Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Palak Paneer

My mom was always concerned with my younger brother's diet after he developed patches on his skin which the doctor blamed on vitamin deficiency. She learnt of this recipe to make spinach, called Palak in Hindi,  from our Punjabi neighbors and she hoped he would like it. My brother never developed a liking for spinach, but I ended up loving it.

This dish is very popular in British Indian Restaurants where it is sold as Saag Paneer. They tend to use finely chopped spinach here instead of puréed spinach which I like to use. I have always associated Palak Paneer with puréed spinach and that is how I like it.

In this version I use Indian cottage cheese called Paneer. This is the usual cottage cheese which has been strained through muslin and cut into blocks. These are available in 200 gm packs at Tescos. I tend to use only half of it and freeze the rest to use at a later date. You could substitute it with peeled and boiled chunks of potatoes instead.



Ingredients

  • 500 grams of Spinach washed with the stems removed
  • 1 medium onion - chopped coarsely
  • 4 cloves of garlic 
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 finger green chilies 
  • 2 Tomatoes - quartered
  • Paneer - Indian Cottage Cheese - cut into chunks
  • Vegetable oil - 2 tbsps
  • Salt to taste
Method
  • Wash the spinach and let the water drain away. Transfer this to a saucepan, add a bit of salt and start the heat. The water on the leaf as a result of washing should be sufficient for boiling it. If you see the leaves burning, sprinkle a bit of water on them. The salt helps preserve the green colour. Do not cover the sauce pan. The leaves will shrivel down to a tiny fraction of the volume you started out with. Switch the heat off and leave it to cool. Once cooled, puree the spinach in a blender.
  • In another blender vessel add onions, garlic, ginger and the chilies and blend until you have a smooth paste.
  • Heat a sauce pan and add two tablespoons of oil to it.
  • Add the paste made earlier and fry until the raw taste of onion is no longer present. If the paste starts burning add a bit of water to it.
  • Add the quartered chunks of tomato to the pan and fry for a minute.
  • Add the pureed spinach, cover the pan and let it cook for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the chunks of paneer, cover the sauce pan and let it cook for another 3 minutes.
  • Once done, switch the heat off and let it rest for a few minutes.
Serve with rice or rotis.