If you crave exotic, all encompassing spices that throw you for a loop and keep you pleasantly guessing from one bite to the next, then palak paneer is a must in your life.
This is one of my all time favorite Punjabi dishes. It was first introduced to me by my best friend Shehrbano to which I replied “I’m sorry, the base of the dish is cooked spinach?” I thought for sure the spinach would make it super bitter. Oh, how wrong I was. This thing oozes yum.
The slow roasting of the cumin, ginger/garlic, chillis, garam masala, paprika and onions give the spinach a full-bodied flavor. The slow cooked tomatoes and light cream brings together all of the ingredients and adds a smooth texture. The coriander and green onions give the dish a cooling, fresh finish and chunks of feta compliment the intense spice of the dish. Drooling yet?
I visited Punjab, India a few years ago for a friend’s wedding and finally had the chance to try all of the dishes I had been trying to emulate in my own home for years. Now of course I was beyond excited to see two of my best friends get married, but is it bad that I was just as excited (if not more) to eat? I mean who doesn’t get excited to try actual Indian food in India? My taste buds were on overload. I kid you not, every single meal was out of this world fantastic. As an avid follower of “the spicier, the better” motto, India was heaven.
I finally had the opportunity to try the real deal palak paneer. OMG was it ever the real deal. The spinach was super creamy and the paneer had a cottage cheese like texture that literally melted in my mouth.
I’ve tried to mirror this experience in my personal palak paneer recipe with some additional, heathier tweeks. I went as lean as possible, using low fat cream and low fat feta as a paneer substitute. Both of these ingredients are still super filling so a little palak paneer can fill you up quick. Although, it is difficult not to eat the whole thing in one go! I will be honest, this dish is not a quick one to whip up. It requires some TLC but the extra time and care is so worth it in the end.
Behold, slow roasted spicy goodness in a bowl. Hope y’all enjoy!
Yields: 3 cups Total time: 1.5 hours
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 hot green peppers (or substitute for jalapenos)
- 1 tbsp chili flakes
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp ginger, minced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 cup feta cubes (or paneer)
- 4-5 cups fresh spinach
- 1 whole tomato
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 cup fresh coriander (or cilantro), chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh green onions, chopped
- 3/4 cup light cream
- 1 tsp methi leaves (optional)
- 1 tbsp chili powder (optional to add more heat)
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- salt and pepper
- Add 1 tbsp of oil to a frying pan on medium heat. Add spinach in batches. As the leaves wilt down, add salt to taste. Remove spinach once completely wilted and transfer for a vegetable processor. Once all spinach has been cooked, process until smooth and set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan on low heat. Add chili flakes and mustard seeds and cook for about 30 seconds, being careful not to let them burn.
- Add paprika, turmeric and peppers and saute for 1 minute. Add cumin and half of the garam masala, stir and cook until fragrant. Add ginger/garlic and cook for 2 minutes, stir.
- Add the onions and cook until translucent. Add the tomatoes and allow to saute for about 3 minutes. Add the spinach and stir until incorporated. Add salt to taste and allow the spinach to simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, mix and simmer for another 5 minutes. (add chili powder as well if necessary).
- Add the cream, stir until incorporated and sprinkle the remaining garam masala on top (add methi as well if preferred). Let the dish sit on low heat for another 10-15 minutes.
- Add the feta (or paneer), coriander and green onions. Stir all ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Serve with fresh sliced red onions.