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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.

From the book

Introduction

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.

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Ingredients

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.

Method

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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