My challenge with Indian food is I don't have a reliable go to for recipes. My Indian friends tend to tell me "I just put in whatever spices I have in the cabinet." Not helpful, but I get it because that is pretty much how I cook too. So I shouldn't have been surprised that my first attempt at Saag Paneer was rescued at the last minute by dumping in whatever I had in the spice cabinet.
I started by making the paneer following these instructions. I poured a gallon of 2% milk into the pot and added the juice of one lemon. Carefully stirring as the milk started to steam. Waiting. Watching. And nothing happened. So I added the juice of another lemon and brought it to a simmer. Still, nothing. I was expecting an easy result like when I've made ricotta. I ended up adding a full tablespoon of white vinegar before the curds and whey separated. Relieved, I drained and salted the curds then pressed them for about an hour.
I attempted to sear the resulting, still moist cheese. I don't recommend doing this unless you have a large non-stick skillet. The super fresh paneer oozed everywhere and never seared properly.
Undeterred, I assembled the mise en place called for in this recipe which has all sorts of yummy-sounding spices in it.
I heated up some oil and doubled up the amount of all the spices called for and added two thai chiles. After quickly toasting the spices, I added the onions, garlic, ginger, and chiles. Then came a roux. The amount of flour called for was too much so I added about three cups of water to loosen things up.
The nice thing about the recipe is that it very quick to make (or it would be if you used store-bought paneer). The massive amount of spinach cooked down in a flash. Then I blended it until nearly smooth. I tasted it and freaked out that despite the huge amount of spice you already added, it still tastes bland.
Added more salt, cumin, coriander, and garam masala. Feeling it lacked heat, I opend a new bottle of sriracha and in went a huge squeeze. Too huge. Luckily, a squeeze of lemon balanced everything out.
Finally, in went the cubes of paneer that make the dish luscious and filling. Despite some near misses, the dish came together and was (almost) as good as I hoped.
Does anyone have suggestions for sources of good, authentic Indian recipes?