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Saag Paneer

Asma Khan

Lesson time 10 min

Eat your greens! Asma prepares one of the most popular paneer cheese dishes with saag, fresh winter spinach. This Indian version of creamed spinach is the perfect vegetarian side dish. It’s packed with flavor and so easy to make. While Asma uses spinach, this recipe also works great with kale, arugula, or swiss chard.

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– Now, I’m gonna be making saag paneer. It’s spinach, which is the base, which is saag. And paneer of course is the cheese. And if you’re making paneer at home, you’ve gotta leave it for a little bit longer, maybe two, three hours for it to become compact, so you can cut it, because you do need the cheese to be firm. But I’m actually using store-bought paneer for this, because it’s faster. People don’t normally do fancy stuff with paneer, but you can, if you wanna be adventurous. Cut it anyway you want, it’s squares. And if it’s kadai paneer, you might find it in more rectangular shapes. Now, this paneer, quite firm, if you make it at home, it may not be this firm. It may also be a paler color, but it works perfectly fine. So I’m just gonna put this aside. I’m gonna then get the second star in this dish, which is the saag. Punjab is very fertile. So you have very high quality spinach. This is also winter. This is the spinach season, but I mean, I very, very often use frozen spinach. It’s convenient, it’s quick, it has a beautiful color. And you don’t have to go through this whole idea of kinda boiling it and then squeezing it. You can use kale, but ideally something which is soft. You don’t want very, something that’s very hard. So while this is boiling, and I’m going to do the base of the saag paneer. You need garlic, just get the skin off. I’m gonna use ginger paste, and then shallots, chilies, and some masalas. The reason I’m using shallots in this dish is because shallots have a kind of stronger flavor, but it’s fine. If you don’t have shallots, use any kind of onions. I mean, I always tell people when you’re cooking, look at what you have in the house, and use it. Use it as a substitute. Don’t buy, don’t buy. It’s just so wasteful. And I’m gonna cut one tomato. And the only other thing we’re gonna use in this is a green chili, which I’m just gonna break into half. Ah, yeah, so it’s got seeds. It’s pretty fiery, but don’t be tempted to cut into smaller pieces, because it’s gonna get buried in there, as someone’s gonna eat it, and then be just weeping the whole meal. The water has boiled. So I’m gonna start putting my spinach in. Don’t want too much of the stalk in there. Do leave a little bit. This is gonna cook very, very quickly, a minute and a bit, ’cause it’s gonna be very, very quick. So, I’m gonna take it. Spinach will continue to cook. This is really important. If you are boiling spinach, immediately put cold water, otherwise it’ll just become a mess, because even if you take it off the heat, it’ll still keep cooking. So I’m gonna now put the cold water on it. Take it, squeeze it. And unlike paneer, don’t put any weight on it, just leave it to drain. So I’m just gonna chop this up, quite finely. So if you’re using frozen spinach, this is the stage when the spinach comes out. And frozen spinach, you can put straight frozen, in there. So I’m just gonna move everything, ready to cook. I’m using ghee, but you can use oil as well, or unsalted butter, salted butter, but whatever fat you’re using, you’ve got to wait for it to heat. Okay. I once saw someone using a thermometer to check whether the oil was hot. I was like, whoa, never in my life seen this. Just put that in. Okay, that shh, that’s what you want. I’m gonna put my ginger paste. In here now, is my ginger, garlic, shallots, the broken chilies and the tomatoes. So I’m just reducing it a bit. Now I’m just gonna add chili powder. Using some salt. And my spinach will go in now. If you’re using frozen spinach, here I’ve squeezed all the water out, ’cause I wanna taste for salt. Salt is a bit extra, but then once the paneer goes in, it’ll be fine. So I’m just gonna lower it a bit, and I’m gonna start adding my paneer. The spinach base, it’s really good, if you put fried egg on it or poached egg. It’s quite spicy, it’s tangy, it’s garlicky. This for me is the correct balance of paneer and the saag. And also, get the cream from the fridge. And of course, cream always settles, so you’re gonna kinda shake it. Okay, so my saag paneer is done, and it’s ready to serve.

About the Instructor

Asma Khan, owner of famed London eatery Darjeeling Express and bestselling cookbook author of “Asma’s Indian Kitchen” teaches her favorite family recipes, inspired by her childhood in Kolkata, India. The chef, restaurateur, and activist is the first UK-based chef to be featured on Netflix’s Emmy-nominated Chef’s Table and, in 2019, was listed number 1 on Business Insider’s ranking of “100 Coolest People in Food and Drink”. Join Asma on a nostalgic culinary journey to explore the smells, flavors, and ingredients of her ancestral Bengali roots.

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