I’ve been on an Indian food kick lately. After trying a few different Indian restaurants in town, I wondered why I couldn’t just make my own. It turns out that I can. It’s pretty easy, inexpensive, and so good!
I like most everything I’ve had, but my favorite is saag paneer. It’s basically just a creamy, spiced spinach that has chunks of paneer, which is a firm Indian cheese throughout. Like most Indian dishes, you eat it with rice, although I prefer to eat mine with naan.
I’ve eaten this at many restaurants, and one thing I noticed when making my own is that paneer is a grilling cheese — meaning you cut it up, throw it in a skillet, and instead of melting, it turns brown and crusty while staying firm. I’ve never had it this way in restaurants. They just cube it up and toss it in, but it’s definitely better grilled first.
This recipe is pretty easy, and makes delicious leftovers. You don’t need a lot of ingredients, but if you don’t have a food processor, chopping the spinach by hand is quite a task. I know — I did it that way the first time, and if I had to do that every time, I’d probably just get carryout.
It seems like a lot of spinach in this recipes, but spinach is the main ingredient, and it cooks down a lot, so once you’re done, you’ll see that it’s not as much as you may think. If you can’t find paneer, any type of grilling cheese will work. I’ve used haloumi, although it’s much saltier. You can also use firm tofu.
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like it really spicy)
- 1 pound baby spinach, finely chopped in a food processor
- Salt and pepper
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 12 oz block paneer cheese
- Brown rice, naan, and plain yogurt for serving
- Heat the butter in a large pot and add the onion. Cook until soft. Add the garlic and ginger, stir and cook for 30 seconds and add the spices. Cook for another minute.
- Add the spinach, all at once if possible. Stir until it’s wilted and add the buttermilk. Season with salt and pepper. If you think it’s a bit dry, you can add a bit more buttermilk. Stir again, turn the heat down to low while you grill the cheese.
- To grill the cheese, cut it into bite sized pieces. Heat a non-stick or cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a dab of butter to the pan and add the cheese cubes. Cook until browned on all sides.
- Add the cheese cubes to the pot of spinach and stir. Serve with rice and naan, and add a dollop of yogurt on top.