Palak Paneer – Cottage cheese and spinach
Conducting cooking classes for my friends and colleagues was something I really enjoyed doing. We had so much fun during those classes where we cooked together and then devoured all the fruits of our labour afterwards. Though I didn’t manage to hold many sessions, I will always remember those fun filled classes with a smile. Palak paneer and chicken tikka masala were some of the most popular dishes among my friends so naturally, I received many requests to make these two in the sessions.
Palak paneer is a dish prepared mainly in Punjab, a state in northern India. It makes for an excellent accompaniment to rice or naan, Indian flat bread. The combination of palak and paneer is not only nutritious, but is also a delicious blend of taste, textures and flavours. No wonder so many wanted me to teach how to make it!
Palak is a type of spinach with rounded green leaves that don’t have a big network of veins, making it a good candidate for blanching and puréeing. So it’s not surprising that blanching the palak is the first step in the process. Simply put all the spinach into a pan of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes without using a lid to cover the pan. This is important because if a lid is used, the volatile oils in these leaves will not be able to escape with the steam and this will result in bitter leaves. After the 2 minutes, transfer the palak into a bowl of cold water with some ice cubes to refresh it.
Paneer is cottage cheese and can be made at home quite easily. I was bitten by a lazybug a few days before I last made palak paneer so I didn’t bother to make my own and used the store-bought paneer instead. It really is quite simple to do though and I will post a nice and easy guide on how to make your own paneer soon!
Normally paneer pieces are just fried or added plain into the prepared curry at the end. I always marinate these cubes of paneer with a little lime juice, salt and half a teaspoon of cumin powder for half an hour to make it more interesting and add more flavour to the dish. I then sauté these cubes in a little oil to make them firm so that they won’t crumble when added to the palak.
As palak is not very common in certain parts of the world, I wanted to try making this dish with chard or collard greens. But it just never happened. See, still being lazy…I shall post the result when (or if!) I eventually try it out.
- Palak (spinach) 300g
- Paneer 200g
- Roasted cumin powder ½ teaspoon
- Lime juice ½ lime
- Onion (finely chopped) 1 big
- Cumin seeds 1 ½ teaspoon
- Ginger (crushed) ½ inch piece
- Garlic (crushed) 4 cloves
- Green chillies (finely chopped)1 – optional
- Tomato ( puréed) 2 medium
- Coriander powder 1 tablespoon
- Cumin powder 1 teaspoon
- Chilli powder ½ teaspoon
- Salt to taste
- Cream 4 tablespoons
- Or Full cream milk ½ cup
- Sunflower oil (any refined oil) 3 tablespoons
- Cut the paneer into 1 cm cubes, marinate with the juice of half a lime, ½ tsp cumin powder and salt for 10 minutes.
- Blanch the spinach, refresh in ice water and grind into a fine paste. Set aside.
- Shallow fry the paneer cubes until light brown in a tbsp of oil and drain on a kitchen paper.
- Heat the rest of the oil and fry cumin seeds until it changes colour to a darker tone.
- Add chopped onions and sauté till transluscent.
- Add crushed garlic and ginger, followed by green chilli and fry till the onion becomes slightly brown. Add corriander, chilli and cumin powder and fry for a minute.
- Then add the tomato puree and fry for 4-5 mnts stirring often. Add salt to taste.
- Once the tomato mixture is fried add the spinach puree and paneer cubes. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.
- Add cream or milk and simmer till a glaze appears on top of the liquid.
- Add a squeeze of lime (optional) and serve with a swirl of cream.