Vibrantly green spinach gravy with soft and spongy cubes of cottage cheese – that’s palak paneer for you from authentic Indian cuisine!
My Paneer series wouldn’t be complete without the quintessential ‘Palak Paneer’! Palak paneer is nothing but cottage cheese cubes cooked in a lovely green sauce made of fresh spinach leaves. Palak paneer is one dish which you will find in the menu of every restaurant across India. I love it because of the freshness which comes from the spinach – so make sure you get the freshest possible spinach leaves.
I made my palak paneer with the fresh produce of spinach leaves from our own tiny kitchen garden! What could be better than making the scrumptious palak paneer using the fresh palak from your own garden! Nothing, I believe! Nothing could give you more satisfaction than using fresh produce from your house.
The final outcome of your palak paneer majorly depends on the freshness of the spinach leaves you are using; so, give some extra effort to get the freshest leaves possible. I would also suggest not to overpower your palak paneer with too many spices. I just lightly flavor the oil with some aromatic whole spices like cloves, cinnamon and cardamom which lends a lovely hint of aroma to the freshness of spinach making it absolutely delicious.
Palak paneer serves as a great combination with plain Basmati rice or some buttery hot naan.
- Paneer (Cottage Cheese) – 200 gms
- Palak (Spinach) – 4 standard bunches (approximately 250 to 300 gms)
- Onion – 1, large
- Tomato – 1, large
- Cinnamon stick – 2 inch
- Green cardamom – 4 to 5
- Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
- Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
- Cumin powder – ½ tsp
- Garam masala – ½ tsp
- Oil – 3 to 4 tbsp (For best taste, use Ghee (Clarified butter) instead of oil)
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cream – 1 tbsp (optional)
- Trim off the fat stems of the palak and retain only the leaves. Try to get the freshest spinach leaves as it will give you the ultimate best taste.
- Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly as they generally have too much dirt. Set aside.
- Chop the onion and tomato to small pieces. In a skillet heat the oil. When hot, temper with cumin seeds, cinnamon sticks and green cardamoms and let them flavor the oil for a minute.
- Add the chopped onion and sauté till golden brown. Tip in the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle some salt for the tomatoes to cook faster.
- When the tomatoes look cooked and the oil starts separating, add the turmeric powder, cumin powder and salt. [Add salt cautiously since the palak reduces in volume tremendously, so it’s an easy mistake to overdo the salt. You can always add it later after doing a taste test.]
- After frying the powdered spices for a minute or two, add the washed spinach leaves. You can chop the leaves to smaller pieces but that’s not mandatory as we are going to blend it anyway.
- Spinach leaves will leave a lot of water and wilt down within couple of minutes. Stir them in the spices for five minutes to get rid of the raw smell of spinach.
- Now it’s time to blend, but before that you can try to fish out the cinnamon sticks and cardamom pods or if you like their strong taste, you can leave them too.
- If you have a hand blender, you can blend directly in the skillet or else you can transfer it to your blender and blend it till it becomes a smooth green puree. Add some water if needed and transfer it back to the cooking pot.
- Let the spinach puree boil and in the meantime cut the cottage cheese into 1 inch cubes. I generally simmer the paneer cubes in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes as this makes them quite soft.
- Now add the paneer cubes to the spinach gravy and let them simmer for 5 minutes. Stir carefully as the paneer cubes may tend to break.
- Adjust the consistency of the gravy according to your liking and you can also add fresh cream to make it more rich and creamy.
- Now put off the flame and sprinkle some garam masala all over. Keep it covered for few minutes before serving.
- Enjoy the hot palak paneer with plain Basmati rice, butter naan or roti.