blanching and preparing the spinach puree:
- rinse the spinach leaves well in water and then keep them in a colander, so that the excess water drains off. if the stems are tender, then keep them. but if they are hard or fibrous, then discard them.
- boil water in a pan. add the spinach leaves in the water.
- stir and blanch the spinach leaves in water for 3 minutes.
- when the spinach leaves are blanching, in another bowl, take some water and add 8 to 10 ice cubes in it.
- after 3 minutes, remove the spinach leaves and add them to the cold water.
- stir gently so that all the leaves are immersed in the cold water. after 1 minute, remove them.
- place the leaves in a grinder or blender jar.
- grind or blend to a smooth puree. no need to add any water while grinding or blending.
pan frying paneer cubes:
- this step is optional. but lightly golden pan fried paneer cubes taste good in palak paneer. heat oil in a well seasoned or non stick pan. place the paneer cubes.
- turn over when one side is light golden and fry the other side.
- fry till the paneer cubes are light golden evenly. don't fry too much as then the paneer cubes become dense.
- remove and then drain them on kitchen paper towels to soften the paneer more, keep them immediately in water for 3-4 minutes.
preparing the gravy/sauce:
- now in the same oil, in which we pan fried paneer, add cumin seeds and tej patta. saute till the cumin seeds crackle.
- then add finely chopped onions. stir well.
- saute the onions till they turn light golden.
- then add ginger paste, garlic paste and finely chopped green chilies. you can also use green chili paste instead of chopped green chilies. alternatively instead of green chilies, red chili powder can also be added.
- stir and saute till the raw aroma of ginger-garlic goes away.
- now add the spice powders - a pinch of turmeric powder, ½ tsp black pepper, crushed in a mortar-pestle (optional) and 1 tsp kasuri methi/dry fenugreek leaves. crush the kasuri methi and add.
- stir well. then add the spinach puree.
- season with salt. then add a pinch of sugar. stir well and on a medium flame, simmer the gravy for 5 to 6 minutes or till it thickens slightly and the spinach is cooked well.
- add ¼ cup low fat cream or 3 tbsp whipping cream along with ½ tsp garam masala powder. stir very well.
- the cream should be mixed very well with the palak gravy. then switch off the flame.
- add the fried paneer cubes. mix them well with the rest of the gravy. cover the pan.
dhungar or smoking method:
- burn a small piece of natural charcoal on a stove top with the help of tongs.
- place a small flame proof rack on the stove top and on top of the rack, place the charcoal. burn the charcoal till its red hot.
- now place a small bowl or some layers of onions in the palak paneer gravy. place the charcoal on top. add ½ tsp oil on the charcoal. you can also keep 1 clove or ½ tsp cumin seeds on the charcoal and then pour the oil. as soon as you pour oil, smoke will emit from the charcoal.
- immediately cover the pan with a lid. keep the pan closed with the lid for a minute, so that the charcoal flavor gets infused with the palak paneer gravy. for a slight tang you can add ¼ tsp dry mango powder or a few drops of lemon or lime juice and stir before serving.
- serve palak paneer hot with tandoori rotis, naan, chapatis, paratha or jeera rice or biryani rice.