FacebookTwitterYouTubeFlickrPinterestGoogle+

Friday, 8 June 2012

Palak Paneer with Cookin' Greens Flash Frozen Spinach

One of the best things about a large extended Indian family is that it gives me an opportunity to beg/ borrow/ steal/ coerce/ guilt/make large puppy eyes/ threaten/ flatter receive recipes from a myriad group of people. Like most Indian middle class kids (admit it now, guys) we were a pretty spoilt bunch when it came to food and the making of it. The elders in the family cooked for the children. Sure, we had some chores to do, but then my mum, for example, would get up at 5 AM in the morning so she could make us a hot breakfast before we went to school and she went off to work. Me, ha! My kid is lucky if I managed to open my eyes enough for her to get a bowl of cereal and a banana :)

That said, being away from home suddenly brings that decadent, spoilt rotten lifestyle to a crashing halt. Suddenly if you want fresh, home cooked food that tastes like mummy made it, well, darn it, you have to cook it your own damn self. Sigh! When I left for England little did I know that this passion for old fashioned home cooked Indian food would lead me to an entirely new career, from communications to chef. Life is strange indeed.

And so are recipes. As I keep reiterating on the blog, every single family in India will have their own way of doing things. And this includes having their very own recipes for classic Indian dishes. When I left Mangalore, I left with a small file folder, chock a block with handwritten recipes from my family.

Palak Paneer with Cookin' Greens Flash Frozen Spinach

One of the recipes was for this palak paneer from my Aunt Jessie. My Aunt Jessie is a very unusual woman in our family. While the rest of the family is all about sticking with traditional food, my aunt is a true foodie. She seeks out recipes that she has had, and trials them in her home. No style of cuisine is safe from her. But what is unique about her, is that she almost always puts her own special stamp on these recipes. When you make one of her recipes, you know its an Aunt Jessie recipe. And unlike the more traditional recipes from the family, my Aunt Jessie's recipes are quick. She is a banker. She has no time to faff around. Quick, easy, delicious and unusual are the hallmarks of her cuisine. And I love her for that :)

This palak paneer, for example, is a North Indian dish that Aunt Jessie adapted to suit her. The dish is amazingly quick to put together, it usually takes me less than 30 minutes, including prep. And the flavours, well, you have to try them to believe them! It is such a wonderfully aromatic and healthy dish. I used to eat loads of it during my pregnancy, because of its high iron content (I credit it for making the daughter like her spinach) When you actually eat it, you can never tell that you're eating spinach, because its so awfully flavourful, creamy, with a kick of spice at the end.

Palak Paneer with Cookin' Greens Flash Frozen Spinach

Kay always said that this dish would be a great standby if I had frozen spinach. But for some strange reason, I never really tried frozen spinach before, even though I almost always stock up on paneer (its one of my regular mainstays at EZee Mart in Garneau) That is, before I tried this flash frozen spinach from Cookin' Greens.

Cookin' Greens calls itself 'the new fast food'. And now, having tried a few of their products I utterly agree. I was offered a coupon to try out a couple of their products and I chose their chopped spinach and their designer's mix. The spinach I used in this dish, and I was thrilled by how it worked out, especially in this palak paneer. It was quick to defrost and cook, wasn't overly watery, and blended down into the richest, most beautiful green sauce ever. The flavour was strong and fresh, and held its own with the combination of spices. And best of all, its so easy to use, and unbelivably convenient. While I will still continue to use fresh spinach when its in season, this innovation makes it easy for me to whip up a delicious Indian recipe with minimum ingredients and fuss. Aunt Jessie would have been proud!

Rotis are a great accompaniment for this dish, and its deep green colour will look fabulous at a smart dinner party too. The best bit is that its a really good make ahead dish, as the spices really have time to say hello to each other and get absorbed by the paneer (you can guess I am a Guardian reader, right? Haha) And you can vary the spice level to suit your own taste. The spinach can actually handle a fair deal of spice, so feel free to increase the quantities to suit your own palate. The cream actually mellows down the dish a fair bit too, so that's something to keep in mind too.

