Thursday, June 24, 2010
Palak means spinach
Everytime I visit my favourite North Indian restaurant I order the same dish: Palak Paneer or spinach with cottage cheese. In fact, when I was on holiday in Northern India a couple of years ago, I think I ordered this dish almost every night. My three travel mates didn't compain as it was everyone's favourite. The creamy, slightly spicy spinach coupled with the lightly toasted cottage cheese is just perfect.
Unfortunately, because paneer is quite pricey (you can get a 150gm packet for between RM15 to RM20) I don't often make it at home. It's cheaper to order it at a restaurant: RM8 for a side dish that can be shared by 2-3 (depending how greedy you are). of course, it isn't difficult to make paneer at home. In India, most people do. Like ricotta, what you need is whole milk and citric acid or vinegar.
But, as luck would have it, I was in Brickfields last week for a job assignment and took the opportunity to go grocery shopping. As KL's "little India", Brickfields has some really cool Indian grocers that stock Indian cooking produce largely imported from India. From spice mixes to Indian biccies and snacks, these shops are a cook's paradise (well, if you're into Indian or Indian influenced cooking). I spent about an hour browsing and came away with a 200g packet of paneer (and a whole lot of other things -- I cannot resist temptation) costing me Rm15.
Perfect. 200g of paneer is actually quite a lot, especially since I usually only cook for two. I decided to use just a small portion of the cheese for the Palak Paneer and keep the rest to experiment with later. Palak paneer can be eaten with rice but is usually eaten with Indian flat breads. I like to eat mine alone.
2 cups chopped spinach
40g paneer, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, peeled and chopped
1 large green chilli, sliced
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
salt and pepper
Shallow fry the paneer cubes till they begin to get golden and crusty. Don't let them fry too long.
Pound/blend the onion, garlic and ginger to a paste. Mix the cumin and coriander powders with the paste. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a saucepan and add the onion/garlic/ginger paste. When fragrant, add the green chillies and soon after the spinach. Cook till the spinach is all soft, then transfer the contents of the saucepan into a blender and blend (if you want it slightly chunky, just pulse the mixture a couple of times. If you prefer it smooth and creamy, blend it for about 2 mins.
Heat some butter in a clean saucepan; add a couple bay leaves. A couple of minutes later add the spinach blend and then the cottage cheese and leave it to simmer for about 5 mins, stirring occassionally. Low heat.
Remove and serve with bread.