My mom is an awesome cook and any dish she makes comes out absolutely delicious (I agree I am biased here, but then, when it comes to Moms, who isn’t, right?). I have a few favorite dishes that I like only when she makes them. Even though I have tried replicating them, I’ve never been able to match them. Mom and Dad have visited us here a few times and everytime they have been here, she’s taken over my kitchen and I have taken a break. Lucky me, am I not? The few dishes that I have cooked whenever she’s been here, she’s liked them to varying degrees. This is one of the dishes that she’s loved. The inspiration for this dish comes from a restaurant in NYC.
In the past, whenever we would visit NJ, we would make it a point to eat at this restaurant in New York City called “Curry in a Hurry”. They serve a Saag dish with rotis or naans, which we all had liked and I was trying to make that dish. The end result was a mix of a lot of things that I saw and found in my kitchen – a can of chickpeas on the counter, I decided to add that, found a block of paneer in the freezer, that went in too, I added more chilli powder than needed, ended up putting in yoghurt to get the spice level down, etc. One thing led to another and this dish surprisingly came out well! Saag can be made with any green leafy vegetable from spinach to mustard greens to fenugreek, etc. One can also mix spinach and fenugreek leaves in this dish. This dish should not be confused with Palak Paneer as they are totally different dishes. For the Palak Paneer, you tend to blanch and blend the spinach leaves whereas here, the leaves are just chopped finely or blended coarsely. This is a North Indian dish but as usual, done my way!
- Spinach leaves - 1 lb
- Paneer cubes - 200 gms
- Chick peas/Garbanzo beans/Chana - 1 cup or 1 can (optional)
- Oil - 4 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
- Onions - 2, large, finely chopped
- Green chillies - 4, finely chopped
- Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- Tomatoes - 3, medium size, finely chopped
- Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
- Red chilli powder - 1 tsp (more or less depending on your taste)
- Coriander-cumin powder - 1 tsp
- Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Yoghurt or cream - 1/2 cup
- Cilantro for garnish
Wash and roughly chop the spinach leaves.
Cut the block of paneer into cubes and set aside or you can shallow fry the cubes in little oil (you can also deep fry them if you want)
If adding chickpeas, wash and soak the chickpeas in water for atleast 6 hours or overnight. Cook the chickpeas in a stockpot adding enough water or pressure cook the chickpeas till done (couple whistles in my pressure cooker). If you are in a bind, you can use a can of store bought cooked chickpeas too.
Heat oil in a wide flat bottomed pan. Put in the cumin seeds and when the seeds sizzle, put in the finely chopped onions and green chillies. Fry till golden.
Add the ginger garlic paste and fry till fragrant.
Put in the finely chopped tomatoes and fry till pulpy.
Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and coriander-cumin powder and mix well.
Put in the chopped spinach leaves, mix well and let it cook for 5 minutes. At this point, I use my immersion hand blender and slightly blend the whole onion, tomato and spinach mixture. (Don't blend it to a paste, just enough so that the whole thing is a coarse mixture).
Put in the cooked chickpeas with its stock, paneer cubes (either plain, shallow fried or deep fried) and salt to taste. Stir till they are all well incorporated. Cook till done. Remove from heat and put in the yoghurt (or cream, to add to the richness), keep stirring to prevent it from curdling and put it back on heat till it comes to a boil.
Garnish with garam masala powder and finely chopped cilantro, mix well and remove from heat immediately.
Serve hot with white rice, jeera rice or with rotis.
- If you do not have the immersion hand blender, then I would recommend chopping the spinach leaves finely.
- You can substitute tofu for paneer if necessary.
- This dish can be prepared without adding yoghurt too. I have made it without yoghurt a few times and it has turned out quite good also.