Here is a simple recipe that transforms boring greens into a delectable creation, Palak Paneer. Just the addition of paneer to the word palak makes it a quick favorite :D I totally forgot about this dish after I came here. Palak Paneer's rich (& greasy) cousin, Saag paneer is a quintessential addition to any Indian restaurant here in the US. They drown the greens in tons of cream and butter robbing them of their natural beauty ! I've somehow never heard of this dish in India, it must be one of those Indo-American creations by some innovative chef !
So last week a friend of mine who reads my blog asked me why I had not blogged about this dish yet, it got me wondering too ! Its a clean, uncomplicated recipe that can be cooked in under 30 mins. Some jeera rice or chapatis on the side and your are all set to have a delicious meal. Thank you KM ! Its has been ages since I enjoyed this dish and it felt sooooo good. It brought back memories of the aloo palak my mom makes( need to get her recipe)
The recipe for palak paneer is very simple, its perfect for first time cooks. There are very few ingredients with the spinach being the star of the show. No heavy cream or butter or masala to spoil the fun here. Its also a very forgiving recipe, letting you use any form of the ingredients without ruining the flavor even a bit. Many recipes I saw online called for cumin and coriander powder, I had neither with no intentions of making them fresh either. So I just crushed the seeds in a mortar and pestle. I also had some leftover tomato puree from the gobi kheema. You can surely use store bought tomato puree or fresh tomatoes. So here's my recipe
- 1 bunch - Spinach leaves, washed (I used a packet of baby spinach)
- 2 nos - Green chillies, slit lengthwise
- 10-15 - Paneer cubes (I used frozen paneer cubes got from the Indian store)
- 1 tbsp - Oil (or butter/ghee if you are in a really good mood :) )
- 2 tsp - Cumin seeds/Jeera
- 1 tsp - Coriander seeds, crushed
- 1/2 tsp - Turmeric powder
- 1/2 nos - Onion, sliced
- 2 tsp - Ginger & Garlic paste ( I minced fresh ginger & garlic)
- 1 nos - Ripe tomato, chopped or 1 Tbsp - Tomato puree ( I had some leftover frozen cubes of this tomato puree)
- 1 tsp - Garam masala
- 1 Tbsp - Yogurt
- Salt to taste
- Boil some water in a vessel. Add the washed spinach, slit green chillies and some salt. When the leaves start to wilt strain them in a colander, storing the water. Wash the leaves under cold water, this I read helps retain the green color of the leaves.
- Using a little of the strained water, puree the spinach and green chillies. I used a hand blender for this. If you choose to skip the blending part, then roughly chop the wilted spinach leaves to get a similar texture.
- In a pan, heat the oil and splutter the jeera seeds and add crushed coriander seeds (or powder). As they brown, add the onions, ginger-garlic paste (store bought or fresh) and turmeric.
Tip: Sprinkle a little salt on the onions to soften them faster. Salt brings out the water from the onions and helps them cook faster.
- Once the onions are cooked add chopped tomatoes/puree. Cook until the tomatoes are tender and mushy. In my case I used 3 cubes of the frozen tomato puree and cooked it for 2-3mins. Add some of the strained water if needed.
- Add the pureed spinach and let it simmer for a few minutes. Don't add too much water as there are no thickening agents in this recipe. I added some yogurt to get a nice smooth texture. When adding yogurt, lower the heat to avoid curdling.
- Meanwhile thaw the paneer cubes in the microwave for a minute or two. Heat some oil in a pan and lightly brown the paneer. Don't toss them around too much as they break up very easily. I took the easiest route by spraying the paneer with some cooking oil and broiling them in the oven for 5 mins.
- Add the paneer cubes and some garam masala to the palak; cook on low heat for a couple of minutes.
- Serve hot with jeera rice or chapati. You can use the leftover strained water to make the chapati dough or cook rice.
I had some cooked rice in the fridge, so I microwaved it for 3 mins after tossing some jeera, a few drops of oil and a few spoons of water. Instant Jeera rice ready !! I absolutely loved this combo. Spinach in this form tastes sooo good. You even forget to feel guilty you are eating your greens !! :P So if its been awhile since you made this, do it tonight !