Spinach and Cheese/Palak Paneer
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.
3. Pour the sliced onions into the pan and start caramelizing them on medium or low heat.
4. Peel and slice the garlic cloves.
5. When the onions look lightly golden brown, add the garlic to the pan and stir. Cook for another 5-7 minutes while stirring constantly.
6. Put the tomatoes into a small food processor and coarsely grind them.
7. Add the mashed up tomatoes to the pan and stir. Cook for another 7-8 minutes.
8. When the oil starts to separate from the onion-tomato mixture, add the Shaan masala and stir. Cook for another 3-5 minutes.
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.
you don’t fry the paneer before hand? Thanks
No Shilpa, I don’t like to fry paneer because the hot oil takes out the water from the paneer and makes it hard and rubbery…I like the paneer soft and to retain its texture (similar to Mozzarella)…so I add it to my dishes towards the end of the cooking process. Also, if I fry the paneer, the flavors of the sauce don’t get absorbed by the paneer and I like some of the flavors to be soaked up by the surface of the paneer. I remember my mom used to fry the paneer but I like it “raw”. How about you? Do you fry it?
I dont fry it either – for the same reason you have given, Shabnam and also because I am a bit lazy and use that as an excuse to avoid oil where I can.
Our family’s favourite!! I use the methi too. One dish both the kids and hubby agree on. When I make it just for us, I use a cheater’s version – Put all ingredients except the Paneer in a pressure cooker. (I omit the oil for this) Cook for a few minutes, then blend with the stick blender, add the paneer . And simmer for 10 mins. All done!.
That sounds like a good short-cut Rupali 🙂 Unfortunately I don’t have a pressure cooker anymore – all the ones I brought from India kept breaking and the ones we get in the US are so high tech and snazzy looking that I shy away from them. So I use a crock pot when I need something to get really soft (meat or beans) – it does take a lot of time and prior planning but I like the taste of slow cooked beans and meats and that is how I have done away with the pressure cooker entirely. Now that you have mentioned it, I’m wondering if I should go get one again 🙂
I have been using the Spanish brand Fagor for many years. Had picked up a large 6 lts here in Sydney within a couple of years of moving here and then bought another 4 lt in Spain for everyday use a few years back. Have been very happy with the quality. These have no weights to lose. The lid size is same (even though I bought them in different continents!!) The rubber rings are easily available – not that I have had to change them in so many years. I am sure you will be able to research a good brand. Couldn’t live without them – for my Indian and other cooking. Highly recommend it, Shabnam.
Oh Thank you Rupali – I will have to go look for that brand soon! I know it is a useful tool but somehow I got sick of the ones from India and all the trouble caused by them 🙂
This looks so delicious, I can nearly taste the flavors!
The colors are gorgeous, beautiful pictures.
Oh thank you Daniela 🙂 I am not a trained photographer and I just use an automatic camera so my pictures are usually very mediocre…but I do love bright colors and try to make all my foods very colorful and appetizing; I also serve them in colorful dishes! So I really appreciate that you liked my efforts. Let me know if you try this dish – I’d love some feedback 🙂
Never added methi to my paalak paneer! I’ll have to try that. My younger son loves paalak paneer and thats one way of getting some veggies in him. Else he is a very meat and potatoes kind of kid.
Hi Surbhi – I like the flavor of Methi…actually I REALLY love the flavor of Kasuri Methi and add that quite liberally in quite a few Indian dishes 🙂 Combining Methi with Palak, gives it a slightly bitter undertone that makes the flavor more complex…try it, you might like it. And if you try it, don’t forget to send me feedback – xoxo