Saag Paneer

saagpaneer

 

Flash back to three years ago when I was living in Leicester as a student, this dish was a relatively staple part of my diet. Described by many as the UK’s curry capital, Leicester is a vegetarian’s dream. I lived on a road with three vegetarian Indian restaurants serving an array of authentic Indian and Indo-Chinese dishes, all of which you could go to and pick up a takeaway or have thali for less than £5. Since leaving Leicester and moving to London, I have never found a Saag Paneer dish quite as good. Once restaurant even served me some wilted spinach topped with melted cheddar!!

So, I made it my mission to create a Saag Paneer as similar to my favourite takeaway as I could. And I think this is a very successful attempt. What’s more, this dish is full of spices and immune-boosting fresh ingredients, and I have used yoghurt to add a creaminess rather than a thick cream. I have even added a vegan and dairy-free option where you can replace the paneer and yoghurt. People often see Indian food as fattening and very rich, whilst forgetting the amazing healing benefits of Indian spices. This recipe proves that you can still create an authentic, indulgent dish from scratch that can be enjoyed by everyone, completely guilt-free!

I hope you love this dish as much as I do and enjoy cooking it for families and friends. But perhaps not dates, because as my friends pointed out, they did leave my small kitchen with their hair nicely infused with a curry aroma! If you are cooking this recipe in a small or enclosed space without an extractor fan, you could cook down the curry paste in advance!

Saag Paneer
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Recipe type: Indian
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500g spinach
  • 450g (2 packets paneer)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1 large brown onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1-2 hot chillies, depending on your tastes
  • 1.5 inch cube of fresh ginger
  • 2 tbsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp brown rice syrup
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive or coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp yoghurt
  • 1 cup water
  • Or for a vegan version (saag aloo)- three large potatoes and soya or coconut yoghurt
Instructions
  1. Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli and one of the tomatoes and add to a food processor
  2. Grate the ginger and add
  3. Add the garam masala, cumin and turmeric to the food processor
  4. Blend until a relatively smooth paste forms
  5. In a large pan or wok, heat the oil on a medium heat
  6. Add the curry paste along with the bay leaves and cook for 20 minutes, constantly stirring to release the aromas and cook the onion and garlic
  7. Preheat the grill to 200 degrees celsius
  8. Meanwhile, place the spinach in a steamer and wilt (you may have to slowly add more as it cooks down)
  9. Once wilted, add the spinach to the food processor and blitz until it is puréed
  10. Chop the paneer into cubes and spread on baking paper or foil on a large baking tray
  11. Grill the paneer for approximately 15 minutes until the edges are golden
  12. Once the curry paste has cooked for 20 minutes, add the spinach and mix until completely combined
  13. Add the salt, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown rice syrup and the other tomato, roughly chopped
  14. Cook for a further 10 minutes and taste, adding more salt if needed
  15. Add the cooked paneer cubes to the curry and stir in until coated
  16. Add the cup of water gradually and cook for 10 more minutes so that all of the flavours combine and soak into the paneer
  17. Turn off the heat and stir in the yoghurt and serve immediately with rice
  18. For the vegan version, omit the paneer and dairy yoghurt- peel and cube and parboil the potatoes. Toss in oil and bake in the oven for approximately 10-15 minutes until the edges are slightly crisp. Add the potatoes to the curry at the same time you would the paneer, and stir in vegan yoghurt in place of dairy yoghurt at the end.

 

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