Palak paneer (or tofu)

(In which in-laws are successfully duped into thinking that tofu tastes as good as paneer)

Talking to my American friends, Palak paneer is the most ordered dish in the local Indian restaurant, next only to chicken tikka masala. It is also one of the easier restaurant dishes to recreate at home.

Ingredients:

1 lb spinach ( I used frozen)
1 block firm tofu, pressed and cubed, orΒ  16 oz diced paneer, fresh Indian cottage cheese, or Mexican queso fresco
* taste-wise, paneer or fresh Mexican cottage cheese are the best bets. For vegans and those of us who always have spare blocks of tofu sprouting to life in the fridge, tofu is a fine substitute. To help the tofu absorb maximum flavor from the gravy, press it under a couple of cans up to an hour ahead or freeze overnight and thaw.
1 onion, chopped (optional)
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped (optional, but good)
1 cup tomatoes, chopped (canned are fine)
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp green chilli-ginger paste
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
salt to taste

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the onion and saute for a good while until well browned, almost caramelized. Add the garlic towards the end and let it soften. Now push the onion and garlic towards the edges of the pan and add the other tbsp of oil in the center. Let it heat up, and add the cumin, coriander, red chilli powder and turmeric.

Let them sizzle for a bit and then add the ginger-green chili paste and the tomatoes. Salt and cook the masala for five-seven minutes, until the tomatoes break down and the whole thing turns into a sauce. Then add the spinach and a cupful or two of water, bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer.

While the gravy simmers, get the tofu ready. I like to have it as dry as possible so that it can absorb the spicy goodness. Other than pressing/freezing, microwaving the cubes for a couple of minutes also seems to work.

If you like your gravy creamy, take a hand blender to the spinach after it has simmered for ten minutes. Or you can leave it as is. Add the tofu, simmer for another ten minutes, sprinkle on the garam masala and serve.

Everybody likes palak paneer with flatbreads, but it also tastes great with plain boiled rice and an onion-y salad. Enjoy!

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About purplesque

Psychiatrist, cook, bookworm, photographer. Not necessarily in that order.
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22 Responses to Palak paneer (or tofu)

  1. sylph says:

    I could make that. It would be fun! And I'm sure it would be just as good with tofu.

  2. sylph says:

    Hmm. But I get a really good deal on queso fresco at Costco. So that might be the way to go. πŸ™‚

  3. Emjay says:

    Ha ha – it would be funny if they "had your number" so to speak! (in relation to your first sentence). This sounds really nice – with the exception of the onion-y salad….. I really only like fried onions. πŸ™‚

  4. Purplesque says:

    What is your favorite meatless Indian food? As far as the recipe goes, I would go with the queso. The milky taste complements the spinach much better.

  5. Purplesque says:

    πŸ™‚ Well, I did tell them it was tofu. (Father-in-law asked me yesterday, why must you try new things? That has actually helped me understand their point of view; I'd never imagined someone would consider trying new things a negative.)I like onion-y salad only with spinach and kadhi. Fresh cut red onions tossed with salt and lime juice, then refrigerated for 30 minutes or so. Fried onions are the best, of course.

  6. Emjay says:

    Oooh! I have never tried red onions with salt and lime juice! I will try that I think I might like it.

  7. THANK YOU! I've been looking for a relatively simple palak paneer recipe for some time now, but nearly all of them suggest you make the cheese first, or buy it from an Indian grocery store. I know the cheese itself is not hard to make, but it's time consuming, and the manager of the nearest Indian grocery doesn't speak English well, resulting in some embarrassing transactions. (The first time I went in, he said, "No, no, Chinese store down street.") But I do have tofu in the fridge. I'll remember to put it in the freezer tonight.

  8. JD says:

    And I'm so making this dish this week!!! Thank you for the share! And do yo have a recipe for chicken tikka masala you might like to post, that and rogan josh are my two favoritest (intentional) Indian dishes. Onions are one of my favorite things to use in dishes. They are great for you even and I love the taste, however, the breath you get….well I just try to ensure that when I'm going to eat them, I'm going right home and staying in for the evening or that I'm at least not going out socially and I chew gum. (Garlic too, but you know they're both really good for you!!!!!) And with lime juice, salt and crushed red pepper? YUM!

  9. A-kay says:

    This is one of the staple in our house – I made it even yest πŸ™‚ Not always with paneer or tofu, plain saag gets done too, often. Thanks for stopping by my vox profile – I blog regularly here. You have an awesome blog here.

  10. Oh, Purple, I love you for making this dish! I'm so happy. I've been meaning to cook my sprouting tofu in the fridge into this famous Indian dish. Thank you so much!

  11. sylph says:

    I don't know if I have a favorite. I like lentils, eggplant, chickpeas, potatoes, and I like tomatoes, yogurt, spinach, and all those seasonings, so I like most everything I've tried. I'm like Thomas Jefferson; I view meat as a condiment, mostly. (Except bacon, which is holy.) Give me something flavorful to eat with bread and I'm good.

  12. Purplesque says:

    Ow. I bet he wasn't embarrassed at all. (I'm spared such sectionalism because the one International store in town carries everything from Korean red pepper paste to sushi wrappers to dry daal.)Hope the palak paneer turns out well. For more restaurant-like creaminess, you can also add 1/4 cup of heavy cream or half-n-half (or even milk) towards the end. I usually avoid it to keep it low-cal.

  13. Purplesque says:

    I agree with you about onions and garlic. As for chicken tikka masala, I've never cooked/eaten it (being vegetarian). I do make a mean paneer tikka, but the two are quite different.

  14. Purplesque says:

    I did go by your regular blog..amazing pictures! Which camera do you use?(Saag and makki ki roti..mm. Have you ever tried making saag with broccoli rabe? Turns out amazingly like the real thing.)

  15. Purplesque says:

    πŸ™‚ I know what you mean. I've never met a food that was cooked well that I didn't like. We make chana masala quite often, hubby likes it. Not so much malai kofta..but I do make plain koftas, and often cheat on calories by making them in them in the microwave instead of deep frying.

  16. JD says:

    I've never really cooked Indian. I've tried and have come close but prefer to eat out as It's just easier. Being more of a homemaker nowadays, I'll be looking into my two faves of Thai and Indian. I'm getting hungry, now that I'm talking about it!. Mouth is watering too. How lovely!

  17. Purplesque says:

    Ooh..now you are tempting me. Its been ages since I had a good green Thai curry..

  18. A-kay says:

    I use Canon EOS 20D – how about?

  19. Purplesque says:

    How about..what? (The egomaniac guesses me. I have a Nikon D40. πŸ™‚

  20. A-kay says:

    Yup – the egomaniac is, indeed, right πŸ™‚ I am not sure why, but my comment got cut randomly. My original comment read:I use Canon EOS 20D – how about you? Thanks for the compliment and believe me when I tell you, your pictures are excellent (not saying this to be polite πŸ™‚ ).

  21. That looks FANTASTIC. I really ought to make this… I make chana masala all the time, but I'd like to branch out in my indian cuisine.

  22. Purplesque says:

    πŸ™‚ Thank you. Palak paneer is as easy as chana masala..both go quite well with flatbreads and rice.

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