Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Palak Paneer -- Paneer in a Spinach gravy


PalakPaneer
Palak Paneer


My elder daughter is a recent convert. I mean she is almost a convert from a non-vegetarian to a vegetarian. She refuses to eat most fish except salmon. She doesn't want to eat meat on two consecutive days.She eats her eggs with no enthusiasm.

In a family like ours, this creates a difficult scenario. All the more because she has gone from a "no-fuss" eater to a somewhat "finicky" eater these days. She doesn't like to have just Dal & Rice or just veggies and rice either. In our family "finicky" eaters are assuaged with an omlette on the side and will eat anything with that option. This doesn't work with S though. She eats her broccoli and carrots with a dip but when served with rice all she wants is Paneer.

Her Didun(my Mom) is party responsible for this. When she was visiting last year and Big Sis S refused to eat fish or meat, my Mom in a mode of panic that the child is not getting any protein took to feeding her Paneer. And not any store bought Paneer either. Every other day my Ma would make a little chhana or chhena(home made paneer) just for her and then she would shape them in small flat discs, fry them to a golden brown and make delicious gravy with them. This is a Bengali favorite and is called "Chhanar Dalna".The homemade paneer is super soft and soaks up the delicious slightly sweet gravy in which it sits, making it anyone's delight.

With Didun back in India, such delicacies are a luxury and though my Ma insists that I could take time out and make some "home made chhana" and chhana'r dalna for Big Sis S, I pretend not to listen and go buy Paneer instead.

Big Sis S has complied and eats this store bought paneer. She has Paneer on most week days and then she takes a Paneer Pualo for lunch almost one day every week. At school when her teacher asked her what she was having for lunch, she figured she didn't know English of Panner and so said it was chicken instead. With Paneer (Indian Cottage Cheese) and a bowl of plain yogurt as the incentive, she pretty much eats all other veggies on her plate.

Everyone has a Palak Paneer recipe and I myself have tried and tweaked several. This tweaked version of the old favorite is the the one I love most. It is nice and creamy and comes with all the goodness of green spinach and white paneer. S too eats it up without a murmur about the greenery.



Palak Paneer


Prep: Cut almost 12 oz of Paneer in small cubes. There were about 28-30 paneer cubes.

The Nanak brand of Paneer I usually buy is pretty soft by my standard and I don't fry them. If your paneer is hard sitting in the refrigerator microwave for a few seconds to make it soft or if your paneer is the tough variety, fry lightly and dunk in salted warm water

Start Cooking:

In a deep bottomed frying pan heat Oil

Add 1 clove of garlic chopped, 4 slit green chillies, 1/2 cup chopped red onion and saute

When the onion is translucent add 1 tomato coarsely chopped

Fry for a couple of minutes till tomato softens

Add 4 cups of blanched baby spinach(I used baby spinach you can also use regular spinach)

Add salt and saute til the spinach wilts and softens

Cool the above mix and make a paste in the blender. Do not add water while doing this. This is referred to as the spinach puree and used in a later step

Heat a little Oil in the pan

Add 1 tsp of Whole Cumin Seeds/Jeera

When the spice pops add 1/4 cup of chopped red onion

Fry with 1/4 tsp of sugar. Sugar helps to caramelize and the onions turn a reddish brown in color

Add the spinach puree that you made

Saute for a couple of minutes

Add 1 tsp of Ginger paste, 1 tsp of Cumin Powder/Jeera Powder, 2 tsp of Corriander Powder/Dhania Powder, 1/4 tsp of Red Chilli Powder and salt

Mix the masala and saute for some more minutes (about 3-4 minutes)

Add 1-2 tsp of Kasoori Methi and mix well

Add 1/2 cup of 2% Milk + 1 cup of water, mix well with all the masala and let it simmer

When the gravy comes to a boil add the Paneer pieces and let the gravy simmer at low heat for 10-15 minutes (approx. timing). By this time the gravy should be thick and creamy and there should not be any raw smell

I sometimes add very little sugar at this point as it suits my taste. You can also add 1/2 - 1 tbsp cream to this dish at this point which I don't

Just before taking it off the heat sprinkle 1/4 tsp of Garam masala powder and add 1/4 tsp of Ghee. Mix well and delicious creamy palak paneer is ready to serve

This goes very well with Roti or Naan and even with a Rice dish


Trivia:The ruling aristocracy in India from 1500 until the mid 19th Century was of Turkic, (Central Asian), and Persian origin, and it was they who introduced paneer to India.

In Bangladesh and eastern India, two kinds of cheese are commonly found: ponir (a hard paneer) and chhana or chhena (a soft paneer). Ponir is a salty semi-hard cheese made in villages across Bangladesh, and Orissa and West Bengal in India. Its sharp flavor and high salt content contrasts with the softer, milder chhana/chhena. (And I always thought Bong way of saying Paneer was Ponir !!!)

50 comments:

  1. Sandeepa, diduns are meant for that, to spoil their grand daughters. DD2 who was an independent refuses to eat by herself after my mom left.
    The palak paneer look so good. I am not very fond of this dish unless made by someone else.

