Fresh spinach, washed (8 ounces )
Paneer (6 ounces to 8 ounces)
Onion red or white, diced (1 medium)
Tomatoes, diced (2 medium)
Vegetable oil (3 tablespoons divided)
salt (1 teaspoon)
Garlic cloves, peeled, roughly crushed (2)
Ginger, peeled, grated (1 tablespoon)
sugar (1 pinch)
OPTIONAL but good to have
Tomato sauce ( 4 teaspoons )
Black peppercorns (6)
OPTIONAL enhance flavor for special occasions or guests
Garam masala (1 teaspoon)
Thai chile (1)
Cream (1/4 cup) or milk (1/2 cup)
Blender or food processor
(OPTIONAL) Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
1 Thick bottomed pan
1 Pot to boil water
Pour 1 tablespoon oil in a thick-bottomed pan and turn the heat to medium. Empty 8 oz spinach into the pan. Within a few minutes, the spinach will wilt down. Sauté to avoid spinach sticking to the pan and turn the heat off after 10 minutes.
Once the spinach cools down, blend it to puree in a food processor or blender. You can add couple of teaspoons of water to facilitate blending.
Spinach is now ready to go into the final dish. You can even prep this step a day in advance, just make sure that you store the spinach puree in the refrigerator.
Prep Sauce Base
Collect 1 onion, a nub of ginger, 2 medium garlic clove, 2 tomatoes and 1 Thai chili (optional).
Dice the onion into 1/2-inch pieces to get about 3/4 cup. Peel and grate ginger to get 1 tablespoon. Peel and crush garlic cloves. Dice tomatoes into 1-inch pieces, about a cup. Slice Thai chili if using.
Pour 2 tablespoons oil into the pan and turn heat to medium. Add onions and stir till they get a brownish tinge, about 7-8 minutes. Add ginger, garlic and, if using, Thai chili pepper. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour chopped tomatoes followed by pinch of sugar. Once the tomatoes break down, add tomato sauce.
If using, the spice mix of peppercorns, cardamom, and cloves, this is the time to add it. Collect from pantry - 6 black peppercorns,1 cardamom, 2 cloves. Roughly crush peppercorns, cardamom and cloves in a mortar and pestle and throw out the cardamom skin. If using a spice grinder, remove the cardamom skin and use only the seeds (save the cardamom skin for chai).
Stir till the moisture evaporates and the onion/tomato mixture starts turning dark, about 9 to 10 minutes.
The flavor base can be prepared in advance too. Store in the regrigerator too.
Please take a moment to savor that two-thirds of your Palak Paneer is ready.
Get 6-8 ounce paneer from the refrigerator. Keep clean cutting board and knife handy. Boil 2 cups of water in a pot and once the water comes to a rolling boil, gently place in paneer slab.
Turn the heat off after paneer has been in the boiling water for 5 minutes and cover the pot with a lid.
After paneer cools down, cut it into 1- by 1/2-inch pieces on a cutting board and set aside.
The Final Ta-da
Putting Palak Paneer together
Take a thick bottomed saucepan or a skillet. Heat up the sauce base for 5-10 minutes and once it starts glistening, pour in blended spinach purée. Add salt and 1/2 cup water to adjust consistency. You can add a little bit more if you find the sauce is getting pasty.
Once the spinach mixture boils, gently drop in paneer pieces. Let the paneer soak in the flavors and spices of the spinach purée for about 10 minutes. Add 1 tsp garam masala. After 4 to 5 minutes, pour milk or cream. They're completely optional—their sole purpose is to enrich the dish.
Serve hot with roti, paratha or take it for lunch the next day layered over rice or quinoa.
Author - Annada Rathi