Paneer or Indian cottage cheese is one of the most common types of cheese used in India to make many different kinds of dishes. Cows milk or buffalos milk is first heated, a food containing acid such as lemon juice is then poured into the hot milk to separate the curd from the whey. The curd is then drained into a cheese cloth or through a fine strainer, allowing excess water to be drained. The leftover curd is then wrapped in the cheese cloth and  pressed further for 4 to 5 hours by placing something heavy on top of it to allow more water to drain thereby forming a block of soft cheese. Once formed, it is cubed and then used in curries, sweets, flat breads, rice, snacks and many other different dishes, depending upon the region of Indian. Even though this cheese is soft, it is non-melting and takes on the flavour of the dish you are pairing it with.  

For vegetarians, paneer is a high quality protein, packed with calcium, iron and B12. One of the most popular ways of using paneer in India is in vegetarian curry dishes.  There are so many different curries that paneer is used in – from mattar paneer (Peas and Cheese), paneer butter masala, paneer tikka masala, chilli paneer, and of course the most famous palak paneer. 

The recipe below is one of my most favourite recipes, mostly because its easy to make but also because it’s my Nana’s recipe. If you are new to Indian cooking or a seasoned cook, I encourage you to try this recipe. You will NOT be disappointed. It’s such a tasty and easy recipe to make, that my son has been cooking this dish from the age of 10 to impress his friends.

The secret to preparing this curry, is to start with good quality spices that have not been sitting in your pantry for ages. Also use fresh local vegetables and good quality paneer. But MOST importantly, take the time to allow your onions, garlic, ginger, spices and tomatoes to cook on slow to medium heat, cooking it well  to create a delicious masala, this is what will determine how tasty your curry will turn out.

Palak Paneer – Spinach and Soft Indian Cheese

Palak paneer is a classic north Indian vegetarian dish made with spinach and Indian soft cheese called paneer.
Fresh spinach is the main ingredient, complemented with tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, fresh coriander leaves and spices and then finished off with soft home-made or store bought cheese.
There are many different ways to make palak paneer. This recipe here is my Nana's recipe and is very simple, tasty and nutritious. It takes about 15 -20 minutes to make and is my go-to curry when I'm in a rush but want to cook a nutritious Indian curry.
I like to blend all the vegetables once the curry is cooked to get a smooth texture. I then add the paneer right at the end and heat the curry throughly. You can also, lightly pan fry the paneer to make it a bit crispy, before adding it to the spinach curry. You can add firm tofu if you don't eat paneer, or add 2 boiled and cubed potatoes or 1 & 1/2 cups boiled chickpeas.
Serve as a soup on its own, traditionally it's best eaten with rice and a spicy mango pickle.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 6 people
Calories 256 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch ginger
  • 2 green chilies
  • 3 tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  • 2 bundles spinach
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1.5 cups water add more if needed
  • 12 oz Paneer
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil I'm using avocado oil

Instructions
 

  • Remove skin and slice 1 onion, roughly chop 5 cloves garlic and 2 inch piece ginger, slit green chilies in the middle, roughly chop 3 tomatoes, roughly chop 1/2 cup coriander leaves, roughly chop 2 large bundles spinach, cube your paneer or tofu and keep aside
  • Turn your heat on medium low and add 3 tbsp oil, when oil is heated add onions, stir fry well till translucent about 5 minutes or so
  • Add ginger and garlic and fry for 4 to 5 minutes
  • Add coriander leaves and green chilies and fry for 1 minute or so
  • Add spices, give it a good toss, add salt and tomatoes and cover your pot, allowing it to cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Make sure you are cooking this on low heat, so your tomatoes and spices do not get burnt.
    You need to give it time for the spices, the tomatoes, onion, garlic, ginger and coriander leaves to cook well and release all its aroma, thereby turning it into a masala, which is the basis to a good curry. This step is key in determining how tasty your curry will turn out. Once this is cooked really well, add the spinach and water.
    Close the pot and allow the spinach leaves to wilt. This shouldn't take too long
  • Pour this into a high powered blender and blend on high. Turn the pureed spinach mixture back into the pot, place the pot back on medium heat and heat throughly . Add a bit of water if the curry is too thick
  • Finally add your chopped paneer (or tofu) if you are using it and you are done. You can lightly pan fry the paneer, if you like your cheese slightly crisp.
  • Serve with rice or roti and a mango pickle. Alternatively you can eat as a soup on its own

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Palak Paneer – Spinach and Soft Indian Cheese
Amount Per Serving
Calories 256 Calories from Fat 189
% Daily Value*
Fat 21g32%
Saturated Fat 10g63%
Trans Fat 1g
Polyunsaturated Fat 4g
Monounsaturated Fat 2g
Cholesterol 37mg12%
Sodium 461mg20%
Potassium 220mg6%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 9g18%
Vitamin A 638IU13%
Vitamin C 13mg16%
Calcium 297mg30%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
About the Author Lillian

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