So here is what I think happened:
One day, somewhere in Northern India, somebody had spinach (Palak) and cottage cheese (Paneer) sitting in their pantry. Just some spinach and some cottage cheese. They said oh it’s dinner time and I’m really hungry, maybe I should put these two things together, add some spices and oh let’s add butter as well and that will be the end of it.
They probably didn’t know that they created history with one of the most well-known South-Asian dishes ever created. It’s so basic and at the same time so delicious that it is almost a standard menu item in all of the restaurants that serves South-Asian cuisine. Some places have really good Palak Paneer, I must say, but a home-made one is absolutely the best.
It’s my absolute favorite and a must at every dinner I throw for my friends and family. When I make this I usually make my own cottage cheese (Paneer) at home but you can also find it at stores that sell Indian/Pakistani spices.
My secret to making this recipe amazing is the Bhagaar/Tarka. Pronounced; Bha-gaar/ Tar-ka.
Most of you already know what a bhagaar is but for those who are not very familiar with Pakistani cuisine a bhagaar is either the base or the garnish for a meal. Any time you heat up oil with a variety of ingredients , for example; onions, garlic, ginger and/or other herbs, it is called a bhagaar. Most spices release their flavor and aroma once they are heated, which adds a lot of character to your food. It takes a little while to master bhagaar preparation: if you over-cook or under-cook your ingredients it will either be burnt or not cooked enough to get the desired flavor. But I’m sure you will do a good job even if this is your first time.
Let’s gather our stuff.
Green is healthy, even with all the butter and cheese; I hope 🙂
I think I eat half of the paneer (cottage cheese) when I’m making it, or my kids do.
Important note: This recipe has two basic stages, cooking the spinach gravy and then the magical bhagaar, I will explain them separately.
Step 1:- The Spinach.
- Spinach 2 bunches.
- Tomato 2 medium
- Chicken stock 2 cups
- Wheat flour 2 tbsp
- Butter 50 gm
- Heavy Cream 80 ml
- Salt A few pinches
- Cumin 1/4th tsp
- Garlic 1 tbsp roughly chopped.
- Rinse the spinach leaves really well. Chop it roughly.
- Boil water in a pan and add the spinach, let it cook for 2-3 minutes
- Strain the leaves and run them through really cold water. This preserves the bright green colors and also stops the spinach from cooking any further.
- Now transfer half of the drained spinach to a blender, and keep the rest aside.
- Add two medium-sized tomatoes as well and puree. You do not have to add any water in the blender.
- Now pour this puree and the other half of the spinach we kept aside earlier, to a pan along with the chicken stock and turn the heat on medium. If you don’t have chicken stock readily available substitute with plain water.
- Add a few pinches of salt and a chopped green chilly.
- Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes.
- When the mixture is dry, add the wheat flour and mix it with a whisker or a spoon really quickly to avoid forming lumps. This gives a really nice texture to the spinach gravy.
- Add the heavy cream and butter next. Gently mix and our spinach is almost ready to be taken off the stove.
- If you think that adding cream will be a little too much for you to handle then you can always skip the cream, but it won’t taste as good, the heavy cream is what makes it delicious.
- Don’t over-cook the spinach: it should be a creamy, not dry.
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in another small pan.
- Add the chopped garlic and the cumin. Fry until they are golden brown.
- Remove and mix this well in the cooked spinach.
- Turn the stove off and plate.
Step 2 :- The Bhagaar:
- Garlic 2 tbsp chopped
- Ginger 1/4th inch finely chopped
- Whole Green Chillies 3
- Whole Red chillies 2-3
- Cumin seeds 1/2 tsp
- oil 3 tbsp
- Paneer(Cottage Cheese)200 grams, cut in cubes.
- Heat half of the oil in a pan.
- Saute the paneer cubes in the pan. Take them out and spread them on the spinach gravy.
- Now in the same pan add another tablespoon of oil and add the chopped ginger, garlic, cumin. Cook them until golden brown.
- Now at the very end add the whole green chillies and the whole red chillies and quickly turn the stove off. We don’t want everything to get too spicy. We add these chillies only for the aroma it adds to the food.
- Spread on top of the spinach, listen to the mesmerizing spluttering of the hot oil and smell the amazing aroma when everything comes together.
Once you make Palak-Paneer you will find out that it is fairly easy to prepare and tastes good with tandoori naan , paratha or roti (chapati), whatever you prefer. Now I’m going to let this picture speak for itself, I don’t think I can wait any longer.
Aa jao bachon “Palak Paneer” tayyar hai !!!!