Palak Paneer

Serves: 3-4
Ingredients (measuring cup used, 1 cup = 250 ml)
for spinach puree:
250 grams or 8 to 9 oz spinach/palak
3 cups hot boiling water for blanching spinach
2 cups water for ice bath
for pan frying paneer:
250 grams or 8 to 9 oz paneer/cottage cheese
3 tbsp oil
for the gravy/sauce:
½ tsp cumin seeds/jeera
2 small tej patta or 1 medium to large tej patta/indian bay leaf
1 medium onion, 60 to 70 grams or ⅓ cup tightly packed finely chopped onion
1 tsp ginger paste or ½ inch ginger, crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle + 1 tsp garlic paste or 6 to 7 small to medium garlic, crushed to a paste in mortar-pestle
OR 2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 or 2 green chilies, chopped or 1 to 1.5 tsp finely chopped green chilies (add ½ tsp red chili powder instead of green chilies)
a pinch of turmeric powder/haldi
½ tsp black pepper, crushed in a mortar-pestle (optional)
1 tsp kasuri methi/dry fenugreek leaves, for more hints of bitterness you can add overall 2 tsp kasuri methi
½ tsp garam masala powder
¼ cup low fat cream or 3 tbsp whipping cream
a pinch of sugar
salt as required
blanching and preparing the spinach puree:
rinse the spinach leaves well in water and then keep them in a colander, so that the excess water drains off. if the stems are tender, then keep them. but if they are hard or fibrous, then discard them.
boil water in a pan. add the spinach leaves in the water.
stir and blanch the spinach leaves in water for 3 minutes.
when the spinach leaves are blanching, in another bowl, take some water and add 8 to 10 ice cubes in it.
after 3 minutes, remove the spinach leaves and add them to the cold water.
stir gently so that all the leaves are immersed in the cold water. after 1 minute, remove them.
place the leaves in a grinder or blender jar.
grind or blend to a smooth puree. no need to add any water while grinding or blending.
pan frying paneer cubes:
this step is optional. but lightly golden pan fried paneer cubes taste good in palak paneer. heat oil in a well seasoned or non stick pan. place the paneer cubes.
turn over when one side is light golden and fry the other side.
fry till the paneer cubes are light golden evenly. don't fry too much as then the paneer cubes become dense.
remove and then drain them on kitchen paper towels.
to soften the paneer more, keep them immediately in water for 3 to 4 minutes. this is an optional step and you can skip it.
preparing the gravy/sauce:
now in the same oil, in which we pan fried paneer, add cumin seeds and tej patta. saute till the cumin seeds crackle.
then add finely chopped onions. stir well.
saute the onions till they turn light golden.
then add ginger paste, garlic paste and finely chopped green chilies. you can also use green chili paste instead of chopped green chilies. alternatively instead of green chilies, red chili powder can also be added.
stir and saute till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
now add the spice powders - a pinch of turmeric powder, ½ tsp black pepper, crushed in a mortar-pestle (optional) and 1 tsp kasuri methi/dry fenugreek leaves. crush the kasuri methi and add.
stir well. then add the spinach puree.
season with salt. then add a pinch of sugar. stir well and on a medium flame, simmer the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or till it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.
add ¼ cup low fat cream or 3 tbsp whipping cream along with ½ tsp garam masala powder. stir very well.
the cream should be mixed very well with the palak gravy. then switch off the flame.
add the fried paneer cubes. mix them well with the rest of the gravy. cover the pan.

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