“Palak paneer” which literally means “spinach and cottage cheese”, is a Punjabi dish. This was not a dish that my Mom would cook at home and we would very rarely eat it whenever we would go out to eat at restaurants. We wouldn’t order vegetarian stuff anyway and my Mom , the only vegetarian in the group, seemed to prefer butter paneer masala to palak paneer. When dad got posted to North India, we got to eat palak paneer on different occasions but I was not particularly bowled over by the dish. I found it too bland (maybe that’s the actual way its supposed to taste, I don’t know)) and the taste of palak was overwhelming. Rajesh however, loves this dish and the first few times I made this dish after going over a bunch of recipe books, I was not impressed. After taking a little bit of this from one recipe book and a little bit of that from another and so on, I came up with this particular recipe which seems to be a hit with Rajesh mainly and with most of my guests to whom it has been served.
- Spinach - 1 1/2 lbs
- Green chillies - 4 (more or less depending on your taste)
- Cooking soda - a pinch
- Tomatoes - 2, medium sized
- Paneer - 200 gms
- Oil - 5 tbsp (to fry paneer, optional)
- Oil/Ghee - 3 tbsp
- Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
- Onions - 1, large, finely chopped
- Ginger garlic paste - 1 tbsp
- Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
- Coriander - cumin powder - 1 tsp
- Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - 1 tsp
- Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
- Salt to taste
Wash the spinach leaves nicely and blanch in boiling water, a few leaves at a time, for just 2-3 minutes. Do not keep it for long, you should not overcook it. Let it cool and then blend to a smooth paste, adding the green chillies and cooking soda to it while blending. Set aside.
Blend tomatoes to a smooth paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a pan. When hot, shallow-fry the paneer cubes till golden and set aside.
Heat oil/ghee in a wide bottomed pan. When hot, season with cumin seeds. Put in the finely chopped onions and fry till light brown.
Put in the ginger garlic paste and fry till the rawness of the ginger and garlic disappears.
Add the turmeric, coriander-cumin powder and the kasuri methi and fry till fragrant.
Put in the blended tomatoes, mix well and fry till oil separates from the sides of the pan.
Add the blended spinach and green chillies paste and salt to taste, mix well. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes.
Put in the paneer cubes and garam masala powder, mix well and let it cook on low heat for another couple minutes. Take it off the flame immediately.
Serve hot with either white rice, plain jeera rice or rotis.
- I buy the bag of spinach leaves from Costco which makes it very easy to make this dish.
- Cooking soda is added while blending spinach to retain the green color of the leaves.
- You can deep fry the paneer cubes if you want or you can altogether skip the frying step and leave the paneer cubes plain. This step is optional.
- If paneer is not available or if you want to avoid the extra calories, paneer can be substituted with tofu.
- I used ghee and oil in equal amount to fry the onions.
- Do not cook the curry for long, the blended spinach can turn dark and make the curry look blackish.
- You can also top off the curry with a couple tablespoons of cream to give it a richer texture.