I’ve been lusting after the Made in India cookbook for a while. First, I saw it in the window of a fancy boutique on Connecticut Avenue in D.C. Then I saw it advertised on the food website Food52. Then, a few weeks ago, I saw it at the spice shop at Union Market (a big food court and market in D.C.). At that point, I realized it was fate.
Yesterday, I finally bought the cookbook. I was flipping through it deciding what to make first and a recipe for Palak Paneer caught my eye. It looked pretty straightforward and I had most of the ingredients at home already. I was also trying to use up some cherry tomatoes and it called for a pound of those, so I decided to go for it.
Making this paneer is a multi-step process that takes a lot of chopping (one of my least favorite things), but also a lot of tasting (one of my most favorite things). If you try a little bit of everything as you go along, you’ll have a better idea of how it will all come together in the end.
By the time I tried a little of the tomato sauce with the spices, I knew I had hit palak paneer gold. I mixed in some spinach, let it relax for a second, et voila. I had a delicious Indian dinner.
I also used this as an excuse to prep for an Indian cooking class I’m taking in Baltimore on Thursday. It will be hard to top this paneer, but I’ll see what I can do…
Palak Paneer (from Made in India by Meera Sodha)
1 pound paneer, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled, then grated or finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 fresh green chili, very finely chopped
14 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, washed
Put 3 tablespoons of the oil into a lidded frying pan on a high heat. Lightly season the paneer cubes with salt and fry them in the pan, turning regularly until golden on each side. Watch out, as the paneer might spit; if it does, half cover it with a lid. Remove the paneer cubes using a slotted spoon and put them to one side on a paper towel.
Turn the heat down to medium, put a little more oil into the pan if need be, and add the onions. Fry for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are golden. Add the ginger, garlic, and green chili, stir well, then add the cherry tomatoes and tomato paste.
Put the lid on the pan and cook the tomatoes for 6 to 8 minutes, until they start to break down and become soft. Then add the coriander, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, and 1 1/4 tsp of salt or to taste. Stir well and taste, adding the extra chili powder if you’d like to. The mixture should look quite paste-like now and there should be very little (if any) liquid running fro it. (If this is not the case, put the lid back on and cook for another 5 minutes.)
Return the paneer pieces to the pan, stir to coat them with the paste, and heat through. Finally, add the spinach in batches, wilting down a large handful before adding another, and coating the leaves carefully with the sauce.
Cook for a further 5 minutes with the lid on, to make sure all the spinach has wilted, then take off the heat. Serve with naan.