Spring has sprung, sort of

Went out into the garden yesterday -- well, what passes for a garden at my house -- to see what survived the ridiculously snowy and cold winter. There are still huge piles of snow in my yard, including a mountain of solid ice right smack-dab in front of my door that has resulted in some surprisingly hostile activity on the part of my postal carrier. (The hellebore may never recover, is all I'm saying.) The winter has seemed so endlessly long, eternal almost, and even though the days are lengthening and the air smells different, it's sometimes hard to believe that the seasons will ever change. Especially when we're still getting snow on March 22.

There was life underneath all the debris, though -- below all the rotting leaves and the un-pruned back stalks from last year. Daisies, hollyhocks, chives, poppies all springing back to life, ready as I am for spring to arrive. I've decided that this year I will plant only a few flowers amongst the perennials -- mostly marigolds, which I love, and also some nasturtiums -- and in all the empty spots I will plant edibles. I've got lettuces, chard, peas, and herbs starting to sprout up in their little peat pots -- there will also be some beans and zucchini and tomatoes and chilies to come. 

Mattar Paneer (Indian Cheese with Peas in a Creamy Sauce)
Serves 4-6

This is a rich and savory dish that's a good use of spring peas, especially the slightly starchier ones -- although frozen peas work perfectly well, too. I've given instructions for making paneer -- super easy -- but for other options, check out the recipe for saag paneer here

2 quarts whole milk
3 TB lemon juice or white vinegar 
Spice mix: ½ tsp garam masala, ½ tsp chili powder, ¼ tsp turmeric powder,1 tsp coriander powder, 1 tsp cumin powder
2 TB oil or ghee
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seed
1 small onion
½ tsp grated ginger
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tomatoes, diced, or about 1 c canned tomatoes
¼ c water
1 c frozen peas
¼ c heavy cream or whole-milk yogurt (whip the yogurt with a fork until very smooth)
2 TB fresh cilantro, chopped

1. Place milk in a saucepan and bring just to a boil. As soon as it comes to a boil, add lemon juice or white vinegar and turn the heat down to low. You'll see the milk curdle, with greenish whey separating from white curds. Let the curds form for a minute or two at a simmer, then empty the pot into a cheesecloth-lined colander (or use a clean tea towel). When cool enough to handle, bring the corners of the cloth together and twist tightly so that the most of the whey drains from the paneer. Lay the bundle, with the top still tightly twisted, on a cutting board you've placed in the sink, top with a plate and a weight (such as a pot or a can of tomatoes or something) for about 5 minutes. Now unwrap the paneer and cut it into 1/2" cubes.

2. Mix the spices for the spice mix in a small bowl.

3. Heat oil. Add mustard and cumin seeds; allow them to darken and pop. Add chopped onions, ginger and garlic and sauté until onions soften. Add the spice mix, along with ½ tsp salt. Sauté for about 2 minutes.

3. Add tomatoes, and cook till the tomatoes soften and turn saucy and thick. Now add ¼-½ c water, depending on how saucy you’d like the dish to be.  Simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.

4. Add the peas and cook until they are just tender and still nice and green – about 4 or 5 minutes. Pour in the cream/yogurt, mix, and add salt if necessary. Add the paneer and let simmer on medium-low heat for the paneer to absorb the flavors – a few minutes is fine, but this is a great dish for making ahead. (Don't let the mixture come to a boil -- be gentle.) Garnish with cilantro and serve.


LisaLam said…
What is a quart of milk? Could you translate this into non-American? kthxbye
A quart is two pints. Does that help? A quart is a litre.
EndlessRiver said…
Yes, two pints or 1.13652 litres.

So glad you have done a recipe for mattar paneer! I tend to use yoghurt rather than cream. Is that okay?

Also, happy springing! I love the sound of your garden.
Hello, Mr. River! There's also a recipe for saag paneer on the site, if you're into that.

Yes, yogurt rather than cream also works well. Just beat it a bit with a fork before you add it to the sauce so it doesn't curdle.

Yes, garden is fun. However, things do seem to be getting off to a slow start...