Sunday, 9 July 2017

Lunch Box Surprise: Spinach & Cottage Cheese Medley (Palak Paneer)

Palak paneer is a dish of spinach & cottage cheese (as above), blended with heaps of fragrant spices and finished off with a rich spoonful of butter and cream (at least in restaurants it is; not sure about the Punjabi dhabas or roadside cafes though 😉) This dish first originated in Punjab and the bordering regions, but has since then, spread all over the world. Now, when you ask anyone what their favourite Indian food is, one of the most popular choices will be this "palak paneer", even famous celebrities such as AR Rahman, music composer of Slumdog Millionaire fame and Kailash Kher, crooner behind hits such as "Teri Deewani", "Saiyaan" and "Allah Ke Bande".

This version is a bit different since I have kept the puree chunkier compared to the original very fine and creamy restaurant style palak paneer and I have used less oil, butter & cream. Here, I will also list down options in case you have a dietary restriction. 

Gluten Free Substitutions
1. Gluten free flatbreads to serve this with:
Makki di roti (corn flatbread)
Missi roti (lentil flatbread)
Bajra roti (finger millet flatbread)
Jowar roti (sorghum flatbread)
Or your fav rice

2. Dairy free/vegan options
Tofu instead of paneer: grill or deep fry before use
Cashew cream:…/how-to-make-cashew-cream-glute…/
Oil or plant based butter, margarine or ghee (vanaspati) for cooking

3. No onion or garlic- pls PM me or email me if you want to see this as the recipe is different. My email:

Here is the full text recipe for this
Cottage Cheese (Paneer)
750 ml full cream milk (whole milk, or any full fat cow's milk)- otherwise if vegan, purchase tofu from market equivalent to about 1/3 cup or slightly less
40 ml distilled white vinegar (a bit more than 2 tbsp) 
Salt to taste

Spinach Mixture
200g-250g spinach (see footnote on how to prepare spinach*)
1 tbsp oil 
Pinch of ground asafoetida (hing: Hindi) 
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera) 
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tsp butter (10g)
1-2 tbsp garlic and ginger paste (blend or chop very fine: 4-5 cloves garlic & 1/2-1 inch ginger)
1 small tomato, blanched and pureed
Water to thin out mixture
Salt to taste 
1/4 tsp ground turmeric powder (haldi powder: Hindi) 
1/2 tsp Kashmiri red chilli powder (Kashmiri laal mirch powder: Hindi)
1/2 tsp garam masala powder 
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin (jeera powder: Hindi) 
1-2 tbsp whipping cream- you can add more if you wish

Cottage Cheese (Paneer)
1. Bring the milk to a boil in a saucepan. Remember to STIR OCCASIONALLY AND KEEP AN EYE ON IT, so that it does not get burnt. 
2. As soon as the milk comes to a boil, add the vinegar gradually and stir. The milk will curdle and the curds (solids) and whey (liquids) will separate. 
3. Strain the mixture into a cheesecloth and gather up only the solids. You may reuse the way to knead the dough for chapatis or breads etc, or you may drink it as well. Add salt to the solids and wrap it up. Place a heavy weight on top and leave for 1 hour or so till the shape of a flat cake-like object is formed. 
4.  Cut the paneer into your desired shape. 

While you are waiting for paneer to set, you may wish to prepare the spinach mixture

Spinach Mixture
1. Prepare the spinach according to the footnote below. Blend into a fine puree and keep aside. 
2. Heat oil, add asafoetida and cumin seeds. 
3. When seeds crackle, add onion and cook till golden brown. 
4. Heat 1 tsp of butter in the same pan, add ginger & garlic paste. Cook till garlic and ginger are golden brown. 
5. Add tomato and cook till oil separates on top. 
6. Add spinach puree and the rest of the butter and wait till butter melts. 
7. Add salt to taste, turmeric, chilli powder, garam masala and ground cumin. Mix well. Add water if you need to. Add half the amount of cream first and mix well.  
8. Cook for about 10-15 mins more on slow flame, with pot covered for best results. 
9. Serve into your desired dish with any Indian flatbread or rice. 


* How to Prepare Spinach
1) Wash spinach well to get rid off dirt/pesticides. 
2) Boil the spinach for about 2-3 mins only (no baking soda needed)
3) Run it under iced water for a few seconds until cool enough to blend. 

Spinach & Cottage Cheese Medley (Palak Paneer) with assorted Indian flatbread (rotis)

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