This dish is also fairly healthy, if you leave out the cream. For everyday cooking, I sometimes skip the cream and add some 0% greek yoghurt. I have also been known to skip the oil too, on ocasion. This is also an incredibly versatile sauce, so experiment by adding various elements to it. Potatoes would work well, as would (weirdly) pressed tofu. The only thing to remember is that its the spinach sauce that is the star of this show :) This dish also freezes well, just thaw and reheat to serve. Aunt Jessie has definitely passed me a winner with this recipe, thank you Aunty :)

Palak Paneer with Cookin' Greens Flash Frozen Spinach

Recipe: 

1 onion, chopped roughly 
1 large tomato, chopped roughly
1 inch piece of ginger, chopped
4 or 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped roughly
1 or 2 green chillies, chopped
5 peppercorns
1 inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark, broken up
5 cloves
1 pack of Cookin' Greens flash frozen spinach (500g)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 cup half and half (or 1/4 cup whipping cream) 
2, 400g packs of paneer (Indian cottage cheese)
Salt to taste or 3/4 teaspoon
Extra whipping cream to serve (optional) 

Method: 

Place the onion, tomato, ginger, garlic, chillies, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves into a wide shallow pan. Don’t add any oil. Sauté for a minute on a medium heat.

To this, add the frozen spinach and cook until the spinach is heated through, defrosted and tender, about 7 - 8 minutes. Don’t add any water at this stage, because the spinach will be quite moist.

Cool the mixture down. 

Blend the spinach mixture to a fine, creamy consistency once cool enough to handle. You can add a little water at this stage, to help the blending process, if required.

(Optional: Cut the paneer into 1 inch cubes. In a separate pan, heat the oil, and fry the paneer cubes till they are a light brown colour. Don’t worry too much about getting them evenly coloured)

Pour the oil into a wide pan, and heat on a medium heat for a couple minutes. Add the blended spinach sauce to it and saute for about 4 minutes, and then let it cool down a little bit.

Stir in the half and half and whisk, until well mixed in.

Fold the paneer cubes into the sauce and then bring back to a slow simmer. Season to taste.

Drizzle over some heavy cream to serve, if desired.

Notes: 
  • This is a fantastic make-ahead dish, as the paneer pieces absorb the sauce better if you make it a day in advance and then reheat before serving. Do reheat on the hob, as the microwave tends to dry out sauces.
  • You can use plain greek yoghurt instead of the cream to make this dish healthier. 
  • If you want to make this dish vegan, skip the cream/ yoghurt and add a couple tablespoons of cashew nut paste. To make cashew nut paste, soak a handful of unsalted cashews in about 1/4 cup of hot water. After about 15 minutes of soaking, blend to a fine paste. You can use this nut paste as a good substitute for cream or yoghurt. 
Palak Paneer with Cookin' Greens Flash Frozen Spinach

Disclosure:  I received coupons to try out two products from Cookin' Greens. Other than that, I was not compensated, financially or otherwise for this post and recipe. All opinions are my own, as is this recipe.

11 comments :

  1. We luv Palak Paneer and the vibrant green color needs no cream to enrich it.
    Love Ash.

    ReplyDelete
  2. My wife asked me this week why I never cooked with paneer and I didn't really know why. Now there's no excuse, especially if I use the yoghurt option to keep the fat lower. Looks really good and suitably intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Palak paneer is one of my absolute favourite Indian dishes. Love how easy this one is to make. I might even give it a whirl!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I really like Palak Paneer. My first fav. Punjabi vegetable was Aloo Palak, and so to move on to a healthier and better version is no surprise:)

    I love how easy and wonderful your Aunt's recipe is!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Love the palak paneer and the way you have captured.stunning!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Wonderful Pics, Mich! Surprisingly I also have never cooked with frozen spinach. Now I must go find some flash frozen spinach.

    ReplyDelete
  7. looks and sounds so good - where would I find Paneer?
    Mary x

    ReplyDelete
  8. This Palak paneer looks absolutely scrummy and healthy. I am going to give it a whirl this weekend with Greek yoghurt. I cannot wait!

    ReplyDelete
  9. OOOh this is my FAVORITE dish of all! One day I will tackle it...

    ReplyDelete
  10. Can you make this with fresh spinach? If so, are there any adjustments that need to be made?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, absolutely. All you have to do is wash the spinach first, then dry it slightly. There should still be some water clinging to the leaves. Then add it to the recipe instead of the frozen spinach, and cook as the recipe directs.

      Thanks for stopping by :)

      Delete

I love hearing back from my friends and readers. Please let me know how you liked this post, and if you would consider making this recipe, or have already made it. Please take a moment to post pictures on my Facebook page, if you do happen to take a couple :)

Please note, that due to the enormous amount of spam comments I've been getting, I am re-enabling comment moderation. Your comment will be visible on approval. Apologies in advance.