Creamed Spinach with Cheese Cubes (Saag Paneer)
This rich restaurant favorite is made from a firm style of Indian cheese that is cut into cubes and lightly pan-fried, and then simmered with spinach in heavy cream. This dish is accurately called palak paneer, since palak is spinach, and paneer is Indian cheese, but I have seen it more commonly called saag paneer. Saag actually refers to a dish made from mustard greens, spinach, or a mixture of both. This dish goes best with the Oven Baked White Breads which is the bread commonly served with it in restaurants, but you can also serve it with Whole Wheat Flatbreads or Oven Baked Whole Wheat Breads. I also eat it with Rice with Cumin and Peas because its creamy consistency mixes easily with rice. Relatively speaking, I do not add a lot of heavy cream in this recipe (I find too much cream masks the bright taste of the spinach), but you can definitely add more if you prefer.
Reheating method: Place the refrigerated or defrosted spinach and cheese in a microwave, cover and stir periodically. Or, place it in a saucepan over medium-low heat and stir periodically.
1 lb (500 g) fresh spinach (about 1 bunch) or 1/2 lb (250 g) frozen, chopped spinach
1 fully ripe tomato, cut into 4 pieces
1/2 cup (125 ml) water (if using frozen spinach only)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 heaping teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
11/2 teaspoons peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 small onion, diced
1 fresh finger-length green chili pepper, diced
1/2 to 1 recipe Indian Cheese Block, cubed and pan-fried
1/2 cup (125 ml) heavy cream (add more cream as you desire to make it restaurant style!)
If you’re using frozen spinach, do not defrost. If you’re using fresh spinach, thoroughly wash it and trim the bottom 1 inch (2.5 cm) off the stems and discard. Coarsely chop the leaves and remaining stems.
Place the spinach and tomato in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. If you’re using frozen spinach, add 1/2 cup (125 ml) water to the saucepan and proceed to Step 3. If you’re using fresh spinach, cook it for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. You will soon see the water released from the spinach, and the spinach will reduce in volume.
Add the turmeric, red pepper, salt and black pepper. Stir to combine and cover. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. The spinach will become soft and tender, and the tomato will be mushy, and everything will be mixed together well. Remove from the heat and transfer the
contents to a blender.
Purée until smooth, but do not liquefy it, and then put the puréed spinach back in the saucepan. (Or, use an immersion blender and purée right in the saucepan.)
Pour the oil into a small skillet and place over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the ginger, onion and green chili pepper. Sauté until the onion is browned, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Pour into the saucepan with the blended spinach.
Add the cheese cubes and heavy cream. Stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Enjoy now or let cool to room temperature and refrigerate for later!
Reprinted with the express permission of Tuttle Publishing, a member of the Periplus Publishing Group.