Palak Paneer/ Spinach Gravy with Cottage Cheese
I am Ki and I am addicted to Punjabi food.
There! Confessing it makes me feel so much better.
I am sure that all those people who have tasted the deliciousness that is Palak Paneer will agree with me on this one. It is the essence of Punjabi cuisine world.
The aromas of the whole spices are still wafting through my kitchen even though I made it a couple hours back. The spicy, rich green spinach gravy to accompany the soft tender nuggets of Paneer, so perfect for each other.. makes me wonder if they ever got married how beautiful their kids would be!
Be it summers or winters, Palak Paneer is one of the most sought after items in restaurants.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but I should tell you this horrifying secret, restaurants use artificial colouring to make their gravies rich green in colour. We don't do that at home to keep our Spinach gravy to be ravishingly green.
In a Punjabi house like mine, Palak Paneer has graced our dining tables on many a formal dinners, family dinners, festivals, sundays, you name it! It is one thing that a Punjabi household cannot do without. And now my dear readers, my friends, my favourite people on the planet, I am sharing with you this wondrous recipe that will have you reeling with joy. I am already buzzing with excitement here! Hence, all the exclamation marks!!! So lets get to it, then, shall we??!!
Time taken: 45 mins
500 gms Fresh Spinach
250 gms Paneer (cottage cheese)
2 Red Onions
2 Tomatoes, pureed
1" piece of ginger
6-7 garlic cloves
2 green chilies
2-3 whole, dried red chilies
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 black cardamoms
3 green cardamoms
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
2 tsp salt
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tbsp Kasturi methi (Dried fenugreek leaves) (Optional)
3 tbsp curd
5 tbsp oil
coriander for garnish
Good ole Pinch o' love
A few pointers:
--> Thoroughly rinse your spinach leaves a couple times to make sure there are no impurities left inside
--> Cut off the stems and discard them (Ignore if you are bringing packaged leaves)
--> Always boil the spinach unlidded. It will prevent the green colour from disappearing
--> Keep an eye on the spinach while it is boiling. You don't want the colour to darken too much
--> A good Palak Paneer is all about the dark forest green colour of the spinach and the rich gooey pieces of paneer.
--> If you do not like using whole spices in your gravies, although I really highly do recommend it, you can substitute it with 1 tsp of garam masala powder. But the taste will not be as gorgeous as using whole spices. You've been warned.
--> Last but not the least, eat it while its piping hot with Indian flatbread or Lachha Paranthas. Trust me you'll fall in love!
I began by cutting off the stems of spinach, leaving just the leaves and rinsed them thoroughly.
Next, we need to boil them. Heat a big pot of water and when the water starts to boil, add the spinach leaves to it. See how the pot isn't able to contain all the spinach. Give it a minute, and then see magic!
Et voila! In a minute or so, the leaves will have wilted in the water and will be submerged. Keep turning them with tongs.
Told you, Magic! Give it another minute till you see the ends of the leaves wilting. The smallish stems attached there will also soften. Thats it. Turn off the flame and remove the spinach leaves to a blender. Drain the excess water.
If you have any ideas to use spinach water, let me know. I was thinking of making spinach soup but today wasn't the day.
In the blender. Blend Blend Blend....But be careful while blending. The spinach is hot and you don't want the pressure of the steam to make your blender explode.
There you have it! Rich, forest-y green puree. Cover it and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat 5 tbsp of oil (veg oil preferable) in a deep dish pan. As soon as it starts shimmering, add in cumin seeds to it.
Give it a stir and allow them to splutter for a few seconds.
Then add in whole red chilies. Yes...spicy...
Next goes the bay leaf..
And then the cinnamon stick broken into pieces...
Take the cardamom pods, both green and black
And give them a good thump or two in your trusty ancient mortar and pestle till they crack open.
And add the bruised cardamom pods to the pan with all the other spices.
Oh the aroma darlings.... Pure heaven... Pure culinary heaven, I tell you!
Split the green chilies lengthwise and add them to the sinfully divine spice mix.
I am sure if you changed the order of adding the spices to the pan, they won't get offended and I promise I won't alert the food authorities. Saute these for about a minute and don't let them burn.
While the spices are sauteing, bring out your best friend- the chopper or the knife, and get your onions. I love my chopper. He's my best friend. We've cried together over so many onions in the years gone by.
Chop the onions into cubes and plop them in the chopper.
Blitz a few times and your onions are chopped! Remove the onions from the chopper and scoop them out in the pan on the bed of those beautiful aromatic spices.
Stir and combine with the spices.
Saute for a minute or two till they start to soften.
Bring out your bff the chopper again. Roughly chop the ginger into chunks and add to the chopper with garlic cloves. (Yes, you still see some chopped onion sticking to the chopper, it alright. No need to fret over it)
Chop chop chop...and they're all finely minced! My life's so easy!
Add to the onion mix sauteing in the pan.
Saute time. Saute till the onions turn pale and look like they're about to disintegrate.
Take a minute.....inhale the insanely tempting aroma....get moving again.
Time to add the tomato puree.
Mix well and let the tomatoes cook for 5 minutes or so till the oil starts to leave on the edges.
Go ahead and add the spices now- Salt, red chili powder, coriander powder.
Mix and cook for 5 more minutes. Yes be patient....
Add curd. It adds creaminess and a certain mellowness to the spicy mix.
Do you see the reddish brown colour of this spectacular masala base! You know your dish is going to turn out great!
If you're adding kasturi methi, crush a table spoon of it between your palms and then add to the masala.
Alright people, its been about 5 minutes since I added the curd and kasturi methi. Time to get out the big guns or in this case, the pureed spinach. Pour the puree in the pan.
Toss and combine everything. Add the powdered nutmeg now along with the chopped coriander.
Side by side, take the paneer and cut into desired cubes/ slices. Keep them chunky. I kept mine around 1" big.
In another pan, heat a tbsp of oil and when it starts to shimmer, lay on the paneer cubes in one layer to sear them. While they are getting seared, they get so soft and gooey in the middle.
Flip them in a couple minutes when one side is golden brown. If you over cook paneer, it will harden. We don't want that.
One both the sides are seared well, add to the Palak gravy.
Mix gently with love so that you don't break the paneer pieces.
Time to serve the delicious Palak Paneer. All done! Indulge! :))