Palak Paneer. Funny sounding but yummy tasting. Palak paneer (or spinach and cheese) is a quintessential vegetarian dish of North India. It is the vegetarian dish that even meat-lovers crave. My mother makes some of the best palak paneer I have ever had. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to get the recipe from her since, well, she doesn't have one. Her technique is to add some of 'this' and 'that' until the taste and texture is perfect. Measurements are a mystery. See, my mother doesn't use measuring spoons for adding spices. I don't even think she uses spoons. She uses her hands and her fingers and her tastebuds. As I stand in my kitchen, measuring out ingredients, desperately trying to replicate her "recipes", I imagine what she'd think if she saw me there. She'd be proud for sure, but she'd probably be laughing too.
My (many) previous attempts to replicate her palak paneer have left me with a dish that was either too bitter, too sour, or lacking of a robust spinach flavor. Until now. This palak paneer has a great creamy spinach flavor, without the bitterness that many spinach dishes tend to have. The addition of spices also gives it a nice kick, so you know you're not just eating creamed spinach. The paneer is firm enough that it won't lose its form but soft enough that it almost melts in your mouth. I think Mama would approve.
*10 cups of chopped fresh spinach or 10 oz of frozen spinach
*2 tablespoons tomato paste
*2 teaspoons grated ginger
*3 cloves garlic
*1 tablespoon oil
*1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
*1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
*1 teaspoon coriander powder
*1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
*1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
*1 teaspoon sugar
*1/3 cup heavy cream or (not skim) milk
*2 tablespoons flour
*salt and pepper, to taste
*1 1/2 cups of paneer, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1. Place the spinach, tomato paste, ginger, and garlic in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
2. In a large pan, heat the oil until hot, then add the cumin and caraway seeds. Fry the seeds for about 30 seconds. Add the coriander, turmeric, and chili powder, and cook for about 2 minutes.
3. Add the spinach, sugar and milk. Stir to combine. Stir in the flour and season with salt and pepper. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and (with a rubber spatula) gently fold in the the paneer.