There are some dishes that are very popular in Indian restaurants in the US and Palak Paneer is one of them. Personally, I prefer to eat my spinach raw in the form of a salad – especially since we have the luxury of getting wonderful baby spinach all year round. But often when I invite non-Indians for dinner, the guests ask me if I can make “Chicken Tikka Masala” or “Palak-Paneer” for them. So even though I don’t usually make these dishes for my family, I do end up making them when I have people over for an Indian meal. Yesterday I made this Palak Paneer for a Super Bowl party that I went to at my neighbors’ place.
My take on Palak Paneer is a little different from the most standard recipes because I like to add fenugreek/methi leaves to my spinach base. I find that when the spinach leaves are cooked down a lot, they tend to lose some of their taste and so to counter the blandness of the spinach leaves I add fenugreek leaves. These add an earthy, slightly bitter taste to the spinach and their subtle flavor adds a lot of depth to the dish. You can find frozen or fresh fenugreek leaves at any South Asian/Indian store. I also like to use frozen spinach for this dish because they taste the same as fresh spinach leaves (which get cooked down so much in this dish that there is no point in using fresh leaves) and they are convenient and easy to use.
1. One packet of frozen spinach leaves (12 ounces)
2. One packet of frozen Fenugreek leaves (12 ounces)
3. 1 lb packet of Paneer (Indian Farmer’s Cheese available at Indian Stores)
4. One large onion
5. One pint of ripe fresh grape tomatoes
6. Half a packet of Shaan Keema Masala (available at Indian stores as well) – it contains salt so please taste the salt level of the cooked dish before you add any more.
7. 1 tablespoon of coriander seeds.
8. 2 green chilies
9. 3-4 cloves of garlic
10. ½ inch of fresh ginger root
11. 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
12. one teaspoon of sugar (I add a little bit of sugar to enhance the taste of any savory dish)
1. Peel and finely slice the onion.
2. Place a large heavy bottomed sauté pan on medium flame and pour the cooking oil in it.
9. Add the frozen spinach and Fenugreek to the pan and stir. Using the wooden spatula, try to crush the cubes of frozen spinach and fenugreek leaves and mix everything in the pan. Cook for another 8-10 minutes.
10. Add 1.5 cups of water to the pan and stir.
11. Using a hand held blender (or a regular blender) coarsely blend the contents of the pan.
12. Now add the green chilies and grate the ginger into the pan and stir.
13. Slice the chunk of Paneer into cubes and add them to the pan and stir.
14. Using a dry spice blender (ie coffee grinder) grind the coriander seeds.
15. Add the ground coriander seeds and the tiny bit of sugar to the pan. Cook for another 4-5 minutes. Taste for salt and adjust according to your preference,
16. Serve the dish with Indian flat bread like Naan or Tandoori Roti or a Basmati Rice Pilaf.