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Thursday, 9 October 2014

Palak Paneer...Simple & Delicious




Saag (cooked greens) forms an important part of our lunch menu everyday. The recipes we work out for Saag though numerous are simple and pleasantly rustic. But when it comes to cooking this recipe.....all that consideration is tossed. With chunks of Indian cottage cheese cooked in a buttery, smooth spinach gravy....Palak Paneer is no run-of-the-mill dish.J
Spinach is rich in folate,Iron,numerous anti-oxidants,minerals,Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamins (A,C and K).
A gorgeous green color,velvety texture of cooked spinach, a generous dollop of butter and the flavorful blend of spices used in this dish can make even the most fussy eaters savor their daily dose of greens.J
For best results, use only the leaf part of spinach and discard its stem before blanching. After blanching spinach leaves, strain them out of liquid immediately for retaining their rich green color.

Serves : 3 (as a main dish)

Ingredients Required :

Spinach- cleaned,all stalks removed and remaining leaves roughly chopped (about 250 grams of chopped spinach leaves)

200 grams paneer (Indian cottage cheese) cut into 1-inch sized cubes

1 medium onion peeled,cleaned and finely chopped

1 tablespoon minced (peeled) garlic

1-inch stick cinnamon (dalchini)

2 plump black cardamoms (badi elaichi) pods extracted and crushed into a powder

2 cloves (laung) crushed into a powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds (sabut jeera)

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds (sabut rai)

2 dried red chilies,stalks removed and halved

1/2 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) crushed (optional;add flavor to dish)

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (pisi lal mirch)

1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder

1+1/2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) at room temperature

1+1/2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

a pinch sugar

Salt to taste

1/2 cup (120 ml) water + Extra for blanching spinach leaves

                                           cleaned spinach
                                           stalks removed & leaves chopped
                                           whole spices
                                           cardamom pods & cloves powdered

                                           ingredients used 

Heat enough water in a pan (large enough to blanch spinach leaves). As it starts boiling, add chopped spinach leaves and blanch them for 2-3 minutes or till spinach gets wilted and turns a deep green.Turn off heat and don't over cook.

                                           blanching spinach leaves

Use a strainer/colander and strain blanched spinach out of water immediately. This is very important to retain its fresh green color. Let strained spinach cool down completely to room temperature.Then, blend it into a thick,smooth puree.Set aside.

                                           strained spinach immediately
                                           blended into a smooth puree when cool

Heat 1 tablespoon ghee in a skillet. Add cumin and mustard seeds.As they start crackling...turn heat to medium and add halved red chilies.Stir for a second.

                                           cumin and mustard seeds in ghee
                                           added chilies when they crackle 

Next,add cinnamon and powdered cloves and cardamom pods.Give a quick stir and add chopped onion.Stir occasionally and cook for a minute or till onion softens.

                                           added whole & powdered spices
                                           added chopped onion
                                           cooked till onion softens

Add minced garlic,stir and cook till garlic turns a light golden and aromatic.Then add remaining 1/2 tablespoon ghee.

                                           added minced garlic
                                           added ghee when garlic cooked

Next,add prepared spinach puree and stir.Use 1/2 cup (120 ml) water to dilute puree in blender and add this liquid to skillet.

                                           added prepared spinach puree
                                           added 1/2 cup liquid and stirred

Cook mixture over medium heat for a minute.Then,stir in chili powder,garam masala power,crushed kasuri methi,sugar and salt to taste.Lower heat,let simmer for another 2 minutes and add cubed paneer thereafter.

                                           stirred in spices,sugar & salt
                                           added cubed paneer 

Gently stir to coat paneer cubes with pureed spinach.Cover skillet and let simmer for another 1-2 minutes or till paneer cubes soften.Stir if needed.Turn off heat.

                                           paneer cubes soften,turn off heat

Finally,add 1+1/2 tablespoons butter to skillet and gently stir to mix.

                                           added butter
                                           stirred to mix 

If not serving immediately...gently simmer dish for a minute to soften paneer cubes before serving.
Remove red chili halves and cinnamon and enjoy this dish along with flat breads or pilafs.
Palak paneer reheats well too.


A From The Blogger’s Keyboard

ü Use the leaf part of spinach only.Stems add an unpleasant taste and dilute this dish…so don’t use them.

ü Blanch spinach leaves in boiling water just till mentioned and strain them out immediately thereafter.This helps keep their rich green color intact.

ü Blend spinach into a smooth,lump-free and thick puree only after it cools down to room temperature.

ü Keep all spices ready at hand before you start cooking.This way they get added in sequence without delay….thus don’t get overcooked.

ü Turn heat to medium after cumin-mustard seeds start crackling to prevent tempering spices from getting burnt….stir occasionally for even cooking.

ü Adding a pinch of sugar balances the slight bitterness from kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) while letting it to add a beautiful aroma to this dish.

ü Simmer cook paneer cubes till completely tender but not mushy.Reheat well to soften them if not serving immediately.

ü Ghee and butter add tons of creaminess and flavor to this dish.Ghee(clarified butter) is preferred during initial stages of cooking since it cooks better than butter….however butter may be used instead.

Happy Cooking & Have A Wonderful Day!!! J

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