Spinach with Fresh Indian Cheese (Saag Paneer)

Often accompanied by flatbreads or dal, saag paneer is a classic Punjabi vegetarian dish. Madhur Jaffrey's recipe is packed with flavour and simple to make.

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There are dozens of recipes for saag paneer in the Punjab, where dairy products are a mainstay of the diet and where this dish originated. Here is one of the simplest. It is generally served with Indian flatbreads and a dal.

The size of the paneer cubes you cut will depend partly upon the size of the block you buy.

Serves 4-5


285g/10oz fresh spinach, well washed and lightly drained
1 good-sized tomato (about 180g/6oz), chopped
2 generous handfuls of fresh coriander leaves
1-2 fresh hot green chillies, chopped
2 tbsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), crushed between your palms or fingers into a powder
3 tbsp olive or peanut oil
1 medium onion (140g/5oz), peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp peeled and very finely grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
¼-¾ tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt, or to taste
400g/14oz fresh Indian cheese (paneer), cut into 2cm/¾ inch cubes

Essential kit

You will need a blender.


Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil and drop all the spinach into it. As soon as it wilts, drain in a colander and run cold water over it. Set aside to drain for another 5 minutes. Do not try to squeeze any more water out of it.

Put the tomato, spinach, fresh coriander, green chillies and dried fenugreek leaves into a blender in the order listed and blend until smooth. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a medium, non-stick frying pan and set over a medium heat. When hot, add the onion and fry for 7-8 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the ginger and garlic and continue to stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes. The onion should pick up a little colour. Stir in the chilli powder, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Now pour in the mixture from the blender, adding the salt, cheese and 120 ml/4 fl oz water. Stir and bring to a simmer, then cook over a low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring gently now and then.

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