Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Creamy Greens

Recipe: Palak Paneer / Pan-grilled paneer cubes in a creamy spinach gravy

Palak is not very common in the traditional cooking of my hometown. Amaranth on the other hand,  is very much favoured - infact it is cutivated in every home garden and periodically harvested for quick stir-fries with coconut and light spices (commonly known as "cheera thoran" and "cheera mulagittathu" in my native language). And hence for a long time, "spinach" meant amaranth leaves to me and we never ventured into having any palak dishes.




One fine day, long ago, I was out with friends at a restaurant. Palak paneer was ordered by one of them.  The moment I tasted the luscious, creamy green gravy with buttery paneer cubes, I loved it immediately.  And I could hear the foodie in me say - move over amaranth, palak is here to stay! Since then, palak shared the same position in this foodie heart of mine as the other green leafy veggies. And I absolutely love my greens.

This dish is the perfect accompaniment with rotis, naan or chapatis. Just scoop it up with a piece of roti and enjoy the warm and lightly spiced, creaminess.

This is how I make palak paneer. A method that has been perfected over the years. I'm very particular about using only home-made paneer for this dish. It makes a huge difference. Homemade paneer is so soft and tender and so unlike the store-bought rubbery ones. If you have never tried paneer, read more about it here.




PALAK PANEER / PAN-GRILLED PANEER CUBES IN A CREAMY SPINACH GRAVY


Start with making the paneer.


Paneer


Ingredients:


Milk - 1 litre
Lime juice - 2 Tbsp


A square piece of Muslin cloth / cheese cloth / Or any thin cotton cloth approx 30cm x 30cm - For removing the excess water from the paneer


Line a collander with cheese cloth.


Bring a litre of milk to the boil.

Reduce the flame and when it is on simmer, add the lime juice and stir till the curds seperate. then pour it into the cheese cloth. And tie it into a fairly tight bundle without any gaps in between.

Place it under something heavy - like a mortar and pestle or a pressure cooker/large container filled with water in order to squeeze out all the liquid from the cheese.

Keep it pressed under the weight for 30 minutes.

After that, gently remove the paneer from the cloth and cut it into cubes.

At this stage, if you are not planning to use the paneer immediately, it can be refrigerated for a later time.

Palak Gravy


Ingredients:


Palak - 250g (choose palak that is young and crisp and does not have thick stems) washed and chopped


Onions - 1 medium sized chopped
green chilli - 2 (or as per personal preference)
garlic - 3-4 cloves - crushed
ginger - 1/2 inch piece - crushed
tomato - 1
garam masala - 1 pinch
chilli powder - 1 tsp (or as per personal preference)


Cream - 1 Tbsp
Butter - 1 Tbsp
Paneer cubes - 1/2 - 1 cup
Oil - 2 Tbsp (Use Butter/ghee instead of oil for LCHF)
Water - 1/2 cup approx


Saute onions and green chillies in oil  till they are soft and translucent. Add the ginger and garlic and saute till they are cooked. Add the garam masala and chiili powder and stir for a few more seconds till it becomes fragrant. The add the tomato and saute till the tomato is cooked well.

Increase the flame to high and add the chopped spinach. Saute in an open pan till it is cooked. (Spinach cooks fast) Adjust the salt and switch off flame. Let the mixture cool.

Once cool, puree the spinach mixture in a blender  till it becomes very smooth. Add a little water if the spinach gravy is too thick and puree again.


Assembly:


Grill the paneer cubes in a Tbsp of butter till it becomes roasted.


Heat the spinach puree till it comes to a boil. Reduce flame, add a Tbsp of cream and mix well and switch off flame. Add the pan-grilled paneer cubes.


Serve hot with rotis, chapatis or naan. If on an LCHF diet, serve with some grilled meat.



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