Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese) © ejmorris 2002, 2004
revised January 2004, revised again August 2004 and again in October 2004
Ingredients serves 2
- 1 large bunch spinach
- 1½ Tbsp salt
- 1 Tbsp coriander leaves (cilantro), finely chopped (optional)
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ tsp brown mustard seeds (optional)
- ¼ tsp cumin seeds (optional)
- 1 inch cube fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 - 4 Tbsp butter
- salt and pepper, to taste
- paneer (optional)
- Wash the spinach well. Put washed spinach into a colander. Sprinkle with 1½ Tbsp salt. Toss to mix and set aside to drain for 20 minutes. (It is not necessary to salt the coriander leaves.)
- If you are going to include cheese: Slice the cheese into 4 or 5 rectangular slabs that are not more than a quarter inch thick. Fry the cheese in vegetable oil or butter til golden brown on all sides. Cut into bitesize cubes and set aside. We usually use about 6 cubes and refrigerate the rest for later use.
- Squeeze out the spinach with your hands til it is quite dry. Discard juice. Let it rest in colander for a few more minutes. Squeeze again. Do this 3 or 4 times in total. (The spinach may look like you've destroyed it.) Rinse the spinach well in cold water to get rid of all the extra salt. Squeeze out all the water. Taste to be sure there's no excessive salt. While this method is probably not used in India, we prefer it to the more traditional blanching and squeezing out the spinach for three reasons. One is that it is MUCH easier to squeeze room temperature salted spinach. The second is that there is one less pot to wash. The final most important reason is that in the finished dish, the spinach retains its wonderful emerald colour.
- Fry the mustard and cumin seeds in oil til they start popping. Please note that the mustard and cumin seeds are optional. Add ginger and saute til light gold. Add onions and fry til the onions are almost caramelized. Add garlic and continue to cook until garlic is golden. Reserve a small amount to use as a garnish.
- Add the butter and squeezed spinach (and coriander leaves, if you are using them) and stir into the onion mixture. Sauté a few minutes til the greens are wilted and any water has evaporated.
- Put the mixture into a food processor and puree til smooth.
- Fold the cheese into the spinach. Add salt and pepper to taste - you may not have to add any extra salt. Garnish with reserved onion mixture and a few fresh coriander leaves.
Serve with flat bread (rotis) or naan, curry and dark beer.
We buy paneer (fresh cheese) at the Indian Grocery. We find that once we've opened the package of paneer, it's best to fry all of it and put whatever is not used in the spinach in the fridge for snacking or use in other dishes such as rice pilaf (Pilau or Biryanni), more palak paneer, matar (green pea) paneer, cauliflower curry.... (If paneer isn't available, firm tofu can be used in its place.)
Paneer is virtually the same as the Latin American cheese called Queso Blanco.