Cakes

Hey everybody!

It’s been a while since my last post – and, since then – I’ve acquired a terrifyingly and intimidatingly awesome new camera! I’m still very much in the midst of learning how to use it, and likely will be for the rest of my life, but I thought – why not just dive in? (… for the record, it’s a Canon EOS Rebel XS, if you’re curious!)

So far, I’ve taken pictures of snowstorms, melting snow rivers, my boyfriend, my dog, my cat, trees etc. – and now – cupcakes!

I’ve been eating pretty healthily lately, and I’m all about making healthy foods fun – so I’ve been having a lot of tasty fruit smoothies (my favourite one is a peanut butter banana smoothie – I’ll add the recipe here for a bonus though I don’t have pics! Look for it in the “p.s.” hehe), playing around with quinoa and veggies and different delicious proteins, and I’ve also been experimenting with vegan/gluten-free baking!

I have a couple of people very close to me who are unable to eat gluten – so I am so excited to be able to learn recipes for stuff they can eat – and also I have some vegetarians and vegans in my life! It’s win/win.

The recipe I used for these cupcakes is from Babycakes NYC and the recipe can be seen/found here: Babycakes Vanilla Cupcakes Recipe.

The recipe for the frosting that I used was found on the internet – and had 5 stars – and deserves every single one of them. I’ll include it below!

This is where I found the recipe.

Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup Vegan Cream Cheese (I used Toffuti ‘Better than Cream Cheese’ – if you’re in Corner Brook – I’ve JUST found this at Sobey’s!)
  • 1/4 cup Vegan Margarine (I used Becel Vegan)
  • 2 Cups Powdered Sugar (I used powdered sugar)(Sorry, that was not necessary – I was just enjoying making side-notes)
  • 2 tsp Vanilla (I really love vanilla – you may want to use only 1 tsp – I also use pure vanilla – if you want a brighter frosting, you can use artificial clear – but real vanilla is so worth it)

Directions:

Cream together cream cheese and margerine for a couple minutes – I did this up on high so it got nice and fluffy – but don’t over mix or it will get all liquidy. Slowly add powdered sugar, say 1/4 cup at a time. Add vanilla. Try not to eat it all before you put it on the cupcakes. Cover up screw-ups with sprinkles.

I hope you enjoy these if you decide to give them a try! I personally find them super moist and delicious – and I love the hint of lemon in the cupcakes – and I enjoy that I can make them for my grandma and my friend Kristen when I visit BC! Hooray! Make sure you bake these until they are cooked all the way through – or else they can be a bit TOO moist! Which I guess, really, is just another way of saying “under-cooked”.

This is my dog Link, trying to wink his way in to getting some fries.

As for me, I am going to be scarfing these down in an effort to quell my nervousness about reading poetry this weekend in Corner Brook at the April Rabbit. I’ve done a lot of singing, and I’ve done a lot of writing songs and poetry and the like, but I don’t remember ever having read any poems out loud, excluding perhaps in my school days. TERRIFYING.

If you’re in the Corner Brook area, you should really check it out! I am so excited to hear everyones poetry (so many insanely talented people) and I think it’s going to be a fantastic night of many words. It starts at 8pm this Saturday at King Henry’s Pub in the Glynmill Inn. You can find the facebook event page here: April Rabbit Event Page (I seriously love the poster.) I feel so lucky to be able to be a part of such a fun event! Yay!

Anyhow, that’s it for now. Please enjoy this picture of a tree.

Cheers,

Alley :)

ps (I told you there was going to be one)

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana (I prefer mine slightly under ripe)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 2 tbls peanut butter (yeah right – I used closer to 4, if we’re being honest here)
  • 2 tbls chia seeds
  • 3 – 4 ice cubes
  • honey to taste (i like to swirl it on the top after it’s all made!)

Directions:

Blend everything – drink everything!

xoxoxoxoxoxoox

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