Saag Paneer – a classic Indian dish made with spinach and golden crusted paneer cheese, fresh ginger and an assortment of spices.
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A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my exploration into the world of cooking Indian food. I’d only experimented with Indian flavors by way of using the Garam Masala spice blend I often make. But after a visit to an Indian restaurant in Austin for the third time in a month and my husband’s plea for me to make his very favorite Indian dish, Saag Paneer did I fully dive in.
I had put off trying to make saag paneer for a while. I think the Indian flavors intimidated me just a bit. I went slow in learning how to make saag paneer by first learning how to make paneer. When I realized how easy paneer was to make, well – I had no more excuses.
A blend of wonderful spices, fresh ginger, onions and chiles all cooked in with spinach – saag paneer is savory and completely satisfying.
I have to say that my husband and kids absolutely loved this dish. It was easier to make than I thought and the aroma coming from my kitchen was wonderful.
Here’s how it came together…
I first mixed up a blend of turmeric, cayenne, kosher salt, cinnamon and olive oil. I dropped cubes of the paneer into the mixture to coat them and let them marinate while I got the rest of my ingredients together. When I was ready to begin, I added the paneer to a hot pan to warm and brown. One thing to note is that paneer does not melt so it will hold it’s shape when it warms. The outside becomes crisp and golden while the inside warms.
After the paneer browned on all sides, I removed the cubes from the pan and placed them on a plate. To the pan, I added all of my chopped vegetables; the onions, minced ginger, garlic and a chopped serrano chili. I let this fragrant mixture cook for 15 minutes until it was a gorgeous caramel color.
I added in 1 tablespoon of butter and garam masala, ground coriander and ground cumin, stirring and cooking for a few minutes to cook out the raw scent of the spices.
Then, I added in the frozen, thawed spinach and stirred it in with the spiced onion mixture. I added a little water and a touch of salt and cooked it for about 5 minutes.
I turned the heat off and slowly stirred in yogurt. Once the yogurt was mixed in with the spinach, I added back the paneer, covered the pan and let it cook for another 5 minutes.
This saag paneer is surprisingly simple to make and tastes divine. I served it with a side of basmati rice and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. A Sauvignon Blanc is a wondeful wine to pair this dish with because the sweetness of the wine will cut the heat if you find the saag paneer a bit spicy.
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 tablespoons olive oil , divided
- 10 ounces paneer , cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
- 16 ounce package frozen chopped spinach , thawed
- 3/4 cup onion , finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger , minced
- 4 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 large serrano chile , finely chopped, seeds removed
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 cup plain or greek yogurt
- Mix together the turmeric, cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon salt, cinnamon, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl. Stir in the cubes of paneer.
- Set aside so the cubes marinate about 20 minutes.
- Pour the thawed spinach into a colander and gently squeeze out excess water. Leave in the colander to drain.
- Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the paneer to the pan along with the marinade. Cook the paneer on one side for 2-3 minutes, then flip the paneer so the other side browns and cooks another 2 minutes. Remove the paneer from the pan and transfer to a plate.
- Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and chile to the pan. Saute the mixture until it's the color of caramel, about 15 minutes.
- Melt the butter in the pan. Add the garam masala, coriander and cumin to the pan. Cook, stirring for about 3 minutes.
- Stir in the spinach. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup of water, stir, and cook 5 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the yogurt, a spoonful at a time.
- Add the paneer. Return the pan to the stove, cover and cook about 5 minutes more.
Recipe adapted from Aarti Sequeira
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Other similar recipes…
Saag Paneer from Veg Recipes of India
Saag Paneer from Saveur
Saag Paneer from Food and Wine