This one is a treasure in my kitchen. It is a hearty, wholesome, comforting dish loved by my family. Sometimes known as Saag Paneer, sometimes as Palak Paneer, it is a popular Indian delicacy which has taken a comforting place in many homes all over the world and in the menu of every Indian restaurant.
Saag or Palak/Palaak is Spinach and Paneer is the home made Indian cheese.The combination of spinach & cheese is a power pack, with the protein of cheese, & calcium, folate, iron, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin A of spinach. The origination of this dish is from the northern parts of India but is enjoyed not just all over the country, but all over the world as well. Saag Paneer/or Palak Paneer is a dish that is always found in the menu of the Indian restaurant.
Like all other Indian recipes, this dish have slight variations which are not just regional but also from one home to another. Some fry the paneer until golden brown before adding it to the spinach. I have not fried the paneer cubes and like it the way the original taste is retained, it is more tender than the fried version and in a way the flavors penetrates the cheese better. I also use Kasuri Methi (Methi/Fenugreek leaves) along with spinach, more for the flavors than for taste. But this is totally optional too. Another thing which I do a bit different here is the addition of the tomatoes; this is what makes the color darker and not the bright green of the usual Palak Paneer. I like the subtle balance that the tart of the tomatoes imparts to the dish.
Palak Paneer/Saag Paneer: Spinach with Indian Cheese
Ingredients: (serves 6-8 as a side dish)
- 2 lbs spinach (if using fresh, use about 5-6 cups chopped)
- 1 big red or yellow onion (about 1.5-2 cups), quartered and thinly sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 3 tomatoes chopped (or 1 cup of Tomato Puree) – Optional**
- 4 tablespoon of oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of methi/fenugreek seeds
- 1.4 tablespoon of Kasuri Methi (These are dried methi/fenugreek leaves available in Indian Grocery Stores) – Optional
- 1.5 cups of Paneer/Indian Cottage Cheese cut into cubes (make Paneer at home or buy the ready made ones from the Indian Grocery)
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder/paprika/cayenne (optional)
- 4 green hot peppers, slit (Optional)
- 1 tablespoon heavy cream for garnish – Optional
- a drizzle of lemon juice, if you are not using tomatoes
**Note: The use of the tomatoes is optional. If you do not use the tomatoes, you will have a more green Palak Paneer. If you are not using tomatoes, use some lemon juice at the end of the cooking.
If you are using fresh spinach leaves, wash spinach until all dirt runs out. Take 1 cup of water in a large pan, add the spinach, garlic and half of kasuri methi and boil it covered at low heat till the spinach leaves change color to darker green, about 7-10 minutes.
Or if you want to retain the crisp green color of the spinach, blanch spinach for a couple of minute and run under chilled water. Skip the above step of cooking the spinach.
Cool it and blend it to a puree in the blender along with the green peppers.
Heat the oil, add the methi/fenugreek seeds. Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the onions. Fry till the onions are glazed and starting to brown. Add the tomatoes (if you are using tomatoes), chili powder and the salt. Cover and fry till the tomatoes are soft and mushy and the oil leaves the sides of the pan.
If you are not using tomatoes, pour in the spinach blend, green peppers and the rest of the kasuri methi .If you are using tomatoes, add the spinach to the pan only after the tomatoes have cooked as mentioned in the above step.
Cover and simmer at low heat for another 15 – 20 minutes. Take care at this time because the spinach will pop and bubble as it boils.
Uncover and stir in the Cheese/Paneer cubes. Cover and cook for another 1o minutes.
Garnish with a swirl of heavy cream just before serving.
Serve as a side with bread or over rice.