Indian recipes · Vegetarian & vegan

Palak paneer, fresh blanched spinach with garlic, spices and homemade paneer.

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Palak paneer is one of my family favourite recipe and the most loved too. Indian winters not only bring with them a pleasant season but also abundant fresh produce and spinach too makes a regular appearance . Although, in the UK spring is the best season to get fresh and tender spinach. I got hold of this Italian spinach variety through my local Harrogate greengrocers.

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In India, vegetable vendors sell spinach in bunches tied with a jute string but surprisingly never saw bunched here. It’s always in packets and this was the first time I saw a bunched spinach since I moved here. This was obviously an exciting thing for me to see and those bunches really looked gorgeous as compared to the packed varieties. So much so, that I took a couple of pictures of these bunches, a small  photo project for these beauties..

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They are beautiful, aren’t they? Cooking has given me an opportunity to explore the beauty and bountiful nature’s produce which somehow I failed to notice in my early years of life. Glad I started cooking!

About the recipe, it has traveled across the length and breadth of India and also to the west where it has a popular name ‘Saag Paneer’. I think its also the most blogged recipe too, all over the world I would say. Another contribution in this genre by me this time.

This recipe is my mum’s and she advices not to load this recipe with lots of spices. Keep it simple and enjoy the pairing of spinach with garlic and tomatoes with a hint of chili in the background. She never uses cream or yogurt in this homemade goodness as the smooth and silky texture comes from the soft homemade crumbly paneer which melts in the mouth and harmonizes all the flavours.

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  • Preparation time: 8-10 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25-30 minutes
  • Makes 3-4 servings
  • Suitable for freezing

INGREDIENTS

Raw materials:

Spices:

  • 300 grams’ fresh spinach, blanched
  • 1 small fresh green chilli (optional)
  • 4 tablespoon mustard oil/rapeseed oil
  • 1 medium sized brown onion, finely chopped
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
  • 1 cup of fresh tomato puree
  • sea salt as per taste
  • 1 cup of lukewarm water approximately
  • 200 grams of paneer, cubed
  • 1/4 teaspoon of red chilli powder/paprika powder,
  • a small pinch of turmeric powder and ground black pepper

Cookware:

a large saucepan

METHOD

  1. Puree the spinach along with green chilli in a blender, make sure its smooth, shouldn’t be pesto like consistency.
  2. Heat oil in a saucepan and brown the onions.
  3. Add the minced/grated garlic and fry for one or two seconds, being careful not to burn it.
  4. Stir in the tomato puree, fry for a minute and then add all spices.
  5. Mix everything and fry for 10-15 minutes on a medium heat until you can see the oil droplets bubbling out from the mixture.
  6. Add the pureed spinach, salt, fry for a minute or two, and after this dilute it by adding little water at a time depending on how thick of a gravy you prefer.
  7. Increase the heat and bring it to a boil.
  8. Take off the heat, add the paneer pieces and cover the pan with a lid, this helps the paneer soak in the flavours.

Enjoy this homely comfort recipe either with some pillowy naan bread or chapatis.


HINTS & TIPS

  • This can be made vegan by replacing paneer with either tofu or roast potatoes.
  • You can try using other greens like kale and chard.
  • You can try grilling the paneer cubes on a barbecue and then add to the gravy for a light smoky flavour.

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