Palak Paneer is one of the popular vegetarian dish in indian cuisine. It is a thick curry that is prepared with pureed spinach and indian cottage cheese. It is made rich by adding heavy cream to the curry. Growing up, I had spinach curries in different styles and my mom used to prepare simple and easy palak paneer with moong dhal. When I first started making palak paneer, I used to follow my mom's recipe (being a student and working on-campus, I couldn't find time to experiment in cooking) but over the years have tweaked it quite a bit and prefer making this version as it tastes better with the sole goodness of spinach. Moreover, adding kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is what makes this dish flavorful and tasty, so don't skip it!! Of course, the vegan version has tofu instead of paneer as they look and taste similar (not exactly, but atleast a close match).
2 bunches Spinach (Palak)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 green chillies, finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
7-8 oz medium-firm tofu, cut into cubes, shallow-fried
1 - 1 1/2 tsp kasoori methi
1/4 - 1/2 tsp dry mango powder (optional)
1/4 cup coconut milk creamer (optional)
2-3 medium-sized cinnamon sticks
3 tbsp oil
1/2 - 3/4 cup water/ spinach juice (optional)
Salt, to taste
In a large stockpot or deep pan, heat water and bring to a rolling boil, add spinach (double/triple rinsed) and boil for 2-3 mins. Do not cover with lid (this helps retain the green color). Drain the spinach and reserve the water.Grind the spinach into a fine purée and set aside.
Rinse the tofu well and pat dry. Cut them into small cubes and shallow fry in 1 tsp oil until golden brown.
In a pan, heat oil and add cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Add cumin seeds, after it starts to splutter, garlic and green chillies. Fry for 2-3 mins and add onions and 1/2 tsp salt (helps cook the onion faster) and sauté onion until slightly brown.
Add ginger-garlic paste and fry until raw smell is gone. Now, add the tomatoes and cook until it turns pulpy.
Add turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and mix well. Add crushed fenugreek leaves (crush between hands to release the flavors).
Sauté until the raw smell fades away and add the spinach purée, salt and dry mango powder and cook for 6- 8 mins or so. If the curry starts to thicken, add spinach juice or water to dilute it. Add the shallow-fried/fresh tofu to the curry and cook for few mins.
If you want to make your curry rich and creamier, add coconut milk creamer, mix well and cook for 2-3 mins. Serve hot with rotis or rice.
Makes 4-5 servings.