Palak Paneer – Indian Pureed Spinach with Cottage Cheese
Yes – Palak Paneer is quite a staple vegetarian dish on the Indian À la carte. Quite a simple and straightforward recipe. Still, you can make or break the flavor by the cooking method. Incorrectly prepared, it would taste rather bland. Essential is the thorough washing, rinsing and draining of the spinach. Use only fresh spices and the Garam Masala quality also has a great impact on the dish. Here’s a splendid Palak Paneer recipe, bound to create the best results.
‘Palak’ is the punjabi word for spinach. ‘Palak Paneer’ is sometimes referred to as ‘Saag Paneer’ , however ‘Saag’ is the generic term given to any ‘greens’ and does not necessarily mean spinach although it can be. It can also be other greens such as broccoli, watercress, mustard greens etc. So be sure to ask if you see it on a menu. 🙂
- 500 gms Indian Green Spinach (Palak)
- 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste ( equal amounts of ginger and garlic, ground to a smooth paste)
- ½ tsp geen chili paste
- 100 gms paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese),cut into cubes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tsp garam masala powder – or more to taste
- vegetable/ sunflower oil as needed
- 1 ½ Tbsp butter
- 1 ½ Tbsp pouring cream
- salt to taste
- Chop off the ‘root base’ of the spinach, holding the bunch together on a chopping board.
- Hold the stem portion downwards under running water and rinse off any dirt well.
- Place the spinach in a large colander and rinse well – shaking the spinach well with hands as you do so.
- Leave to drain for 10 minutes, while you prepare all other ingredients.
- Add the drained spinach, ginger-garlic paste, green chili paste, a pinch of salt and some water to a pressure cooker. Pressure cook till just before the first steam whistle escapes. Remove from heat and allow cooker to cool on its own before opening. ( If using an ordinary pot, cook covered till the spinach stems are tender).
- Blend thecooked spinach to a smooth puree.
- (The frying step is totally optional and gives the paneer a more crisp texture on both sides.I more often add the paneer straight to the cooked spinach puree.)
- Heat oil in a non stick frying pan (just enough to shallow fry the paneer).
- Add the cubed paneer pieces in one layer and fry all sides till golden. Note that overflying the paneer results in hard and rubbery paneer.
- Remove the Paneer from the pan. Discard all but 1 ½ Tbsp of the oil used for frying the paneer from the pan.
- To this oil add the butter.
- Fry the Bay Leaves and Cumin till aromatic.
- Add the chopped onions and saute till the onions turn deep pink and soft.
- Add a pinch of salt, pepper powder and garam masala. Stir well till aromatic.
- Add the pureed spinach and stir to combine with the spice mixture.
- Next add the golden paneer or uncooked paneer now.
- Stir to coat. Add the cream and stir into the curry.
- Pour into an oven proof dish.
- Bake at 180º c /356ºf in the middle rack for 30 minutes. If you prefer to cook on the stove top, simply reduce heat, cover and simmer till nicely thickened.
Tried it? Let us know – Palak Paneer.
- Be careful while adding salt to this dish. Add a pinch while cooking the spinach and then a pinch while sautéing the onions. After adding the spinach puree and paneer. Mix well and give it a taste. Only add a pinch more if needed at this point. ( Baking tends to thicken the dish, so saltiness will show up more after baking).
- Even when using uncooked paneer, the top of the paneer developed a golden crust. This is why it is important to place in the middle rack while baking.
- I often add a little bit of kasuri methi to the cooked puree as well.