Food

Another Cooking Disaster: Palak Paneer

Not my palak paneer. This is from a real cooking blog: http://www.sailusfood.com/2006/08/02/palak-paneer-indian-cheese-spinach-curry/

There are so many lovely blogs out there about wholesome recipes gone well. They make cooking look like it comes as naturally to women as say, caring for a baby (also wrong). I’d like to take a different approach given that everything I cook turns out disgusting. There is something sensuous, I would like to argue, even in the dishes gone wrong. I enjoy spending time in the kitchen, which might be why I keep attempting these fruitless feats. My kitchen is warm because the afternoon sun comes through the big window. This is important in Germany, where it’s cold and the house isn’t heated most of the time. I can close the kitchen door while I’m cooking and trap the warm aromas inside (this is not so great when I’m chopping onions). Palak paneer is an Indian creamy spinach dish with cubes of mild, white cheese. The first step is to prepare a garlic-ginger paste. I bought garlic paste and ginger paste and then combined them in a vintage jar. There was something very satisfying about this simple task, and I felt like one of those homey food bloggers because of the expensive vintage jar (which is impractically held closed by four metal clasps). The smell of garlic-ginger paste is heavenly and enough to make you feel like you’ve cooked authentic Indian food even before you’ve begun cooking. Next I heated up some ghee, a kind of Indian butter, in a skillet. In case you’re wondering, yes, this meal cost me a small fortune at specialty markets. : ) Ghee has a sort of sweet smell to it, so when I added the cubes of paneer cheese and they started to brown, my kitchen was filled with a glorious foreign perfume. It was all down hill from there. Didn’t cook the onions long enough, so they ended up being crunchy. Added canned spinach, which had an overpowering taste of nothing that only tons of salt could remedy. I didn’t have a green chile–they don’t sell them here, of course–so I added a bit of Sriracha red chili sauce. It turned the dark spinach an even more depressing color of green. I served it over a basmati rice, which had been overcooked into a paste. It was disgusting. I made myself eat it for two whole meals. Then I threw the rest of it in the garbage dumpster outside while holding my breath so as not to gag. It was an expensive and time-consuming disaster. But for those few glorious hours before I tasted it, my kitchen smelled like an Indian food temple…I was a cooking goddess.

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