October 7, 2013

Saag Paneer Curry

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I adore the colour, taste and texture of this curry made with spinach (saag) and cheese (paneer). The paneer is traditionally deep-fried, but you can use a skillet – saving some ghee and maybe calories.

1 tbsp  (15 mL) fenugreek leaves
1 tsp (5 mL) each: kosher salt, ground cumin
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each: ground coriander, cayenne
1/4 tsp  (1 mL) turmeric
1/8 tsp  (0.5 mL) ground nutmeg
2 bunches spinach (about 1-1/4 lb/1 kg), stemmed, washed
3 tbsp (45 mL) ghee
12 oz (350 g) paneer, cut in 3/4-inch/2 cm cubes
1 large onion, grated
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tsp (5 mL) ginger purée
2 large plum tomatoes, chopped small
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream (35%)
3/4 to 1 cup (185 to 250 mL) plain yogurt, to taste
Kosher salt to taste

Masala: Stir together ingredients in small bowl.

Curry: Put spinach with water clinging to leaves in large pan on medium-high heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, just until wilted, about 5 minutes. Drain, but do not press to remove more water. Reserve pan. Let spinach sit in strainer until lukewarm. Chop.

In large skillet, heat ghee on medium-high until shimmery. Add paneer. Cover with splatter guard. Fry, shaking pan and turning paneer occasionally with tongs until golden brown on most sides, about 5 minutes. Use slotted spoon to transfer to plate.

Measure 2 tbsp (25 mL) of ghee from skillet and add to reserved pan. Heat on medium until shimmery. Add onion. Sauté until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and ginger, then masala. Sauté 30 seconds. Stir in tomatoes. Stir in spinach and cook 2 minutes, stirring often and scraping pan. Add cream. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in paneer. Simmer, covered, 5 minutes. Uncover, remove from heat and stir in 3/4 cup (185 mL) yogurt. Add salt if desired. Add remaining yogurt if desired.

Makes 4 servings. 

  • Drop into an Indian grocery store to get the paneer (fresh cheese sold in blocks) and fenugreek leaves (labelled “qasuri methi,” these have a smoky accent).
  • For vibrant flavour, Indians grind their spices just before using them.
  • Ghee is nutty, Indian-style clarified butter, sold in some supermarkets. Oil can be substituted.
  • Grating the onion using the large holes of a box grater is an Indian culinary trick. Be warned: It will make you cry. Finely chop the ends you can't get at.
  • I fool with tradition and stir in the yogurt at the end, as it curdles and offends the eye when simmered.

Credit: Susan Sampson
Tested in Imperial