Indian Cheese in Pureed Spinach Sauce
For the Spinach Puree:
3 cups water for ice bath (with 1/2 tsp salt)
3 cups boiling water for blanching spinach
8-9 oz fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic (minced)
1 inch ginger - roughly chopped
2 green chillies (chopped)
For the curry:
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
5 garlic cloves (minced)
1 roma tomato (finely chopped)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chili powder
a pinch of asafoetida (i.e. hing)
1/2 cup water as required
salt to taste (1 to 2 tsp)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
8-9 oz paneer (chopped into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
Making the Spinach Puree:
Prepare a bowl of ice water.
Boil 3 cups of water in a pan. Add 1/2 tsp salt to the hot water and stir. Then add 8 to 9 ounces of fresh spinach to the hot water. Close with a lid and let the spinach sit in the water for 2-3 mins.
Strain out the spinach and soak them in the prepared ice-bath for 1-2 minutes. This method helps in preserving the green color of the spinach.
Then drain the ice-cold water. Add the spinach to a blender. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 inch of ginger roughly chopped, and 2 chopped green chilies. Puree this until it is smooth. No need to add water while making the puree. Set this spinach puree aside.
Making the Palak Curry:
Heat 2 tbsp of unsalted butter in a pan over medium heat.
Once the butter has melted, add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 1 bay leaf. Sautee for 1 minute.
Add 1 finely chopped onion and sauté till the onions turn golden brown.
Add 5 cloves of minced garlic and sauté for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Add 1 finely chopped tomato, and stir and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the tomatoes start to soften.
Once the tomatoes are softened and you see fat releasing from the sides of the mixture, add 1/4 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp of red chili powder, and a pinch of asafetida / hing. Stir these in until combined.
Add the palak puree and 1/2 cup of water, and stir to combine.
Simmer for about 7 minutes till the palak is cooked. Season with salt to taste (I usually add about 1 tsp).
When the mixture has thickened into a gravy, add 1/2 tsp of garam masala, and 8 to 9 oz of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) that have been chopped into 1/2-inch cubes.
Stir gently and simmer on a low flame till the paneer cubes become soft, about 1 to 2 minutes.
Finally add 2 tbsp of heavy cream (optional), and gently stir until it is smooth. Turn off flame.
Serve the palak paneer hot over basmati rice, or with paratha, naan, or roti. Garnish it with a squeeze of lime. Enjoy!
Note: To make this vegan, use vegetable oil instead of butter, use tofu instead of paneer, and leave out the heavy cream at the end.