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Brunch Festival Recipes Indian Curry Side Dishes Vegetarian

Palak (Saag) Paneer – Spinach & Indian Cheese

Sinfully Spicy- Palak (Saag Paneer),Spinach With Indian Cheese001I think that one of the best palak paneer that I have eaten ever is the one prepared with home grown spinach from my grandma’s house. One from the vegetable patch which sprung to life with all sorts of greens under the winter sun. It was so thoughtful how our maali (gardener) was instructed to allocate square patches to vegetables.The cilantro, dill and mint which were used so very frequently throughout the day were sown first, followed by tubers and other root vegetables.To wade away the pests, every now and then badi mummy would keep a lighted incense amongst the large coarse leaves of the eggplant area.And it worked.Last few rows were the leafy greens & other delicate creepers, just so that you go towards them only when you need to.

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There were the few aromatic methi (fenugreek greens) with its distinctive bitter sweet smell and the laal chaulai having smooth & shiny leaves.Then appeared the tender garlic & onion scapes which were plucked every now & then to accompany the lunch.As compared to these spinach rows were many and more sought after. During winters, spinach became a sudden favorite in the house, it was added to lentils, tossed in salads, made into fritters with evening chai or simply stir fried with garlic & potatoes.

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The juicy, fleshy short stems reminding you how simple yet nourishing mother earth’s bounty can be. The mellow, soft taste of the organic leaves hardly needed a dash of lime juice and salt to become a perfect salad alongside dal – rice.Having eaten homegrown for so many years, that fresh taste is something hard to match with anything I cook from stores.

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I was always the child who ate her vegetables. I cannot eat meat for more than two days in a week. I love vegetables and if I don’t eat them for a while,my body starts missing them. On days, when I cook rich & heavy foods for the husband which I am not much in a mood for, I treat myself to palak paneer. Slow cooked spinach gives the dish a beautiful green color and creamy homemade paneer add the perfect richness.This recipe uses very less spices & no cream/butter so that the delicate taste of spinach is not overpowered by them.

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Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

  • 8 oz organic spinach
  • 2 – 2.5 cups water
  • 1-2 cloves
  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or any neutral oil of choice)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/4  tsp fennel seeds, finely crushed
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 fat garlic clove,minced
  • 3/4 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp coriander powder
  • 2-4 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • pinch of turmeric
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • 1.5″ fresh ginger shoot, grated
  • 1/2 tsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, optional but recommended)
  • 6 oz paneer, cut into cubes (store-bought or homemade)
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp heavy cream to finish off (optional)

Notes – 

  1. Use extra firm tofu in place of paneer and skip cream to make it a vegan recipe.
  2. You can lightly fry the paneer cubes in 1-2 tsp of oil before adding to the curry if you want.

Method

Add cloves to water and bring to a boil.Meanwhile, thoroughly wash the spinach leaves. Roughly chop the leaves if they are too big. Since I use baby spinach, the stems are tender, however you can pick the stems out if they are too hard.Once the water is boiling,turn off the heat & immediately add spinach to it.Let the leaves soak for 2-3 minutes and then drain. Reserve the liquid and transfer the spinach to food processor.Put in the cloves too. Pulse. I do not like to make a smooth puree however you can blend the spinach to desired texture. If needed, the reserved can be used liquid while blending.Set the blended spinach aside.

Heat up oil on high in a kadai or medium heavy bottomed pot.Once the oil is smoky, reduce the heat to medium & wait for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped onions to it along with fennel & cumin seeds (in that order) and sauté till the onions start to lightly brown.Next add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder, green chillies, turmeric & cinnamon to the pot and keep on cooking on medium low heat till you see oil separating on the sides of the pot. This may take 8-10 minutes. Add the spinach, ginger, and salt to the pot and mix well. Also add 1/3 cup of reserved liquid. Let the spinach cook on medium heat for about 8-10 minutes and then reduce the heat to low. Let cook on low heat for least 20 minutes. The spinach will bubble a lot during cooking (you can put a lid) and you will need to stir it in between to avoid sticking to bottom. Also the spinach will change color to dull green and you will start seeing glisten on the sides of the pot. At this point, add the paneer cubes and kasuri methi (if using) to the pot along with reserved liquid (quantity depending on how runny you want the dish). Also add the sugar. Cover and let cook on medium low for another 8-10 minutes till the paneer softens.

Let sit for 1-2 hours before serving. When ready to serve, add the cream, reheat and serve alongside hot flatbreads, steamed rice & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by.