Palak Paneer or Saag Paneer is a popular Punjabi dish that rivals only the Tikka Masala. Palak refers to spinach and Saag is any greens.
A hard core spinach fan, Palak Paneer is my absolute favorite. It combines my favorite things, spinach or Palak and Paneer. I have also made a vegan version of this several times with Tofu or Soya Paneer as it is commonly known in India. The recipe remains the same. Tofu lovers will prefer the tofu version not just for health reasons, but because Tofu takes on the taste of the sauce, while Paneer does retain a characteristic milky taste.
One main question people have while preparing any Paneer/ Tofu dish is whether they should fry the paneer or not. I say it is entirely up to you. For me personally, it depends on my mood. Really fresh paneer or tofu is so creamy that frying it up seems like sacrilege! But sometimes I prefer the crunchy brown texture you get from frying.
You will need a food processor or blender for this dish. A ‘saboot’ or whole or rustic version is possible, but not the thing. I swear by my Cuisinart when it comes to food processors. Phillips or Bajaj are equally reliable brands in India.
So here’s a simple recipe that you can keep eating for years together! I’ve been making this for the last 25 years. No, I’m not that old. I just started cooking really young! 😉
Palak Paneer or saag paneer, popular Punjabi dish combines spinach or greens with paneer cheese and warm spices. Great with Naan, Roti, Pulav, palak paneer is a top favorite!
- 2-3 bunches fresh spinach or 4 cups frozen chopped spinach
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 inch ginger root
- 1 cup slivered or chopped onion
- 1 tsp Punjabi Masala or Garam Masala
- 1 tsp black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 8 oz or 200-250g Paneer or Tofu cubed
- ½ cup milk or cream
- 1 tsp corn flour or corn starch
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- If you are using fresh spinach, clean it thoroughly and get rid of any mud. Discard any tough stalks. Boil water in a big pot and blanch the spinach. To do this, immerse a few leaves in the hot water. Swish them around and lift them out with a tong immediately. Set to drain. Blanching fresh leaves helps retain the green color.
- If you are using frozen spinach, your job’s easier. Just defrost and wash it thoroughly and drain completely.
- Add the spinach – whether washed frozen or blanched fresh – to the food processor. Add the onion, garlic and ginger. Grate the ginger and garlic to go easy on your FP and to avoid large chunks. Use the minimum amount of liquid. Puree until a thick paste is formed. You might need to do multiple batches based on the size of your blender or FP.
- Heat oil in a wok or pot. Gradually add the spinach mixture to the pot very carefully taking care to avoid splashing the oil. Heat on a low flame until it bubbles and begins to cook. Add the salt, pepper and Punjabi Masala to the spinach mixture. If you cannot make Punjabi Masala, you can use any Garam Masala that is available in the stores. Heat until the spinach changes color a bit and is cooked.
- Cube the paneer in any size chunks or strips as you wish. Now if you want to fry them, do so in a separate frying pan or wok. Drain on paper towels.
- Add the cubed paneer to the spinach.
- Make a slurry with the milk and cornstarch. This will prevent the milk from splitting and give a thick sauce. This is actually based on personal preference. Some people don’t like the floury, gooey texture given by cornstarch. But this is a good way to stretch out the sauce when you are low on the spinach.
- Once the milk is absorbed, switch off the heat. Palak Paneer is ready to be served. You can garnish with cream before serving. Palak Paneer is excellent with fresh rotis, parathas, Naan bread or even Warm Pita Bread.
So when are you trying out this personal favorite of mine – Palak Paneer?”