Saag Paneer is a classic Indian dish made with cooked spinach and cubes of crispy fried paneer cheese, then thickened with cream. This dish can be served with rice as a hearty vegetarian dish or as a side dish to any meat or protein.
If you’ve never tried Paneer or Saag, now is your chance. It’s a nice way to try your hand at some Indian food. It’s an authentic Indian dish that is quite easy to make and ready in under an hour.
The Cheese – Paneer
Paneer can be found in most of your larger grocery stores. Keep you eye out in the dairy section. I have been using Tre Stelle brand Paneer, which I find is the most common brand of Paneer to be found in Canada.
I recently received a tip from my daughter who frequently uses this brand of cheese. Cut the cheese into the desired cubes according to your recipe. Then, put into a bowl and cover with boiling water and let soak for about 5-10 minutes. This will soften the cheese and make it better for frying. I highly recommend this step. Remove from the water and dry completely with paper towel. Making sure the cheese is nicely dried is important so that it doesn’t spit oil from the extra liquid.
If you absolutely can’t find Paneer, don’t give up! It won’t be as authentic, but since we are looking for simple, tasty cooking, just substitute queso blanco, queso de freir, halloumi, or another firm cheese that will hold up to pan-frying.
For this recipe, you will want to break out your hand blender/chopper. Hopefully you have one. If you do, you will wonder how you ever lived without it. If you don’t, you have some chopping to do. You are going to use your hand blender to puree your spinach and chop your onions, garlic and ginger.
Boil the water in your largest pot and add the spinach, cooking until wilted. Remove from the water and make sure it is well drained. Press gently into a seive to ensure most of the water is released. Chop in your blender for about 5 pulses. If you don’t have fresh spinach, frozen can be a very excellent substitute. Make sure you drain the water well.
Chop onions, ginger, and garlic in the hand blender or by hand.
Heat oil in a frying pan and fry the cheese on all sides until golden brown. At this point, you will want to test your cheese to see if it’s OK. No other reason. Just try it if you have never eaten Paneer and then put it aside for a minute.
Fry up your onions and spices and then mix it all together, letting it simmer for about 10-15 minutes to absorb all that amazing flavour.
Serve with rice or as a side dish to any protein.
Crispy Saag PaneerCourse: Main, SideCuisine: IndianDifficulty: Easy
2-3 bunches spinach, roughly chopped (1 lb, 450 g) (Can substitute 1 package of frozen spinach)
3 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound (226 g) paneer, cubed
1 tsp cumin
1 onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
2 teaspoons garam masala, *see Note
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, adjust to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream (or use coconut cream)
1/2 tsp salt, adjust to taste
*Note: Garam Masala is a fragrant Indian spice made from a mixture of spices: Cumin, Coriander, Cardamom, Pepper, Cinnamon, Cloves, and Nutmeg. It can be found in the spice section of any grocery store. You can also make your own Garam Masala. Don’t worry if you don’t have every spice in the Garam Masala recipe. Use what you have. We are not seeking perfection.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook spinach in the boiling water until wilted, about 3 minutes. Drain well in a sieve, pressing down to remove water, and transfer to your hand blender. Puree until finely chopped.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry dried paneer cubes, stirring constantly, until browned on all sides, about 5 -10 minutes. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in the skillet, add onion; cook and stir until onion begins to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in ginger, cumin, garlic, tomato, garam masala, turmeric, and cayenne pepper; cook and stir until tomatoes break down and onions are translucent, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in spinach and fenugreek, cream, paneer cubes, and salt to taste. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.