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  2. My mom was very shocked when my son said he didn't like fish or meat! She blamed me :( Somehow, she made my son to eat fish, still he loves it! Vegetables are very hard for him!
    Palak paneer looks very tasty, I should try ur version!

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  3. Palak paneer looks delicious, San! I like the kasuri methi addition too. Little S is getting fussy, huh? But looks like you've figured out the permutations and combis that work for her :) I don't think I've ever had freshly made paneer before. I can just imagine that being soft and yum!

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  4. Call your mom and BLAME her really good!!! ;D

    Yeah, they do go thru' phases but hope she doesn't give up eating Fish all together, really good for our brain. Wish I had taught my kids to eat Seafood earlier, now they do like Shrimp and Crab! :D

    Palak Paneer looks so yum, it is our fave and yes, we always eat that with rice too. There is one best product called SWAD Palak Paneer and Paneer Makhani, Trisha LOVES those. She has instructed me to buy her those whenever I go to Indian store and give it to her in the college dorm,so she can have it Microwaved.

    There is no chance in heck my kids will opt for vegetarianism! Hahaha!

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  5. That was a cute post! My Son loves anything with a good presentation, like in a Mcdonalds cup or box. He hates to eat home food:(

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  6. Oh btw, I loved your Palak paneer pic.. with that shawl and mat!!
    DO you alter the html code to get a big size pic?

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  7. Sandeepa, I am in splits about the Ponir. My MIL always says Ponir and I really did (till this moment after reading your post) think it was just Paneer in a Bong accent! I think as the kids get older they seem to like the westernized food more and more. Turning veg in a Bengali household has got to be a passing phase :-)

    Have you tried sneaking in fish in her diet as maccher chop?

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  8. My 2 girls Love palak paneer.. they will just spoon it out of the bowls.. & they are gone faster than anything else. My hubby used to hate paneer & palak, but eats palak paneer ( since kasuri methi gets rid of the palak smell), & tikka paneer. A favorite dish of all:-)

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  9. how grandparents spoil their kids :)and justifiably so ..

    iam imagining the paneer dalna, soemthing my didima made n taught me too:)) cant ever go wrong with Palak Paneer ..

    more power to you for figuring out how to pander to the whims of a small child :)

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  10. I'm used to non fried paneer in PP as in most Delhi restaurants(and the homes where I've eaten)that's how it was.
    The paneer here of course is a different story and I have yet to come up with a satisfactory PP recipe, yours looks mighty tasty, will try.

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  11. I'm salivating at your description of Paneer Dalna. Can you post it please?

    I'm on a no-carb diet :D so can eat that. Yayyyyyy!

    And I have no comment on the kids. I have no idea how you mothers deal with them, really!

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  12. My husband's fave dish! I make it slightly different, without adding milk. But either ways, I am sure it tastes great! I prefer home made to restaurant - style palak paneer!

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  13. I guess that's a package comes along with mom's:). I usually add cashew paste at the end instead of cream. Palak paneer is sv's fav.

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  14. I boil the spinach, puree it and then proceed with the rest of the stuff.

    We had friends (non-veg) who were living in a vegetarian's house for rent. They would feed their daughter chicken but tell her it's potato so that she wouldn't out them!!!

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  15. Grandmas are for these things. You know myself being a poor eater my grandma would make little rice flor to make rice noodles at home when I was a kid. The same happens when my elder one asks for a poori in the evening and amma makes them in a jiffy. Once she made a whole bowl of Gulab jamuns on a Sunday evening having my elder one taste just a bit. He's that bad :( The palak paneer makesme drool and its one of long awaiting recipe in my todo list.

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  16. Hi Sandeepa, Thanks once more for a good post. Sympathies dear sympathies.... Feel better, as many of us go through these ones. Believe me I am always sandwiched between my son refusing to eat out in a Chinese joint and my husband, who is currently into an experimenting mood.

    My son, who is going to be 12 in July, now prefers a 'thali'/ bento/ platter kind of spread . Therefore every eating out is to be 'preceded by' a 'letz talk thru this one' session.

    On the face Fish is a no-option. But, till now, finally eats a fish meal, on one week night and on 2 meals in the weekend.

    Palak paneer however is my favourite, hence a big thank you. Will look forward to your chhanar dalna recipe.

    Hugs to the kids.

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  17. I guess kids go thru those phases .. I have seen my nephews give up non-veg totally ... and sit in front of my cousin and keep commenting "Ekhon chokh ta kaccho? ekhon pet ta khaacho? ekhon haath ta khaacho?" giving poor didi a perfect gastronomic trauma. :-)
    Love palak paneer ... and love your snaps completely. :-)

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  18. you took away all my illusions! i was hoping the no-fuss eaters stay that way forever! palak paneer is my all time fave!

