This spinach-cheese dish has always been one of my favorites in the pantheon of North Indian cuisine, and although I’ve tried to make it at home from various recipes found online from my favorite sources, it never looked or tasted quite right. Rajni, my Indian auntie / Indian cooking god mother, said that it’s because many recipes include tomatoes or tomato paste, which changes the flavor. Tomatoes also turn the dish a muddy swamp green. Rajni’s version tasted and looked perfect to me!
- 1 small bunch fresh spinach, washed thoroughly (about 250 grams)
- 1 – 1 1/2 cups paneer cubes (about 100 grams)*
- 1 tbsp heavy cream*
- 2 medium onions, 1 diced into ½ inch cubes and 1 pureed
- 1/2” knob of fresh ginger, grated**
- 2 cloves garlic, minced**
- 1 tsp green chili, minced**
- 2 tbsp ghee or oil, divided
- 1 tsp garam masala, divided
- ½ tsp curry powder
- ¼ tsp cumin seeds
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Salt to taste
- Blanch spinach; blend into a puree
- Toss paneer cubes with ½ tsp garam masala. Shallow fry in 1 tbsp ghee, turning cubes so they are light brown on multiple sides. Remove paneer from pan.
- Add remaining 1 tbsp ghee to pan; add cumin, bay leaves and cinnamon; let crackle for 30 seconds
- Add chopped unions; cook for 1-2 minutes. Add onion puree. Cook until golden brown.
- Add garlic, ginger, chili. Cook for 1 minute
- Add ground spices and salt along with 1 tbsp water. Cook, stirring occasionally for 1-2 minutes.
- Add spinach puree and cooking for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add paneer cubes. Lower heat and cook for 2 minutes.
- Remove from heat. Stir in cream. Garnish with grated paneer and a pinch of garam masala. Serve hot.
* to make it vegan, substitute tofu cubes for the paneer, and cashew cream for the heavy cream. For the tofu cubes: soak 1” thick slabs of tofu in hot salt water for 20 minutes. Remove from water, wrap in clean kitchen towels, and place on a flat surface under a cutting board with a heavy pot on top. Press for 20 minutes, then unwrap and cut into cubes. For the cashew cream, soak ¼ cup chopped raw cashews in hot water for an hour, drain, and blend with ¼ cup water until smooth and creamy.
** Rajni suggested that if you’re making several Indian dishes – all of which tend to include ginger, garlic and green chiles, it is easier to make a big batch of ginger/garlic/chile paste using about equal parts of all three ingredients. In that case, use 3 tsp of this paste.