No matter where we go, we are never too bored of our lip-smacking baingan ka bharta, dal makhani or palak paneer. But I wasn’t aware that South Africans love our Indian food just as much. I guess Indian food is so popular because it tastes really good and is so flavorful.
Just the other day, a Dutch decent South African friend of mine asked me to show her how to make palak paneer. Apparently, Jurie loved this dish when our families went out for a meal to ‘Swad’ an elegant Indian restaurant located at Melrose Square.
She wanted to cook some Indian food for her visiting sister, who lives in Australia and a regular Indian food eater herself.
We decided to meet at my place and we cooked the curry and some rotis.
Palak Paneer is an easy north Indian curry for a first timer. A delicious combination of two utterly bland ingredients – spinach and cottage cheese (paneer) cooked in a moderately spiced onion and tomato sauce.
The smooth pureed spinach & cottage cheese cubes just melted in our mouths. The result was mouth-watering!
Unlike the restaurant version, where they had added lot of cream to the curry, I preferred to stick with a non creamy, low calorie, home-made version.
We had a great time and Jurie left with a promise to teach me some Dutch baking recipes.
Cottage cheese (Paneer) 250 gms
Spinach 2 big bunches
Onions 1 (large sized, finely chopped)
Tomatoes 3(medium sized, pureed)
Green chillis 2 (slit length wise)
Ginger (2 inches, grated)
Garlic (3-4 pods, finely chopped)
Red chilli powder 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder 1 teaspoon
Cumin powder 1 teaspoon
Aamchur powder ½ teaspoon
Canola oil 1 tablespoon
Boil spinach leaves in hot water for five minutes and puree it in a food processor. Keep the puree aside.
On a flat non- stick pan, lay the cheese cubes and roast them until the cubes have a golden brown crust on them. There is no need to add oil as the cheese itself has fat in it that helps in roasting.
On a medium heat, heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and add ginger, garlic and green chillies. Saute for two minutes.
Add the onions and saute till light brown.
Slow down the heat and add all the dry spices – chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and aamchur powder. (You can even remove the pan from the heat while adding the dry spices as they tend to burn easily.)
Add the tomato puree and salt. Give a quick stir and let it cook for four to five minutes on medium heat.
Once the oil starts appearing on the corners, add the spinach puree and give a good stir. Further cook the curry for five to six minutes.
Add the roasted cheese cubes and combine. Cook covered on low heat for two minutes.
Note: If you feel like adding cream to the curry, you can add it at this stage or even when the curry is at room temperature.
This curry is well enjoyed with roti or steamed rice.