They say that if you were force-fed spinach as a child, you probably wouldn't like it as an adult. Despite the force-feeding though, spinach is another vegetable -- like pumpkin -- I've started enjoying and appreciating more as an adult. Palak paneer* is one of my favourite dishes, easy to cook and very easy on the stomach as well. For those who are weight conscious, it couldn't get better than this dish: Lots of green, cheese that doesn't make you feel guilty. For moms who find it hard to feed anything remotely leafy to their kids, this is a good option since they don't see the leaves in this dish and it's very creamy, which I'm told kids like.
(*Palak = spinach; paneer = Indian cottage cheese)
Like most Indian recipes, there are different ways to make palak paneer. Since most of those recipes involve frying the paneer and adding cream, I don't really enjoy them. I've also found that in the popular recipes, the spinach base can turn out to be bitter. Even if this sounds like blowing my own trumpet, I enjoy making and eating my version of palak paneer the best.
I use very little oil (1 TBS), don't fry the paneer and have found that my spinach base is much creamier -- without using any cream -- than the other versions on the net. Try it, you'll like it.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Try this with: Bread or rice
Cottage cheese/ ricotta/tofu 300-500 gms
Spinach leaves 160-200 gms (I use baby/English spinach, works just as fine as the big-leafed variety found in India)
Garlic 4 cloves
Black peppercorns 4 (optional)
Bay leaves 2
Onion 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger 1", grated
Salt to taste
Oil 1 TBS
- Cut the paneer into small cubes, cover with a wet cloth and keep aside.
- Spinach gravy base: Put the washed spinach leaves, garlic, cloves, cardamom and peppercorns in a deep saucepan (with lid). Fill with just enough water to cover the spinach, put the lid on and cook the spinach for 15-20 minutes. Once done, drain the leaves and spices in a colander/sieve, keep the water aside and allow it to cool slightly. Blend the spinach leaves (with garlic and spices) in a blender to form a smooth paste. Your spinach gravy base is ready.
- Heat oil in a large saucepan. Once its hot, add the bay leaves and saute for a minute.
- Add onions and grated ginger and fry till onions are golden. (If you are not using onion, saute the grated ginger for a minute, taking care not to burn it)
- Add 1 TSP (heaped) salt, mix well and add the spinach paste. The paste could be thick, add about 1/2-1 cup of the spinach water that you've kept aside earlier.
- Mix well and cook, on high heat, stirring intermittently, till the gravy boils. (For those who like it spicy, you can add chilli powder.)
- Once spinach paste boils, reduce heat, add the paneer/ricotta/tofu, gently mix it in and cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Taste to see if it needs salt and add (or not) accordingly.
It's imperative that you wash spinach and all leafy vegetables very thoroughly. There's often mud and insects hiding between the leaves. A good way to wash leafy greens is to soak them in enough water and let them sit for 10-15 minutes. This way the mud and dirt washes off the leaves and settles at the bottom of your washing bowl/bucket. Gently pull out the leaves, throw the dirty water and rinse the leaves again in running water.