When my neighbours invited me to join them for thanksgiving I asked them what I should bring. “Saag Paneer” was their rather surprising answer. It turns out when they were both students at Duke, the cafeteria would serve this once a week. It became their favorite dish.
Now, I had never made saag paneer and usually avoid it at restaurants as I dislike creamy spinach and overcooked paneer. But I was game to try and I started with looking up some recipes on the net. I soon gave that up as they were all rather time-consuming and had too many steps. I decided to go my own way and the results were not too shabby.
Paneer Cubes – 1 lb
Canola Oil or Ghee – 2 tbsp
Heavy whipping cream – 3/4 cup
Fresh baby spinach – 1 lb
Fresh methi leaves – 1/2 cup
Chopped Ripe Tomato – 1
Chopped Onions – 1 cup
Minced Garlic (optional) – 1 tsp
Fresh Minced Ginger – 1 tsp
Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
Chili Flakes – 1/4 tsp
Fresh green chilies – 1 -2
Baby Carrots – 1/2 cup
raw cashew pieces – 1/4 cup
Paprika – dusting
Salt – to taste
In a ceramic or cast iron skillet – sauté the cashews briefly in ghee till they are golden and remove them with a slotted (runcible) spoon and set aside.
Add the paneer to the skillet and sauté on both sides till they are golden brown and set aside
Add a little oil to the same skillet and add cumin seeds and chili flakes and sauté briefly. Then add onions first, then garlic and green chilies, garam masala, ground cumin, ginger and baby carrots. When the onions clear scoop out the vegetables and set them aside.
Add spinach and methi leaves to the same skillet with half a cup of water and some salt. Add the tomatoes and cover and cook for 2 or 3 minutes till the spinach is cooked.
Purée the spinach and tomatoes with the cream and a large sprig of cilantro leaves and add back to the skillet. Add the onions and carrots and the paneer and heat while stirring frequently till it begins to simmer and cook covered over low heat for 3 – 5 minutes. Serve garnished with cashews and fresh methi leaves.
I had some fresh mango ginger – curcuma amada – which I sliced thin and added to the gravy for added flavor and texture.
Serve with your favorite roti or naan or crusty bread.