I’m really excited to make this post. Not because I have anything profound to write here, but just because this is the most phenomenal Saag Paneer I’ve ever eaten. I occasionally order this dish in restaurants, usually as a change from my more typical Lamb Vindaloo or Tikka Masala favorites. But this dish, prepared this way, deserves to be the star of the show — my show, your show, everybody’s show.
It begins with a creamy homemade cheese, which we also repurposed earlier this week into cheese-topped crostinis. The cheese, which gets an extra boost from soaking in a savory marinade, is pan fried and then tossed with puréed spinach, creamy yogurt, freshly grated ginger and myriad spices. The resultant flavor combination is explosive yet harmonious.
Not to mention the extra kick of heat provided by the peppers. Anyone who knows me well knows I LOVE spicy food and this dish packs in a punch! Don’t worry, the recipe I provide below is not overly spicy. I realize I’m probably in the minority here with regards to spice preferences so I just added some extra jalapeño peppers to mine while I was cooking. You can also use other types of green chili peppers, like serranos, instead. I only used jalapeño because it worked well with the other flavors plus it was what I already had on hand. (I’m working on a jalapeño-infused cocktail at the moment. Stay tuned, but don’t wait with bated breath. I’m not much of a cocktail maker so it is going to take some self-teaching!) The whole dish is made complete by a crispy garlic naan. Perfect for scooping up the delicious green mess of flavor.
The only down side to this recipe is that now I don’t want to order this dish in a restaurant ever again. Unless I happen to be traveling through India, I’ll probably have to elevate this dish to “only to be cooked in my own kitchen, prepared exactly this way” status — both a blessing and a curse.
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne
- 2 teaspoons of sea salt, divided
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil, divided into 3 and 1 tablespoons
- 12 ounces of paneer (see notes)
- 1 (16-oz) package of frozen spinach
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (seeds removed if you don’t like it spicy…I leave mine in and use more than 1 jalapeno J)
- ½ teaspoon of garam masala
- 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1/2 cup of milk
- ½ cup plain yogurt
Whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon of salt and 3 tablespoons of oil. Drop the cubes of your paneer into the spice mixture and toss. Do this carefully so as not to break the cheese cubes. (It’s okay if you get some crumblies in it. They’ll fall off during cooking and will make flavorful tiny crumbles in the dish.) Set aside while you gather the remaining ingredients.
Thaw the spinach in the microwave or on stove and then set aside.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add the paneer cubes and toss gently so that all sides of the paneer brown evenly. They should have a golden brown all over. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Add the next 1.5 tablespoons of oil to the pan along with the onions, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno. Saute the mixture for 10 minutes. Add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin to the skillet. If it looks too dry, you can add some water to the skillet. You don’t want the spices to dry out. Continue stirring while the spices cook for another 5 minutes. You should be able to smell the spices coming together at this point. Once the onion mixture is golden brown, add the spinach, the remaining teaspoon of salt, and ½ cup of milk and stir. Continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Remove skillet from the heat and blend until smooth with an immersion blender or puree in a food processor.
Add yogurt, a spoonful at a time and then add the paneer. Return the skillet back to the medium heat and heat for about 5 minutes or until warmed all the way through. Serve with garlic naan, rice, and/or roti.
For homemade paneer, see this post. Paneer is the same “base cheese” as ricotta, a whey cheese. This post will give you instructions on how to prepare the ricotta and then use it as paneer. If you want to only make paneer for this recipe, cut that recipe in half (i.e., use only 8 cups of milk instead of 16.)
For homemade garlic naan, see here.
Saag Paneer recipe adapted from Food Network.