Palak paneer is a classic Punjabi dish of cooked spinach studded with cubes of fried paneer cheese. This is a hearty and filling vegetarian meal.
This spinach benefits from cooking quickly. Overcooking makes it lose its colour. The technique of blanching with salt, turmeric and sugar will help keep the spinach a vibrant green, as will cooking it in an open pan. This recipe does not use much powdered spice, which also helps keep the spinach green.
You could use paneer from the supermarket – it would be better to buy fresh paneer from your Indian grocer. But, definitely the best way is to make your own paneer. Please see the recipe here. This will add about 45 minutes to the cooking time, but can be done in advance. You will be amazed at the difference making your own paneer will make, and trust me; it is such a simple thing to do.
As presented in this recipe it will serve two as a main meal, perhaps served with some bread, or will serve four as a side dish.
- 400 g spinach leaves trimmed and coarsely chopped
for the spinach
for the masala
- 1 tbsp ghee
- 250 g paneer cut into 1 cm cubes
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 indian bay leaf
- 1 brown onion finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 tomato pulp removed and finely chopped
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- ¼ tsp asafoetida powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
- 1 tbsp crème fraiche
- 1 tbsp crème fraiche
- 20 g ginger shredded
- 1 lime cut into wedges
Bring three litres of water to a boil in a large pot. Add one teaspoon each of salt, turmeric and jaggery, then add the spinach leaves. Once the pot returns to the boil, immediately remove the spinach and place into an ice water bath.
Drain the spinach once it is cold. Place the spinach with the coarsely chopped ginger, garlic and green chilies into a blender and puree. Add as little water as possible. Set aside.
Heat ghee in a pan, wok or kadai over medium heat. Add the paneer cubes and cook until lightly browned. Remove from ghee and set aside.
Add the cumin seeds to the hot ghee and let them splutter. Add the bay leaf, and then add the finely chopped onions. Cook for three minutes or until the onions become golden.
Add the finely chopped garlic. Cook for three minutes until the raw garlic smell has gone.
Add the chopped tomatoes. Stir and cook for around five minutes.
Once the tomatoes soften and you see the ghee releasing from the sides of the mixture, add the turmeric, red chili powder and asafoetida. Stir well.
Add the spinach puree and half a cup of water. Mix well and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for three minutes until the spinach is cooked, and the sauce has reduced. Taste and season with salt as required. Add the garam masala and mix well.
Add the paneer cubes, stir gently and simmer on low heat until the paneer cubes become soft and have absorbed some of the sauce. This takes only two minutes at most.
Add the fenugreek leaves and crème fraiche and stir gently so that the crème fraiche is incorporated into the sauce. Remove from the heat.
Garnish with a dollop of crème fraiche and the julienned ginger. Serve with the lime wedges.
- For a milder palak paneer, use only one chilli, and remove the membrane and seeds.