No matter who you are or what you do for a living, getting dinner on the table can feel like an impossible task. After a full day of recipe development (or fighting with my sad brain) I’d rather gnaw on a block of cheese or skip dinner altogether than dirty more dishes.
So I watch a lot of food TV and buy a lot of cookbooks, always looking for something to snap me out of my permanent Weeknight Dinner Ennui. These days, nobody does that better than Priya Krishna.
Krishna’s fantastic new cookbook, Indian-ish, is the best purchase I’ve made in a long, long time. Like every great cookbook, it’s more than a collection of recipes: it’s a crash course in Indian-American ingredients and techniques, a love letter to the microwave oven, a homemade yogurt manifesto, and a family history that’s as genuinely touching as it is laugh-out-loud hilarious.
But what really sets it apart is, for lack of a better word, its incredible “cookability.” Most of the recipes were created by Priya’s mum Ritu, who fed her family of four — and threw frequent dinner parties — while working full-time as an airline software engineer. This means that every single dish in Indian-ish is a quick, simple, repertoire – worthy crowd pleaser — which is exactly what every frazzled home cook needs.
If Instagram is anything to go by, the Indian-ish poster child is Ritu’s saag feta, a clever spin on saag paneer that uses chunks of briny feta instead of paneer, which is mild and bouncy — kind of like cheese curds.
You can find the full recipe in the book or here on Bon Appétit, and you can also watch Priya make it in the Bon Appétit test kitchen:
This swap straight-up works. Not only is feta way easier to find, it’s also saltier, tangier, and generally more flavourful than paneer, and the texture you get as it melds with the gravy is hard to beat. Just like saag paneer, there are plenty of big, soft chunks of cheese — but there are also little pockets of half-melted feta running through the gravy.
And, like just about everything else in this book, saag feta has an unbeatable effort-to-payoff ratio: the whole thing comes together in about half an hour, including prep, and tastes so good that it might just ruin saag paneer for you forever. I know it has for me.
The one big change I made from the recipe in the book is to grind my spices rather than tossing them into the gravy whole, as the recipe advises. Unless you have a Vitamix (or similar), I recommend you do the same; no amount of puréeing with my stick blender could pulverise whole cardamom and coriander pod.
Apart from that, my tweaks are minor: more feta, more garlic, and more lime in the gravy, plus a pinch of Aleppo pepper flakes (a mild, fruity ground red pepper) in the chhonk for extra colour and flavour.
If you’ve never made chhonk before, it’s basically a mixture of whole and/or ground spices fried in oil or ghee that’s drizzled over a dish as a finishing touch.
Here’s how easy it is to make saag feta. Fold cubed feta into a quick, super flavourful spinach gravy…
…make the chhonk by sizzling whole cumin seeds and ground red pepper in ghee…
…and drizzle it all over. Serve with basmati rice, lime wedges, yogurt, and coriander. That’s it.
The best part? This genius swap goes way beyond saag paneer. Whether you stir it into a gravy or toss it with spiced vegetables, cubed feta has all the creamy goodness of paneer, with an extra hit of addictive brininess.
I don’t know about you, but matar feta, feta tikka masala, and feta gobi sound pretty great to me — and I can’t wait to experiment.