This is another Indian restaurant favourite and like many Indian restaurant favourites it is usually made in restaurants with a gallon or so of cream. Home-made versions have a much lighter touch and, as in my version below, often leave out the cream altogether. This means you can actually taste the spinach and paneer—a radical concept, I know. Again, palak=spinach; you can make this with a combination of greens and if you do then you’ll have saag paneer (saag=leafy greens).
There are two major components to good palak paneer: good spinach and good paneer (ideally, home-made). If you have those two it’s hard to go wrong. You can tweak the other ingredients (proportions and texture) to your liking and make it entirely your own. You can even add some cream, I suppose, but to my mind palak paneer is best when it’s pureed spinach and soft home-made paneer that are the source of the velvety richness.
- 1 lb spinach, steamed and pureed
- 1 lb paneer, cubed (half of this recipe)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 tblspn ginger, grated
- 1 large clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder/haldi
- The following ground to a coarse powder: 2-3 dried red chillies, 1 small pinch mustard seeds, 1 small pinch fenugreek seeds, 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, 1 tblspn coriander seeds, 1/2 tblspn cumin seeds
- 1 small stick cinnamon/cassia bark
- 2-3 cloves
- I cup diced tomato
- 1-2 tblspns crushed kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
- Sugar, 1 pinch
- Salt to taste
- Heat up the oil and add the cinnamon/cassia and cloves.
- Once the oil has become fragrant add the chopped onions and cook over medium-high heat till the edges begin to brown.
- Add the grated ginger and garlic and stir till fragrant.
- Add the powdered masalas and turmeric and fry over medium heat for a minute or so.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar and salt and cook the tomatoes down completely.
- Add the pureed spinach and the crushed kasoori methi, mix, bring to a boil and simmer over medium-low heat till oil begins to separate.
- Add the cubed paneer, mix it all in gently and simmer covered for another 5-10 minutes.
- Serve with steamed rice or chapatis/parathas.
- Some people fry the cubed paneer first. I do too sometimes but frankly I usually prefer not to: both because it’s an extra step and because I prefer the paneer softer.
- I always grate the ginger because I like to get the occasional gingery crunch while eating this.
- You could leave out the kasoori methi if you can’t find any easily but it’s sort of the secret weapon here: it adds depth to the spinach and also a savoury, almost smoky quality.
- If you want the texture thinner you can add some water along with the pureed spinach, but the tomatoes plus the pureed spinach (assuming you’ve added some of the steaming liquid to the blender with the steamed spinach) should be enough for a thick sauce. See how it goes for you.
- You could garnish the final dish with some garam masala but I prefer not to.