November 27, 2013

Palak Paneer

Palak Paneer, a rich & spicy palak (spinach) based gravy with paneer and other Indian spices. This iron & protein rich gravy is one of the popular north-Indian curries all over, especially in Punjabi dhabas. Palak Paneer serves as a perfect side for rice/roti. I personally have seen a lot of desi folks and Westerner friends going crazy for palak paneer.

But at home, it's a different story altogether. I have both palak-hater & paneer-hater at home and this is one of the most conveniently omitted gravies, be it home-made (or) at restaurants. Interestingly, my little one has liking for both spinach & paneer. So, whenever I make palak paneer at home, it is never well received by the other two!

I have tried various recipes of this gravy (from different blogs), but none of them even came close to this one, thanks to "Edible Garden" for I followed her recipe to the tee. The gravy was rightly spiced (though it is a little over-spiced for the kids), at right consistency (without any "thickening" agents like heavy cream) and was lip-smackingly tasty!

Basic Info
Complexity - Medium
Prep time - 20 mins
Cook time - 25 mins
Serves - 4-5

Spinach - 1 big bunch
Paneer - 25 - 30 one inch cubes
Onion - 1 big
Tomato - 1 medium (blended into puree)
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Hing - a pinch
Garam masala - 1/2 tsp
Garlic - 3 pods
Ginger - 1 inch
Kasoori methi - 1 big pinch
Salt - to taste
Oil - 2 tsp
Milk - 1 cup
Thick yogurt - 2 tbsp

Bring a pot of water to rolling boil and plunge the washed spinach into boiling water. Let it simmer for couple of mins (or) until the leaves starts to wilt. Carefully remove & plunge the leaves into ice-cold water (this stops further cooking & retains the bright green color of spinach). Drain and puree spinach into a smooth paste. I got about a cup and half of spinach puree.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a medium pan. When hot, add cumin powder and saute briefly, for a second. Immediately add chopped onions and saute until it turns brown. Add grated ginger, minced garlic and saute for 30 secs. Add hing, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and saute for a min. Keep stirring otherwise the spices will get burnt. 

To this, add tomato puree and saute until the raw smell is gone. Next, add pureed spinach, milk and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat, add crushed kasoori methi, salt and mix well. Let it simmer for 5-8 mins until the spinach is all cooked. Finally, add paneer cubes and let it all simmer together for couple of mins before removing from the heat.

Allow it to cool, add yogurt (if using) and mix well. Palak Paneer is ready to be served!

- After adding paneer, do not heat the gravy for long time. Otherwise, paneer will develop a rubbery texture.
- You can also shallow fry paneer in a tbsp of oil until golden brown on all the sides to add to the gravy.
- Replace yogurt with 1/4 cup of heavy cream.