Saturday, August 16, 2008

Palak matar paneer (Paneer and peas in spinach gravy)

Some time ago, we went to a little Indian takeaway restaurant to see if it was any better than the others that we had visited (short version – it wasn’t). When I say Indian, of course, I mean Bangladeshi… most of the take-aways are (over)run by Bangladeshi folks. No, I actually mean Bangladeshi men, because I’ve never seen any women working at any of these take-out/eateries (shall we just say “takeouteries”?), ever. Anywhere.

Anyway, the menu had palak paneer (translated to “spinach with cheese” for the edification of non-desi types) listed under side dishes, so we ordered it, as Pete likes paneer.

What we got, however, was as far away from paneer as… well, as cheddar cheese. Because that’s what it was – pureed spinach with over-melted (read crusty) cheddar cheese on top. It wasn’t inedible, but it also wasn’t paneer. When I questioned the server about this travesty of a North Indian dish, he actually insisted that it was what I’d ordered - spinach with cheese. Well, yeah. Technically, it was, I suppose… but it wasn’t paneer.

I wasn’t inclined to take it further with him because for one, Pete thought the dish was okay, and for two, it wasn’t like we’d paid through our noses for the meal… but of course I knew we’d never go back to that particular restaurant again.

A few weeks later, I went to our usual takeouterie for some plain naan (which they make really well). While I was waiting for my order, the restaurant guy engaged me in some idle chat, trying to get me to order some of their main dishes as well. When he recommended the palak paneer, I told him about our cheddar experience and he fell about laughing, calling his mates to hear all about it as well. They all wanted to know which restaurant we’d been to, but I decided not to fuel their gossip quite that much, so I was deliberately vague.

They had a terrific time laughing about my experience (which made me wonder why, as it wasn’t THAT funny! Or perhaps they were bored and this was their only entertainment for the week), but he recovered enough before I left to say to me: “Madam, this is why you should come only to our takeaway”.

What I thought was: “This is why I should make palak paneer at home” – but I didn’t say it to him. I went home instead, clutching my oven-hot plain naan.

And some considerable time later, I made palak-matar-paneer - which, translated into posh restaurant-speak for non-desi readers is “Lightly sautéed cubes of Indian cheese, cooked with fresh green peas and served in a mildly spiced, silky spinach gravy finished off with a swirl of fresh cream”.

Does that description make you want to lick your monitor screen, or at least your lips? :o)

Recipe for:
Palak matar paneer


2 medium tomatoes, chopped (reserve two tbsp)
1 medium tomato, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced
4 cups baby spinach leaves
1/2 cup cooked fresh green peas
1 cup paneer, cubed
2 cloves garlic
3 fresh green chillies (or to taste), chopped
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
1 tbsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
A few tbsp cream for garnish (optional)


1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and lightly fry the paneer pieces till they turn a pale gold. Drain and reserve.

2. Add the remaining tsp of oil to the pan and when it's hot, fry the chopped green chillies, cumin seeds and garlic for 30 seconds.

3. Add the sliced onions to the pan and fry till they turn soft and pale brown. Then add the chopped tomatoes and fry till they begin to turn mushy. Toss in a handful of spinach leaves, stir till they wilt, add another handful of leaves and continue till all the spinach is wilted.

4. Let the mixture cool for a bit, then blitz it in a food processor along with the remaining sliced tomato,

till it's a smooth puree. You wont need to add any extra water.

5. In the same pan, add the reserved 2 tbsp chopped tomatoes and fry them till they just begin to break down.

6. Add the spinach puree to the tomatoes in the pan, stir in salt to taste along with 1/4 cup water, and let the sauce simmer on medium heat for 5 minutes.

7. Toss in the paneer now and simmer the mixture for two minutes.

8. Add the cooked green peas and garam masala, stir it in.

Leave on the hob for a minute longer, then turn the heat off. Garnish with chopped coriander.

9. Just before serving, swirl some fresh cream into the gravy (if desired) and serve hot with rotis or jeera rice.


Divya Vikram said...

Gravy looks rich n delicious with the panneer..Nice one..

Lavi said...

finally the gravy with jeera rice is making me drool..thanks for the recipe..

bee said...

pa attention, shyam. it's not palak paneer on the menu. it's sag ponir or motor ponir. lol.

Shyam said...

Divya, Lavi: Thanks :)

Bee: :D Yes, I've seen "motor ponir" around too!

live2cook said...

Enjoyed your post and the palak paneer.

sra said...

Now after that seductive translation, how much would you price the paneer at?

Shriya said...

Its really a very nice step by step pic instructions. Its def a wow recipe. Now I am craving for it. :-)

shyam said...

Live2cook: Thank you :)

Sra: Let's say £10 as a "main dish", taking into account the printing costs for that "seductive translation" :D

Shriya: It's easy enough to make! :)

Vanamala said...

This is awesome step by step pics
nice gravy

Dibs said...

Haha good fun! Seductive transalation was drool-worthy. Some items simply cannot be transalated. I make a sincere attempt for all my posts ..but my 'vengaya upma' trial was really the pits!

masalamagic said...

looks good shyam, love u're step by step. I just made Palak paneer for dinner today - not yet had dinner even - made chef sanjay thumma's recipe from vahrehvah. that guys cracks me up! and u're recipe would probbaly be more easier and turn out more creamier - like posh restaurant style and not like the takeouterie's :-) said...

:-)Awesome post with perfect demonstration step by step followed with snaps!
hmm ....looking at each snap i feel like eating those in the same order .....especially those fried paneer cubes :P...

Linda said...

Spinach and cheddar cheese!!! EEK!! Well, it might be good mixed up into a quiche, but not as palak paneer ;)

Shammi your spinach gravy looks so mouthwatering, I know what I'll be making over the weekend. I would never have thought to mix the peas in -- it looks great and just adds to the goodness of such a wonderful dish.

Hope you've had a great summer -- I must catch up here on no-knead bread, etc. :)

thetastetinkerer said...

The Palak Mattar Paneer looks delish!! And the story about the takeout place is hilarious!!

Usha said...

Lol that was funny...the palak matar paneer looks delicious though..

Anu said...


You, backward?! Tush,not to say pish! Those myriad cakes (among other goodies) of yours make me beady-eyed with envy..:)

I usually go by one rule-if it tastes anywhere near good, I will try my own hand at it.

Anu said...


haha-phew; what a relief it is to know that even great cooks have been befuddled by the likes of Thuvaram Paruppu… ;) Keerai Masial with it sounds great; simple, and as you say, won’t overpower the Urundais-will be sure to try that out.


Vij said...

Hi ya
This is my first time here... u have a nice space.
Do have a look at my recipes too!!

Ramya said...


love the recipe! I had to tag you for all the wonderful recipes.


Anonymous said...

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Anu said...

Thanks, Shyam,

The pizzas tasted as good too…;)

Btw, we haven't seen much of your culinary prowess lately....busy bug get you, too?

Anonymous said...

I tried it last evening, and it was a hit! (Btw, I added a good portion of lemon juice at the end, and it was delicious)