Homemade saag paneer makes a great main or side dish
I have ordered saag paneer at countless restaurants. Sometimes I have been quite impressed but usually it’s a bit of a mess. The most important part of getting this recipe right is using the freshest ingredients and ensuring you don’t overcook the spinach!
Saag paneer originated in North India in the Punjab region. My version is quite close to what you would find there but I have added a pureed fresh green chilli paste that is used more often in south Indian cooking. I love the spicy, sweet flavour that the green chillies add to this recipe and really notice when they are left out!
For best results you will want to make your own paneer cheese but you can purchase good quality paneer in Indian markets and some good supermarkets.
In this recipe, I fry the paneer squares in hot oil to brown them. This makes the paneer melt in your mouth crispy on the outside and nice and warm in the centre. If you are watching your calorie intake – as I should be – simply add raw to the spinach and toss it around until it is cooked through.
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If you don’t want to make the fresh paneer, good quality store bought chefs will do!
- 3 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
- 300g fresh spinach leaves
- 100g fresh paneer cut into one ¾ inch cubes
- 1 large red onion finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon red chilli powder
- 3 green chilled chopped and then pureed
- 1 inch ginger finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic – smashed and finely chopped
- 2 large tomatoes skinned and finely chopped
- In a large frying pan, dry fry the cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and coriander seed over medium heat. Be sure to move the seeds around in the pan so that they roast evenly. The seeds are ready when they just begin to smoke.
- Place the roasted seeds in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar and grind to a fine powder. Set aside.
- Place the green chillies in the spice grinder with a little water and grind to a fine paste. Set aside.
- In a large pot, blanch the spinach for about ten seconds and then empty into a colander and transfer the leaves to a bowl of ice cold water. This will help retain the bright green fresh colour of the spinach.
- Squeeze the water out of the spinach and chop it into shreds and set aside.
- If you like the idea of frying your paneer, pour some oil into a heavy bottomed pan deep enough to cover the paneer cubes. The oil has to be very hot or the cheese will melt and stick to the bottom.
- Throw in a few paneer cubes at a time and brown the outside nicely before removing them to a paper towel with a slotted spoon.
- Now, add the ghee to the frying pan. When the ghee melts, add the onions and fry gently until the are slightly browned and translucent.
- Add the spice powder, ginger, garlic, chopped tomatoes and green chilli paste and stir.
- Just before you are ready to serve, add the chopped spinach and stir around to mix.
- Fold the paneer into the saag paneer curry and serve with rice or naan.