What do you do to get this lovely lush color in your palak paneer, I am asked.
I’ll let out my secret today.
As they tell you in Kung Fu Panda, the secret of the secret ingredient is that there is no secret ingredient. Which means that my palak paneer looks that way not because of what I add to it, but because of what I do not add to it.
Cut out the riddle talk, did you say? OK OK. Follow the recipe below to recreate that verdant splendor in your own kitchen.
- Spinach – 2 large bunches
- Green chilies – 2
- Garlic – 4 fat cloves, finely chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Cream – 1 tablespoon
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Salt – to taste
- Oil – 2 teaspoons
- A large bowl of chilled water
- Paneer – 250gms, cubed
Remove stems and wash the spinach thoroughly, till the water it is dipped into remains clean.
Bring a large pan of salted water to a running boil. Dip the spinach leaves into the pan and let it simmer for 3 minutes uncovered. You will see the green of the spinach deepen. Switch off the heat, let it stand for 2 more minutes. It is important to boil and let it stand uncovered, and to follow the timing exactly.
Strain the spinach using a large sieve and turn it immediately over into the bowl of chilled water. Watch the colour pop! If you don’t feel like clapping your hands at this stage, you have a heart of stone.
Slit the green chilies and add it along with the spinach into a blender. Pulse it coarse. Since the leaves are boiled, they puree very quickly. If you want the texture a little thicker (that’s how I like it), blend for a couple of seconds only.
Heat the oil in a kadhai/skillet. Add cumin seeds. When they start to crackle, add the chopped garlic.
As soon as the garlic turns brown, tip in the spinach gravy mix. Add a dash of salt. Remember that spinach has its own natural salt so the dish needs relatively little top-up.
When the gravy comes to a boil, add the paneer and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Stir a couple of times – very gently, you don’t want the paneer to crumble.
Just before you switch off the heat, add the lemon juice and cream. Stir.
Serve piping hot with chapatis/rice and raita.
Did you notice that I use ABSOLUTELY no dry spices in my palak paneer?
Take my word for it. Just this once, keep the onions and the dhania-lalmirch powders far far away. Do not suffocate your spinach with spices – let it reign supreme and weave its own magic.