Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The taste of nature, Palak Paneer

There should be something that comes close to how Nature would taste. Well, people would suggest to eat raw vegetables or eat a carrot that has just been dug up from earth seconds ago. Agreed. But then, there should also be something that will taste as fresh as nature even after cooking. Words are lost in translation and similarly, flavors are lost during cooking. The final palatable dish is a conjuncture of new flavors and not the initial and most of the times we never complain, because that is what we want! Palak Paneer is one subtle item where you want the initial flavor to remain and not get a different modified taste. When you eat a mouth full of palak paneer, you should realize the taste of "green" and the taste of "milk" and there should be nothing else gaudy. There should be no oil oozing out, there should be no spice dominance, it should be green, lush and smooth.
Too many rules eh?! The fascinating fact about cooking palak paneer is, just keep the procedure simple to attain the best result. There is no strain, no hurry. But there needs to be the willingness to get it right.A little science, frying in oil will result in change in flavor and color. And a little irony, oil has to be used anyways!

Clean the fresh palak leaves (Blatt spinat in German) and remove the thick stems. Boil water in a huge vessel and add the uncut leaves to it (remember, add only when the water is boiling). The leaves will get cooked in just over 3 minutes. Drain the water and transfer the cooked leaves to a blender. Don't start blending yet.
Heat just a tablespoon of oil in a pan and saute finely chopped onions, just one small garlic and a similarly sized ginger. Add chopped green chili to this if a little hotness is required. Once the onions are sublime, transfer the contents to the blender and blend along with the spinach to a very fine smooth consistency. Keep aside.

To a cup of water, add cumin powder, coriander powder, a little red chili powder and a drop of turmeric. Mix well, keep it watery and not make into a paste. Heat a little more than half a teaspoon of oil in a pan. Add into it broken cloves(2), slit cardamom(2) and very little cinnamon. Now add the cumin+coriander+chili water into this and allow to cook on medium heat. Add some hand crushed dried kasoori methi (fenugreek) to this. Now transfer the blended spinach mixture into this, wash the blender with little milk to transfer the still sticking spinach. Never increase the heat beyond medium, the slower the cooking, the better. Add fresh cubes of paneer (cottage cheese) into this and allow simmer for a few minutes before taking it off the heat.

More than the do's, there are many do not's in cooking this! Well, experimentalists can always ignore these, but a perfectionist can appreciate. Do not add fried paneer cubes. Do not fry the spice powders directly in oil. Do not use more than few pieces of whole spices. Do not over load garlic. Do not add cashews and raisins. Do not add mint leaves and tomatoes. Oh, and in case I have failed to mention, palak paneer should be green!


  1. excellent... agreed... thats what we tasted when you made it here. The awesome , green , and very very tasty palak paneer. hats off to your cooking expertise, and writing skills :)

  2. machi!
    it sounds soupy...Why do you have to blend the onions as well?? and why no tomatoes?? tomato+onion combi gives a little bit of texture and thickness, doesnt it??
    i havent tried adding milk! sounds good to me. will let you know the result after i try it! :D

    As Aunty said, its well written, and only hope you try to keep up the consistency of the theme(using "sublime" on early part and "over load" towards the end somehow changes the feeling of the whole piece) throughout just like your palak paneer. I guess i havent expressed the last part properly. Will talk about it later when you call.

  3. Nice da :) i used to grind some tomatoes along with palak but the colour used to become one dirty green! this green looks very beautiful! :D write about that chinese fried rice too sometime!! :D

  4. Hey palak paneer looks so green and fantastic :) Pinrel :)

    Your writing skills are making it damn interesting. Loved the Science and Irony part and Words and flavors line the best ;) Cool.. and coming to the recipe, the do not's are so enlightening. :)

    I used to add tomatoes and also dhall. Its totally a different version infact. But yours sounds interesting and more natural as you call it. Will give it a shot soon :)

  5. This is exactly my way of making Palak Paneer :)!! It really does bring out the taste of the Palak if we make it this way :).

  6. machi.. i cannot imagine a palak paneer with Blatt spinat! i think it doesn't go well.. The standard Palak paneer is only with Rahm spinat (ofcourse we can make it with many types but not the standard recipe i guess)

  7. @Bala: machi, Blatt spinat is the "palak" or pasalai keerai as we call it. The frozen Blatt spinat can do no good to this, but we need to have the fresh leaves, usually from the Turkish markets. Rahm spinatt can be used to make a quick version, but it is actually our "arai keerai".

  8. Creamy and soupy