Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Saag Paneer (Puréed spinach with Indian cheese)

An immersion blender makes this luscious and creamy.
Saag Paneer (Puréed spinach with Indian cheese)
This is probably my all time favourite dish in the whole wide world.  I think I watched too much Popeye as a child.  The ringtone on my phone is Popeye.  I admire Olive Oyl, and have always seen her as my mentor.  What can I say?  Spinach truly is associated with muscle strength, so clearly Popeye knew what he was doing.  This vegetarian recipe is luscious, and it will make you strong!

The Masala
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
3 to 4 pieces of mace
¼ teaspoon black cumin
1 black cardamom
1 small cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
½ teaspoon salt

In a medium sized pot, gently roast the ingredients, excepting the turmeric and salt.  When they get a bit smoky and fragrant, remove from heat and put in a spice grinder with the turmeric and salt to grind into a powder.
The Vegetables

An immersion blender is a great gadget!
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter available in a jar)
1 teaspoon dark mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 red onion, diced
1 inch ginger, roughly chopped
5 fresh garlic cloves, roughly chopped
10 curry leaves
1 jalapeno chilli, roughly chopped
2 packages frozen spinach
1 teaspoon panipuri paste (concentrated tamarind paste)
1 cup water
1 tomato, diced
1 cup frozen cubed paneer  (Indian cheese)
a splash of heavy cream  (optional)

Heat the oil and ghee combo on medium high till it’s hot enough to splutter a few mustard seeds.  Then add all the mustard seeds, and when they turn white and sizzle, (in a few seconds) add the cumin seed.  Again, after a few seconds, add the onion, garlic, chillies, curry leaves and ginger.  Lower the heat to medium.  Cook to soften and caramelise a bit.  Add the masala and cook for about five minutes.  Add the frozen spinach, tamarind paste and water, and put a lid on the pot.  Cook for about twenty minutes, stirring from time to time, to see if the spinach is thawing.
Once it’s all thawed, use an immersion blender to puré.  Cook for another five minutes, then add the diced tomatoes and frozen paneer.  The paneer should be heated through in about another five, and the tomatoes should still be nice and red, and still looking pretty.  If you’re feeling decadent, you can stir in a splash of cream at this point, but I restrained myself, this time.
This amazing vegetarian recipe is wonderful over basmati rice, and if you have some channa as well, oh my.  Who needs to eat meat when vegetarian is this delicious, healthy and filling?  Popeye would have loved this!  Go on, play it!  It's only a minute and it'll inspire you to make this dish.


  1. Good Information. Thank you for sharing and I want to share information about Madras Bistro which provides our guests with an authentic North and South Indian vegetarian dining experience. We are located in Hackensack, New Jersey and serve a wide selection of dishes representing the tastes of India.

    1. Hi,

      If I take a trip to New York, I'll try to make the time to report out to Hackensack, to try your vegetarian dishes. Thanks for checking out my recipes.

  2. I happen to have an oversupply of Red Orach, a salad green that reseeds itself in my garden every year. It tastes like spinach, in fact I've seen it sold as Summer Spinach. It's a deep purple-red. I made Saag Paneer, substituting it for spinach. The dish came out deep purple, but the paneer was hot pink. I re-named it Pink and Purple Paneer. Taste was fine, color very amusing. If you happen to have a supply of Red Orach, try it, you won't regret it! Red orach can be substituted for salad greens in any recipe, but I wouldn't make it the main ingredient in a salad - it's maybe a little too flat, maybe slightly too tough, for that. The flavor of young leaves is nutty and wonderful. It looks fantastic in Vietnamese Garden Rolls, right behind the shrimp - the contrast of the coral-and-white shrimp with the dark purple orach is great. Also a great substitute for dark shiso in Asian dishes.

    The year I actually seeded this in the garden, it never came up. The next year, those seeds, in the ground since the year before, germinated. The plants get big. I only let one plant go to seed every year and end up with lots of plants. Seedlings are easy to pull, and easy to identify, as they're fuchsia-pink to purple.