Palak is the Punjabi word for Spinach. It is commonly believed that Palak Paneer originated somewhere in North India. Due to its high consumption of dairy and fertile land perfect for agriculture, I would be willing to bet Palak Paneer originated somewhere in the Punjab state. This recipe is a North Indian Village Style Palak Paneer, it’s different from what you expect to find in a North American restaurant. The spinach is cooked quickly so that it retains its bright green color, it isn’t pureed into a gravy or ladened with heavy cream.
This recipe was adapted from a video by Nikunj Vasoya of Food On Tv Network. Nikunj operates from a small village called Khijadiya in the state of Gujarat, India. If you aren’t familiar with his work I highly recommend that you check out his channel Crazy for Indian Food as well as Street Food and Travel TV India. His videos are breathtaking not only because of the beauty and simplicity of his recipes but also because everything is shot on location and in high definition.
Nikunj makes simple, fresh, beautiful and unadulterated Indian food. He cooks outdoors utilizing a wood fire and simple ingredients he just picked off the vine. In the video that inspired this recipe, Nikunj actually milks a cow and produces paneer from that morning’s raw milk. You can watch the original video here.
This recipe is quick, easy, inexpensive and incredibly delicious.
Total cost for this recipe is $6.83 for 4 adult entrée portions. That’s $1.70 per Serving!!! You can serve Palak Paneer with Naan Bread, Paratha or Steamed Basmati Rice. Factoring in the cost of Basmati Rice at $0.43 for 4 servings or $0.11 per serving, you’re still looking at under $2.00 per serving for this yummy Indian Dish.
Just let that sink in for a second, for under $2.00 a person you can have a beautiful, healthy, vegetarian meal on the table in under 20 minutes (if you made your cheese ahead of time).
To save time with this recipe I usually make paneer the morning of or the night before I plan to make it. Once the cheese is prepared the recipe takes minutes to throw together and is perfect for a quick weeknight dinner.
If you never made your own cheese before I suggest you give paneer a try. It’s inexpensive, simple to make and very tasty. A perfect cheese for beginners.
Sadly most of us city dwellers in the states aren’t lucky enough to have our own cows but if you have access to raw milk I strongly encourage you to try it in this recipe. The higher the fat content in your milk the better the finished product will be.
All you need is Whole Milk, Lemons, and Salt. About 1/4c of Lemon Juice to 2 Quarts of Milk will produce about 2 cups of diced paneer.
Gently heat the milk over medium heat until it just starts to simmer. As soon as you see the first bubble breaks the surface of the milk turn off the heat and stir in lemon juice. This is very important. Scolding the milk by bringing it to a full boil will ruin the flavor. If you notice after you add the lemon juice that the milk isn’t curdling very much you can try to add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar to the milk, this should get things moving. Once the milk has curdled you can drain it into a cheesecloth-lined strainer, squeeze out as much moisture as you can and press it for about 2 hours. Proper pressing is essential for achieving the right texture of paneer cheese. A firm, properly pressed, paneer won’t crumble and fall apart during cooking.
For a visual How-To guide to making the perfect paneer, check out this video I made for you.
I hope you enjoy making this recipe as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.
This Palak Paneer is quite different from what you might find in a North American restaurant. It's a quick and easy side dish or a vegetarian main course when paired with naan, paratha or basmati rice. With only a few simple, cheap and readily available ingredients you can have this gorgeous dish on the table in 20 minutes.
- 2 Bunches Spinach
- 3 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Inch Piece Ginger
- 1 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1/4 C Olive Oil
- 1 Each Red Onion, Small Small Dice
- 1 Each Tomato, Medium Small Dice
- 2 Each Green Chili Thinly Sliced
- 2 Cups Paneer Cheese, room temperature Large Dice
Wash and trim the spinach. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the spinach for about 30 seconds.
Drain the spinach-shock it in an ice bath-drain again.
Finely mince the ginger and garlic then add one teaspoon of salt. With a mortar and pestle or with the flat side of your chef's knife, work ingredients into a paste.
In a 12 inch saute pan, or whatever you happen to have, heat Olive Oil over medium-high heat until it's shimmering and just starting to smoke. Add the ginger garlic paste and cook, stirring continuously, for 30 seconds. As soon as the aroma hits your nose its time to add the next ingredient.
Add onions, tomatoes and green chilis to the pan. Stir to combine. Reduce heat to medium, cook until the tomatoes are completely broken down and the onions are beginning to brown. About 5-8 minutes.
Add Spinach and Paneer Cheese, if desired season with more salt and pepper, stir gently to combine. Cook until the spinach and paneer are just heated through. The spinach should NOT turn brown. About 1-2 minutes.
*Serve with steamed basmati rice.
*If you made your paneer the night before or you are using store bought paneer take it out at least an hour prior to cooking and let it come to room temperature.