I know most people start off their posts with claims that their recipe is so easy the raccoon equivalent of a toddler could make it. But I’m not going to do that. It’s not that this Saag Paneer Dip is difficult, it’s not. But it can be fussy, or it could not be. Allow me to explain what I mean by that. This recipe can be very easy or very difficult depending on your mood. If you’re feeling your gourmand fancy, you can make the paneer and the naan from scratch and milk cooking this recipe for a day or two. Or if you’re unwilling to spend two days making a dip, congratulations! You’re a sensible human being, would you mind telling me what it’s like?
I’m not sure what possessed me to turn Saag Paneer into a dip. As I said on my Instagram, this is what happens when you want warm spinach dip and saag paneer at the same time. And it’s true! My conflicting food cravings have often led to hybrid treats that are devoid of authenticity but heavy on deliciousness. And this Saag Paneer Dip is yet another member of that proud recipe collection…maybe “proud” is the wrong word. Ragtag? Confused? Uncalled for? It’s probably more in that ballpark.
If you’ve made it to the third paragraph of this post, I’m going to assume you’re on board with this culinary concept and move on to the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure portion of this recipe. If you’ve read this blog for any extended period of time, you know I am a great proponent of kitchen projects. I think making things from null is great fun, but I accept that many people in the world do not share my enthusiasm. Or they may be short on time or patience etc. So with that in mind, this recipe has two possible paths. The from-scratch journey and the not-so-from-scratch journey.
It’s pretty self-explanatory but the from-scratch journey includes making your own paneer and naan. And I know what you’re thinking, what is the point in making fresh naan if you’re going to just turn them into chips. And to that I say, there is no point. There is only the completist compulsion I wrestle with every day and you can too! If you’re not so much about that life, you can simply buy good quality paneer and naan and skip the bulk of the recipe outlined below.
And then there is the hybrid approach. The hybrid approach is sort of the best of both worlds. And honestly, I think it gets you the most bang for your culinary buck. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been less than impressed with most store-bought paneers. I’ve eaten a lot of naan bread and I have to say, when it comes to carbs, I’m really not that discerning. My brain mostly just registers approval when it interacts with bread. And even if you don’t get the best naan, the chip-ifying process will most likely cloak all its sins. So with that in mind, I suggest you make your own paneer and buy the naan. See? It’s a solid compromise.
Making paneer is not difficult, it’s mostly a waiting game. You bring a ton of milk to a boil, add some lemon juice, let it sit, and then drain it. The waiting comes into play when you press the paneer. I like to do this by using two pie plates and a can of tomatoes as a weight. You have to press the paneer for at least an hour and a half and don’t try to cheat this. Any shorter and your paneer will be crumbly and won’t hold its shape.
With the naan and paneer sorted, there is one more time-consuming hurdle you should be aware of and that is browning the shallots or onions depending on what you’re using. I made a lot of lackluster Indian curries in my youth. They never had the sweetness of the curries I was getting at my local, so I found myself compensating with sugar. But the sugar brought a superficial sweetness, not one with depth and complexity. Then I watched Madhur Jaffrey make a curry and realized what I was doing wrong. I was rushing my onions. The sweetness in the curry comes from slowly and gently caramelizing the onions to a soft amber. This should take a minimum of 15 minutes, so keep the heat low and your patience high and you will be reward with sweet, savory, and earthy curries.
From there, this Saag Paneer Dip isn’t much more than wilted spinach and bean dip, so I will leave things here. I hope you give this Saag Paneer Dip a try and approach it at whatever degree of laziness you see fit. There is no shame in your game.
Saag Paneer Dip with Naan Chips
- Food Processor
- Large pot
- 6 cups whole milk
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- ½ cup warm water
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ cup full-fat yogurt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2¼ cup all-purpose flour
Saag Paneer Dip
- 4 shallots peeled and halved
- 1 (2" or 5 cm) knob ginger peeled and sliced
- 3-4 green chilis**
- 4 cloves garlic peeled
- 4 tbsp ghee divided
- 1 batch paneer
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chili powder*** divided
- 1 batch Naan cut into triangles
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 300g (10.5oz) baby spinach
- 1 (540ml, 19 fl oz) can white beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup coconut cream
For the Paneer
- Pour the milk into a large pot and place over medium heat. Bring the milk to a boil and then immediately take it off of the heat. Add the lemon juice and cover the pot. Let sit for 10 minutes. Curds should have formed by this time.
- Line a fine-mesh strainer with cheesecloth and pour the contents of the pot through the strainer to remove the whey. Squeeze any excess whey out of the curds and bundle the cheesecloth around them.
- Place the bundle inside a pie plate and place another pie plate on top of the bundle. Weigh the plate down with something heavy, I used a can of tomatoes, and transfer the lot to the fridge. Press the paneer for an hour and a half.
For the Naan
- Pour the water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the sugar and yeast and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy.
- Add the yogurt, olive oil, and 1 1/2 cups of the flour. Mix on low until a loose dough forms. From here, add the remaining flour in 1/4 cup increments until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and is slightly tacky to the touch. You may not need all the flour.
- Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead for 5-7 minutes or until the dough is elastic and silky to the touch. Place the dough in an bowl greased with olive oil, cover, and let rise for an hour and a half or until dough has doubled in size.
- Gently deflate the risen dough and divide into 12 even pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll each piece out into a rough circle about 1/8 of an inch thick. Transfer to a dry hot cast iron skillet and cook until bubbles form on the surface. Flip the naan and cook until golden. Transfer the finished naan to a plate and repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
For the Dip
- Preheat the oven to 400°F
- Place the shallots, ginger, chilis, and garlic in a large food processor and blitz until they resemble mulch.
- Melt 2 tablespoons of the ghee in the large skillet until shimmering. Add the paste and saute over low heat. Add a pinch of salt and slowly sweat the veg until golden, about 10 – 15 minutes.
- While the shallots are sweating, cut the paneer into cubes and place them in a medium-sized bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of the Kashmiri chili powder and the salt. Melt the remaining ghee in the microwave and drizzle it over the paneer. Toss to coat.
- Transfer the paneer to a baking sheet and set it aside. Arrange the naan triangles on another baking sheet and place both in the oven. Bake for 10 minutes or until the naan is golden and rigid. Take the naan out of the oven and turn the oven to broil. Broil the paneer until slightly charred, about 5 minutes but keep an eye on it. Set both the naan and paneer aside.
- Once the shallots have caramelized, add the cumin seed, the remaining Kashmiri chili powder, and the garam masala and saute briefly. Stir in the tomato paste and saute for another 30 seconds. Start adding the spinach in batches, waiting for each to wilt before adding more.
- Place the wilted spinach in a large food processor, add the beans, and the coconut cream, and blitz until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in half of the paneer. Pour the dip into the bowl you wish to serve it in and decorate the surface of the dip with the remaining paneer and a little extra coconut cream. Serve immediately with naan chips on the side.