Everyone has one special dish that you could have anytime, anywhere and with anything. Palak paneer is that dish for me. Its one dish that I always include in my order at an Indian restaurant. And it never fails to satisfy me. Well, apart from a few instances where the paneer was stale. And that restaurant in Scotland where they had served me Palak paneer with no paneer but hard frozen cubes of Cheddar cheese. Yikes!
But nevertheless, I still order it each time I dine on Indian outside. Its also out of habit and my insistence on including at least one green item on the dinner platter.
My love with palak paneer is not new. It was the same during my college days and after. And I had tortured my friends and colleagues countless times because of that. Lets accept it! Not everyone likes to eat palak (spinach) when eating out. Not even a hardcore vegetarian. So well, friends, if you are reading this- Sorry for the torture. But am sure the glow on your faces would secretly thank me. 😉
I make Palak paneer with many variations. And love it in all forms. But this version.. its simply out of this world! Of course, the credit also goes to the cream added. Most the credit, well. But hey, it has spinach so its not like a cheat dish.
To admit, this is a copycat recipe from one of the Indian restaurants in the town. Although most of their curries are oil laden and tasteless, this one for some reason (well, we know the reason dont we?) tastes amazing.
So I tried it at home and it turned out to be the greatest Palak paneer ever for me. Of course, I am not going to make each time I crave for this dish. Its loaded with cream, and to be honest, taste as well. But you know, diet and all.
I wouldnt use this dish for everyday meals but it is certainly going to be a part of my party menu. You know now I love to torture my friends. 😉
The recipe doesnt use tomatoes which otherwise remains my prime ingredient in the usual versions. And its tad sweet-ish, due to the cream and cardamom. But its heavenly this way. You could obviously change the ratios and add tomatoes, but I strongly recommend to follow the recipe to the T. If you love palak paneer like me, that is.
Lets learn how to make this awesome Palak paneer malai at home.
Cuisine: North Indian
Course: Mains or side
Cooking level: Easy to medium
Nutritional info: Good source of proteins, iron, calcium, antioxidants and vitamin A. High in fat. Gluten free
Accompaniments: Phulka, jeera rice, Paratha, Pita bread etc.
What you need?
- 200 gms paneer, chopped into cubes
- About 500 gms spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup double cream (malai)
- 2 tbsp oil + 2 tbsp for shallow frying paneer
- 2-3 cardamom pods, crushed to split open
- A small stick of cinnamon
- 3-4 garlic pods, minced
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp cumin powder, 1/2 tsp coriander powder each
- 1 tsp red chili powder or flakes
- 1/2 tsp black pepper powder
- 1 tsp Salt OR to taste
- 1 tbsp Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), optional
- a handful of chopped cilantro (coriander leaves)
How to make?
Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly, chop roughly if desired and drain them. Squeeze all the extra water from the leaves and keep aside.
Saute the paneer: In a flat, heavy bottomed pan, heat 2 tbsp of oil. Add paneer cubes and shallow fry at low, turning them a few times to ensure they get cooked evenly. Do not fry them for long time else they would become rubbery and hard. Just 2-3 minutes for each batch (if more than one) should be enough.
In a pan, heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil. Throw in the cardamom pods and cinnamon stick. Add minced garlic and fry for a few seconds. Add in chopped onion and kasuri methi, keep stirring. Add in paneer cubes with all the spices except black pepper and cover the pan. Let it cook for 4-5 minutes.
In the meanwhile, give another squeeze to the strained spinach to get some extra water out one last time and make it as dry as possible. Add this to the pan and mix everything well. Cook for a further of 5-7 minutes so the spinach leaves get wilted and mixed up properly. The water should all be evaporated by this time. If not, cook it for further for a few minutes.
Check the seasoning now and adjust as per your taste. Turn the gas to the lowest, give a last stir and gradually add the cream to the pan. Just fold the bits gently once and let it simmer for just one more minute.
Turn off the flame, keep the curry covered till its served. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves (dhaniya patti), black pepper powder and more cream if desired.
If you wish to add tomatoes, I recommend making a paste or puree first and then add along with the paneer cubes. let them cook thoroughly first and when the raw smell is all gone, then add spinach and carry on with the recipe as above
Be careful about the spice level, since this is supposed to be a mild curry. You may add some chopped green chilies along with the garlic to spice it up.
This curry thickens up very quickly. So if you need to make it ahead, prepare the curry without the cream before hand. When reheating, bring the curry to a boil first keeping at medium. Then turn the gas to low, stir and add the cream. Simmer for 3-4 minutes and transfer to the serving dish.
If reheating, make sure you do it at low gas to avoid the curdling of cream.
For awesome paneer recipes-