At first glance, saag paneer looks simple enough: Stewed spinach topped with browned cheese. The fresh kind of cheese that doesn’t really melt.
But once you begin to make this dish, you realize there are layers to your saag. For example, it’s sweetened with the deep, rich undertones of tamarind. And before you cook your spinach down into a soft and stew-like consistency, you bring together onions, tomato, jalapeño, ginger, garlic, and cilantro. And then you sprinkle them with cinnamon, clove, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper.
Layers, folks. Layers.
If you’re new to Indian cuisine, saag refers to any dish made leafy green things. Such as spinach, collard greens, or mustard leaf. Paneer is a fresh farm cheese ubiquitous throughout South Asia. Set with some sort of acid and unaged, you could certainly make your own paneer. Or, if it’s easier to find, switch it out for a saltier Greek cheese known as halloumi.
While saag is usually served with bread like roti or naan, keep things gluten-free with this Yuca Plantain Flatbread (AIP) or pair your saag paneer with cauliflower rice.
- 20 oz spinach
- 3 tomatoes
- 2 small onions
- 1 jalapeño pepper
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 inches fresh ginger
- 2 tbsp. cilantro
- 1 c paneer
- 4 tbsp. butter
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 6 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp. ground cumin
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- 2 tbsp. tamarind paste
- 2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 2 tbsp. arrowroot
- 1 c filtered water
- coarse sea salt, to taste
- De-stem and wash spinach. Chop tomato and onion. Finely dice jalapeno, removing seeds if less heat is desired. Mince garlic. Grate ginger. Finely chop cilantro. Cube paneer.
- In a saucepan, heat half the butter with the cumin seeds and bay leaves. Add onions and saute until transparent.
- Add tomato, jalapeno, garlic, ginger, cilantro, cumin, garam masala, tamarind, and turmeric and saute until flavors are well mingled.
- Meanwhile, in a food processor fit with the rotation blade, chop spinach finely.
- In a small cup, place arrowroot powder and filtered water – stirring with a fork until smooth.
- Add spinach and arrowroot water to the pan and stir, simmering on low heat for 20-30 minutes uncovered. Add small amounts of water if necessary to prevent sticking.
- While saag is simmering, saute cubed paneer in butter until lightly browned.
- Fold paneer into the saag, add sea salt to reach desired seasoning, and serve.