Friday, September 23, 2011

Palak Paneer

I love spinach and various other leafy greens. One of my all time favorites is amma's keerai chaaru and keerai poriyal. But the greens we get in Southern India is actually thandu keerai or amaranth greens. I discovered spinach or pasalai keerai quite late as it wasn't that easily available in our little town. I've tried palak paneer in various versions when I began my cooking spree at the age of 12. But my favorite recipe that felt as close to the dhabas or restaurants of Northern India was a recipe from a friend's mother. Although I don't remember the recipe to the 't'; I tweaked it quite a bit and use it as my standard palak paneer recipe.

Palak/Spinach - 2 bunches (fresh) or 1 medium bag (frozen)
Paneer - 250 gms
Onion - 2 medium
Tomato - 1 medium
Garlic - 2 cloves
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Green chillies - 2 (spicy hot)
Red chillies (dried) - 2
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Dhaniya powder - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tbsp
Methi seeds and coriander seeds - a few (optional)
Cumin/Jeera - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Cream - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste

1. Steam cook the spinach (fresh) with just a sprinkling of water and let it cool. If using frozen spinach, cook on HIGH in the microwave for 6 to 8 mins and let it cool.
2. Grind the onions, garlic, ginger and green chillies into a paste. Puree the tomatoes. After the spinach has cooled, blend until smooth. I use my Magic Bullet for all of this and it's ideal for students. I "heart" my Magic Bullet.
3. Heat the oil in a thick bottomed vessel and add the onion-ginger-garlic-green chillies paste. Fry until lightly browned and all the rawness of the onions is gone. Now add the tomato puree and let it cook until oil separates. Add the masalas and cook for 2 mins.
4. Then add the pureed spinach, season with salt (to taste) and cook for a maximum of 5 minutes. It is important not to overcook the pureed spinach as it will lose all its nutrients. Add the paneer to the gravy, stir it slightly, cover and let it sit on the hot stove.
5. In the meantime, heat the ghee in a small kadai and splutter the jeera, methi and coriander seeds. Then add the red chillies and fry until it starts losing its red color and turns a little brown. Top the palak paneer with this tadka and add a swirl of cream around it and serve hot with phulkas or steamed rice.

A friend's mom's recipe.

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