Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Palak Paneer (Spinach-Cottage Cheese Combo)
Spinach or Palak is one of the first vegetables i learnt to cook. It is rich source of Iron and Calcium. The cartoon character Popeye is also depicted as eating spinach to grow stronger. Spinach is such a wonder vegetable. But in Mumbai it is mostly grown besides the railway tracks and that is one of the main reasons that people avoid eating it.
When i came to US i felt that we would get some fresh clean spinach here but my assumption proved wrong. When all the other vegetables look fresh and clean i am still not satisfied with the quality of Spinach.
I have also tried the frozen stuff but then they dont taste the same as fresh ones. I have also seen fresh clean baby spinach sold in plastic boxes but these are way too expensive.
So I mostly buy the fresh ones, clean them thoroughly and hope that rest of the germs are killed in the process of cooking.
This dish is originally from Punjab where it is called Saag Paneer. Saag is also refered to Mustard Greens in the dish Sarson ka Saag.
I always like to add some peas whether its Palak Paneer or Aloo Palak. At times I add all three and make Aloo-Palak-Mutter-Paneer or should I say Palak-Aloo-Mutter-Paneer, whichever sounds correct.
Palak/Spinach - 1 bunch
Paneer - 150g, cut in cubes
Frozen Peas - 1/2 cup (optional)
Onion - 1 medium, chopped
Garlic - 2 to 3, grated
Ginger - 1 inch, grated
Green Chilli - 2
Tomato - 1 small, chopped
Ginger-garlic paste - 1/2 tsp (optional)
Kasuri Methi - 1 tbsp, crushed
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander Powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder - a pinch
Turmeric - pinch
oil - 4 tsp
Salt - as per taste
Remove the stem of spinach and discard. Clean the leaves thoroughly. Heat some water in a large vessel. When it comes to a boil add the spinach leaves. Turn it once or twice. Let it boil for 3-4 mins. Strain it through a sieve and add some cold water. Drain all the water. Grind the leaves with 2 green chillies into a smooth paste adding little water. Keep aside.
In another pan, heat 2 tsp of oil and add the onions. Fry till it becomes slightly golden. Then add the grated ginger and garlic and also the ginger-garlic paste. Fry till the raw smell goes.
Now add the tomatoes and cook till they turn soft. In the mean while add all the spice powders. Add half a cup of water and mix well. Now add the Spinach puree and the frozen peas (if using) and adjust salt. Add more water if required. Let it boil for 5-10 mins on a low flame.
In a small kadai, heat the reamining 2 tsp of oil and fry the paneer pieces till their edges turn golden. Add it to the gravy and cook for 5 more mins.
Serve hot with rotis or parathas.
Note: The entire cooking procedure has to be carried out in an open pan. On covering the pan, the Spinach loses its colour. Also cooking for very long or on a very high flame makes it lose some of its colour. For a thicker consistency fresh cream can be added to the gravy before the final boil.