By Esther Boateng
You don’t have to be a vegetarian to enjoy this wonderfully aromatic Indian curry, made with simple ingredients. Palak means spinach, and Paneer is an Indian cheese. Essentially, it’s pureed spinach steeped in aromatic spices such as coriander, turmeric, and green cardamom. You can probably whip this recipe up in the same amount of time it takes for takeout to be delivered.
Use an alternative white cheese, such as Halloumi, if your local grocery doesn’t stock paneer. I prefer halloumi; I think it has more taste than paneer, which can be bland in comparison. If you enjoy a full-body cheese, I bet you will also love halloumi.
The great thing about both types of cheese is that it takes almost no time at all to prepare. If you sauté the halloumi for any longer than 3-5 minutes you might overcook it, and that would be a shame because halloumi tastes incredible when you cook it just right. If you have a weakness for cheese, you might fall in love with this one at first bite.
The flavors in this curry marry nicely, and there’s no need to let it simmer for ages. As soon as the onions and spices get acquainted, the pureed spinach goes in with a touch of cream, and it’s done. Traditional recipes typically include 1-2 chopped green chilies. I don’t always have fresh chilies on hand, so I tend to rely on the Threefold Blend (Spicy) and adjust the pepperiness as I cook. If you want to make this recipe more interesting, roast the tomato and garlic before you add it to the onions; this gives an added boost of flavor, but isn’t necessary. The combination of flavors from the aromatic spices is enough to tickle your taste buds with delight.
Vegetarian Curry In a Hurry: Palak Paneer
2 cups of tightly packed fresh spinach or favorite green leaves
1-2 green chilies (optional)
2 Tbsp. cashews
1 Tbsp. Dr. Cowan’s Garden A2/A2 Ghee or your choice of cooking oil/fat
1/2 tsp. Dr. Cowan’s Garden Turmeric Powder
1 tsp. Dr. Cowan’s Garden Wild Ramp Powder
1/2 tsp. Dr. Cowan’s Garden Threefold Blend Powder (Spicy)
1 tsp. crushed coriander seeds or powder
1/2 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. garam masala powder or curry powder
1 medium onion
3 garlic cloves
1 plum tomato
2 green cardamom pods or 1/4 tsp. powder (optional)
1/4 tsp. clove (optional)
Up to 1 cup bone broth or water
Salt to taste
1-2 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice (to taste)
1+ Tbsp. heavy cream
Chunks of paneer or halloumi cheese
Small amount of water for cooking spices
Peel and dice the onion and set aside.
Press or chop the garlic and set aside.
Chop the tomatoes and set aside.
Bring a pan of hot water to boil for the spinach.
Prepare an ice bath for the spinach.
Open the cardamom pod and crush the seeds, if applicable.
Cut cheese into chunky cubes and lightly pan-fry for approximately 3-4 minutes until golden brown, and set aside for later.
Wash the spinach leaves and place them in the boiling water for roughly 3 minutes or until the spinach wilts.
Remove the blanched spinach from the hot water and transfer it to the ice bath. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes.
Drain the spinach and add it to a blender along with green chilies and cashews. Blend on high speed until it becomes a liquid. Set aside for later on.
Heat 1 tablespoon of Ghee or oil in a skillet.
When the skillet is quite hot, add Turmeric, Wild Ramp, Threefold Blend (Spicy), coriander, cumin, garam masala (curry powder), cardamom, and clove, and briefly stir for a few minutes. Add a dash of water to form a paste.
Add onions and crushed/pressed garlic and sauté until tender. Add the tomatoes and continue to stir for a few minutes until the tomatoes have slightly reduced. Add extra water if necessary.
Add the spinach mixture plus bone broth or a small amount of water until you get your desired consistency and cook for a few minutes.
Add any other additional salt or seasoning plus 1 or 2 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice to taste.
When you’re happy with the taste and consistency, stir in a tablespoon or more of heavy cream, add chunks of halloumi or paneer, and serve immediately with naan bread.
Placing the spinach in the ice bath stops it from cooking further and helps the spinach retain its vibrant green color.
I like to leave the citrus juice and cream till last. If you find the peppery seasoning is too hot, these ingredients help to dilute the heat.