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  19. All four of us love paneer, and especially palak paneer...the addition of milk sounds interesting :-)

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  20. Indo
    We don't make it that often either, though I love it

    Cham
    My daughter used to love fish, don't know what happened

    Vani
    Doesn't the Kasoori methi act wonder ?Freshly made paneer is definitely very soft but as I said I like the Nanak one too. You get it at Apna Bazaar or Patel

    Asha
    Yeah if I do that, she will say "Ok I am not coming next time" :)
    I will try SWAD, haven't tried frozen dinners much
    Trisha comes home on every weekend ?

    Sharmi
    Thankfully not much McDonald craze here. Once in a while but that's it
    About the pics I upload in Photobucket

    SJ

    Maccher Chop, she will eat at other people's house but not at home. I guess it is a phase, she will even eat shrimp at other people's home but not at her own.
    Recently she started liking salmon though, lets see

    Soma

    I love the baby spinach though I wasn't fond of palak earlier

    Meenal

    I will ask Mom to teach the same to S too :)

    DelhiBelle
    I don't fry paneer either. As I had said some brands I get here is very good. Though most Bengalis fry paneer and then add it to gravy

    A & N
    I don't think I will post paneer dalna any time soon, see I have no time to make homemade chenna. Maybe when Grandma is visiting again:)

    Nags

    I added milk because I don't add the cream at the end

    Shivapriya

    Cashew paste is a great idea, shall do that next time

    Sra

    These spinach are so tender, no need to boil. Somehow I feel saute and puree gives it a nice taste

    Nirmala

    Did I tell you I am so jealous that your Mom lives with you. My older one was on that poori craze last year when my Mom was here

    BWM

    Thankfully S is still pretty enthu about all kinds of eating out. She doesn't like Thai too much but we go to a Thai place so often that now she has complied, she eats the appetizers and a pineapple fried rice.
    Actually with most places we eat out she is pretty happy :)
    You should post some yummy pics of the Thali and the Bento. I am really interested to see. Have never had a bento lunch

    Sharmila

    You are right. Ewwww...tomar didi'r obostha bujhte parchi :D

    MeetaK

    I guess it is a sinusoidal curve, they will hit the plateau maybe in the teens

    Sunita

    I add the milk because I don't add any cream, so I add the milk for a little richness

    Shama
    Thanks:)

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  21. I don't why I always thought that you had 1 daughter... clearly there is something wrong with my reading :)

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  22. Nothing wrong Cynthia, just that you are on a "reading lag" probably :) The second one is not even a year yet and I posted the fact only this New Year

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  23. GO big sis 'S'..Go big sis 'S'..welcome to the vegetarian side...LOL...don't hate me Sandeepa :)..and yep! grandmas.. the moms we had..who would lecture us on wasting food and being picky...turn out to be enablers with grandkids...let me not discuss about dads here..they are worse IMHO :)

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  24. Oh no...I owe my mother in law an apology for all the grief I caused her by rebuking everytime she said Ponir.

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  25. sandeepa,
    I guess every kid has this passing phase and fish pieces ekto garam -garam fry kore khabao , tumi weekend e try korte paro , jokhon tumaar kache or sathe samay thakhe ..may be tumi oke nijer choto balakaar ekta doto golpo shunate-shunate fish khababar chesta korte paro ..okhane paka mach(rui/katla) paba jaye ?

    My little one is also fond of eating paneer opps ponir hehe..
    ami palak ke ekto boil kore , puree kori ,kom samay e hoye jaye ,agey na boil kore kortaam ..kinto taste ta dekhlaam boil kore korle bhalo hoye..kasuri methi diye obosho try kori ni..
    Hugs and smiles

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  26. glad to know you enjoyed the gwar beans..as kids we always dismissed it as "kadwa" (bitter), so I guess the association remains:)

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  27. Jaya

    I don't boil spinach but I blanch it. Actually since I use baby spinach, I put the spinach in hot water for a few minutes and then saute it.

    Amar meye ta salmon khay aajkal kintu rui ba chingri khete chai na

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  28. Sandeepa, I tried your recipe today and I loooooved the outcome. I actually had guests, and they loved it too. Thank you!
    The only changes I made: I added the palak without blanching them and let them wilt in the container (I am lazy!). The kasoori methi was a great idea...gave it some kind of depth. You are, as usual, mu favorite.

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  29. Thanks Mystic
    Tumio amr favorite reader :) Blog koro tahole bolbo favorite blogger :)

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  30. I love this recipe! I made it once at home and then I also made it for a potluck! Super hit! Thanks thanks for this awesome Palak Paneer recipe :)

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  31. Palak paneer looks great. Try another recipe at and see how you find Palak Paneer

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  32. I tried out ur version of Palak paneer and its very very good...thanks.

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  33. Hi,

    I tried your recipe and it turned out very nice.

    Thanks,
    Gargi

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  34. I tried your recipe of Palak Paneer last night and my room mate and I ended up licking our fingers and looking at the empty bowl sadly.. Thank you! it was awesome :)

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  35. Thanks for your post, I like this post very much.

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  36. This is by far the best recipe I've found for palak paneer. So delicious that I am now regularly making paneer at home just so we can enjoy this dish again. Thank you for yet another wonderful recipe.

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