Saag paneer, an Indian classic recipe: chopped spinach, golden-crusted paneer cheese, spices, and finished with toasted sesame.
- 300 grams fresh (baby) spinach, well washed and dried or frozen chopped spinach, thawed
- 2 tablespoons ghee, clarified butter, or unsalted butter
- 170 grams paneer cheese, cut into 1-cm cubes
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped, about 110 grams
- scant 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 1 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 1/2 tablespoon spice mixture
- 1/8 teaspoon turmeric
- 120 ml buttermilk
- splash of cream or dollop of plain yogurt (optional)
- fresh lemon to finish, and toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle
- 2 tablespoons cumin seed
- 1 tablespoons coriander seed
- 2 teaspoons mustard seed
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/8 teaspoon cardamom seeds
- 3 whole cloves
- SPICE MIXTURE: Grind spices as finely as possible using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Store in an airtight container and use as needed.
- Chop the spinach well, and set aside in a large bowl. If you’re using frozen spinach, squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible and set aside.
- While you’re chopping spinach, cook the paneer in one tablespoon of the butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Make sure the paneer is in a single layer and use a spatula to flip it regularly so all sides get deeply brown. This typically takes 7 minutes or so. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Heat the other tablespoon of butter in your largest soup pot. Add the onions and salt, and saute until the onions soften up, five minutes or so. Add the garlic, ginger, spice mixture, and turmeric. Cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and nicely combined – a minute or two.
- Turn the heat up to medium-high and add the spinach to the pan all at once, if possible. Cook, stirring all the while, until the spinach is collapsed and wilted, a couple of minutes. If you need to add the spinach in batches (adding more spinach as it collapses), that is fine too, just do it as quickly as possible. Unsing frozen spinach, let it warm through.
- Stir in the buttermilk and cream and heat gently while stirring. If the mixture seems dry, add more buttermilk a splash at a time (this rarely happens to me). Taste and add more salt if necessary and more red pepper flakes if you like. Add a generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice, stir in the paneer, sprinkle with sesame seeds and serve.
total time: 40 minutes
preparation time: 15 minutes
cooking/baking time: 15 minutes