Quick Palak Paneer

28 Aug

Iin America! went to Whole Foods today, and was again overwhelmed by the bounty that was there. But I knew I had a load of things to do today, so it was a quick trip (my Mum was also with me … that slows and speeds things up in a strange way). It was an in and out shop – and I was thinking of what to make for dinner. There was a huge bunch of gorgeous baby spinach. And there was ready made paneer (a bland Indian cheese that cooks well, and soaks up all the flavour of what ever dish you put it in). And that was it. Tacos for the young-uns (well, the adults had some too), and palak paneer for the adults. It took less than 20 minutes, and it was delicious.

It was also a palak paneer that was cobbled together with what I could find at the shops. I didnt really have access to the kind of spice cupboard that I would have back home. This palak paneer you can make just about anywhere in the world! And the great thing about this dish is that you can make it vegan. Use a firm tofu, ready spiced and baked if possible, and slice it and add. It has the same creaminess as the paneer, and adds similar protein. Use coconut cream (not milk) in place of the cream or milk, and you have a delectable vegan feast.

Just imagine a gorgeous green mass, with a turmeric yellow sauce, and creamy chunks of cheese. It was satisfying and healthy, and oh so easy. Just remember to taste and adjust for seasoning. You put in so much spinach that you might well need to add more salt and pepper at the end.

Serves 4 – 6, with rice

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 large onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Knob of fresh ginger (about the size of your pinkie), grated
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chili pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Large bunch of fresh baby spinach (about 4 – 6 cups, chopped) or 1 bag frozen chopped spinach, defrosted
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup milk, half and half, cream, or coconut milk
  • 1 packet paneer (about 1 cup chopped) Note: if you cannot find paneer, substitute with Mexican queso blanco, or firm ricotta, sliced and pan fried. Or, if you want to be vegan, add firm tofu, preferably one that has been baked and flavoured.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil and sesame oil until shimmering. Add the onions, garlic and ginger, and stir to combine. Let the onions soften a bit, and then add the spices and salt and pepper. Let saute for at least 5 minutes or so, on medium low heat. You want the spices to become fragrant, and cook a little. This will impact hugely on the end taste of the dish. Just make sure they dont burn!

Add the spinach all at once. Raise heat to high, and wilt the spinach completely, mixing it in well with the onions and spices. Add the water, and let cook down, and taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the milk or cream, and let reduce a little. Adjust for seasoning again, and add the paneer. Cook for at least 5 minutes on a medium low fire. You want the paneer incorporated into the gravy, and you want it to taste of spices and spinach.

You can make this ahead at least a few hours. Reheat on low for a few minutes, and serve with rice and some chutney.

3 Responses to “Quick Palak Paneer”

  1. Tammy McLeod August 29, 2010 at 12:20 am #

    I am definitely going to try this recipe. I always get it in Indian restaurants but didn’t know about the cheese substitutions. Thanks.

    • delectableblog August 29, 2010 at 12:45 am #

      Its my favourite. If you cant find paneer (I found it at Whole Foods) and you want the original, its quite easy to make. 1 gallon whole milk, taken to the boil. Take off heat, and add 2 tbsp lemon juice, and stir until you can see the milk curds separating from the whey. Let sit for 10 minutes or so until fuller curds form. Pour into a sieve lined with cheese cloth, and allow as much of the remaining moisture to drain away. Tie up the cheese cloth, transfer the cheese to a plate, centre another plate on it, and put something heavy on top. This will shape the cheese, push more moisture out of it, and ready it for cooking. Use as you would any paneer. Enjoy!

  2. Laney April 29, 2012 at 10:32 am #

    Thank you for posting such a wonderful recipe. I love that I can substitute coconut milk for the milk or cream. Saag Paneer is one of my all time favorite dishes. I can’t wait to make it.

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