For a north Indian there is nothing as warm and comforting as Palak Paneer and roti with loads of butter. Well, let us ignore loads of butter for obvious reasons, but Palak Paneer is definitely a staple in our family. This Punjabi style palak paneer is my go-to recipe and I guess most north Indian households prepare it in the same or similar manner.
A Little background of Palak Paneer please..
People are often confused Between Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer.
The present-day Palak Paneer is derived from the Punjabi Saag Paneer. Where Saag means a combination of the seasonal greens all blanched together and then, manually ground using a wooden pestle and cooked in corn flour or chickpea flour with lots of whole spices. Then a final tadka (tempering) is given to bring everything to life. Before finishing, customarily paneer pieces are added.
The most common greens used in Saag are Mustard Greens, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Radish Greens, Dill ( Soa), Fenugreek, Basella, and wild greens like Bathua ( Pigweed).
Palak Paneer is an evolved and easy version of Saag paneer. Instead of mixed greens, it uses only Palak i.e. Spinach. Spinach is now grown year-round. So, Palak Paneer graces our dinner tables year-round but when winter chills, Saag Paneer hits our kitchens.
I don’t get much of the fresh greens for Saag here in North America. A few are available in a can. And sometimes fresh Chinese Mustard Greens are available. So I do make it sometimes. And will definitely share that recipe someday.
But let us stick to today's agenda..
How to retain the green color of the Palak /Spinach
We start by blanching the Spinach. Spinach does not take long to blanch so, stay around while you are doing so. And always have a bowl full of ice cubes or ice-cold water. Put the blanched Spinach directly into the ice-cold water. This is essential to cease the cooking process and preserve the chlorophyll. In a simple sense, it is necessary to keep the blanched Spinach green and prevent it from turning pale. Also, drain the blanched Spinach well. So that when it is blended, there is less water in the Spinach paste. If the Spinach paste has more water, it needs to cook longer to get rid of that excess water. And on cooking longer, the Spinach will lose its green color.
The rest of the recipe is very simple, just follow the steps. I love the flavor that toasted garlic and ginger add to Palak Paneer. Adding cream is optional, but I totally recommend adding some butter.
Traditionally, my mother would cook till all moisture of Spinach is lost and the dish starts to leave the oil in the pan edges. That is when it is most delicious, though it might not look that.
But I personally don’t like to cook my greens that much. So, I leave it up to you. Let me know how you like your Palak Paneer.
How to make Palak Paneer| Punjabi Palak Paneer recipe
- 200 g Paneer Cubed
- 2 bunches Spinach
- 2 tablespoon Oil
- 1 tablespoon Cumin
- 1 medium sized Onion finely chopped
- 6-7 cloves Garlic minced
- 1.5 inch piece Ginger minced
- 2 ripe Tomato pureed
- 1 teaspoon Kasoori methi / dried Fenugreek
- ½ teaspoon Turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Chilli powder
- 1 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 teaspoon Coriander powder
- ¼ cup Fresh cream
- 2 tablespoon Butter
- Salt as per taste
- In a pan bring water to boil and add washed Spinach leaves. Let them blanch for 5-6 minutes.
- Keep a bowl of ice-cold water ready. Put the blanched Spinach in the cold water.
- When cooled down, drain well and blend the Spinach till a smooth paste is formed.
- In a pan heat oil. When hot add cumin seeds.
- Add finely chopped onion, ginger, and garlic. Saute till they become golden brown.
- Now add pureed tomatoes.
- Add all the spices and let them cook with the tomatoes.
- Cover and cook till it starts to leave the oil on the sides.
- Now add the blended Spinach and mix well.
- Cover and cook till the rawness of the Spinach goes away. It should take 7-10 minutes.
- Add paneer and cream. Mix well and cook covered for 2-3 minutes.
- Lastly, add butter and serve hot with naan or roti.