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Tandoori paneer palak

Updated: Apr 26, 2021

Occasionally when I want to spend the day, or sometimes a couple of days in the kitchen, this is the cookbook that comes out. Each recipe is a few pages long, has about 30+ ingredients, usually 2-3 sauces that are made separately and an education on flavor, technique and having me rethink how food is presented. However, every single dish, and I have cooked a few from this cookbook, is absolutely spectacular.

Indian food generally had the impression of being cheap and enjoyed on a drunken night out. However, in the last 5+ years, restaurants like Benares and others in London, New York and major cities in India have worked to highlight the nuances and complexity of this cuisine. Well trained chefs have created contemporary versions of traditional dishes, like this one, and are showing the world that Indian cuisine excels on its own right. This dish is a contemporary take on a very traditional dish, a gooey curry with chunks of paneer in it. I add it on my menus for clients and guests as “Palak Paneer" and I know they are picturing this traditional curry in their minds. But then this amazing dish sows up, usually as an appetizer. This one dish sets the tone for the dinner. Yes a lot of work, really, a lot of work, but an absolutely amazing dish.

As I have mentioned a very complex cookbook, for the advanced chef and one who really, really loves to cook. Beautifully convinced dishes, picture perfect presentations and perfectly balanced flavors. This restaurant is so on my bucket lis! This cookbook is a must for the serious chef who wants more than the average Indian fare.

For more delicious recipes from this cookbook click here.


For the paneer:

1 block paneer, cut into large squares or rectangles

1 teaspoon ginger-garlic paste

1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice

i red chili, or red chili powder, or to taste

1 green chili

2 tablespoons mustard oil

1 teaspoon panch phoran powder

2 teaspoon roasted chickpea flour (besan flour). If you have plain flour, toast it on a pan for about 30 seconds till it smells nutty and fragrant.

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2 teaspoons mango pickle

1/4 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon aamchur (Dried green mango powder)

1/—3/4 cup yogurt

For the spinach cakes:

1 large bunch (or 2) spinach, washed, and stems removed. If baby spinach leave stems on

1/4 cup chana dal

1-2 small potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes

1/4 cup cheddar cheese, grated

1 green chili, finely minced, or to taste

1 teaspoon ginger paste

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely minced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried Kasoori methi leaves

2 teaspoons garam masala

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Chaat masala for sprinkling

Oil for frying

For the makhani sauce:

1 tablespoon oil

1 green chili, or to taste, diced fine

1 teaspoon ginger paste

800 grams, about 2-3 small tomatoes, chopped finely. You can substitute the same volume of good canned tomatoes instead.

1 cup water

Handful coriander leaves and stems

2 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon, or to taste, red chili powder

1 tablespoon fenugreek leaves, dried (kasuri methi leaves)

1 teaspoon Garam Masala

1 tablespoon butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt to taste

To garnish:

Microcress or microgreens

Cilantro, minced

To marinate the paneer:

Mix the ginger-garlic paste, lime juice and chili powder and marinate the paneer it it for 1 hour.

Add the rest of the ingredients for the marinade into a small blender and purée into a smooth paste. Mix Into the first marinade and mix well. Allow to marinate for an additional 30 minutes, or overnight, preferred.

To make the spinach cakes:

Cook the chana dal in 3 cups water and a pinch of salt till cooked through but they still maintain a bite. No pressure cooker please. Cook under running water to stop the cooking, drain and set aside.

Blanch the spinach in about 3 cups water with a touch of salt. Drain in a colander, keeping the cooking liquid. Drain throughly by pressing as much water as you can with your fingers. Chop finely. Set aside.

Cook the potatoes in the water used for blanching the spinach, till cooked through. Cool and mash the potatoes by passing them through a food mill or potato river. You are looking for a very smooth mash.

Mix all the ingredients for the cakes together including the spinach, cooked chana dal and mashed potatoes. At this stage I make a small taster patty and fry it in a touch of oil. Taste and adjust salt and all other seasonings. Make 12-14 small flat patties. Store in a Pyrex dish separating the layers with cling wrap so they do not stick together. Put in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes so they cool down and get easier to handle. These patties can be a day ahead and stored in the fridge.

To make the makhani sauce:

Heat oil, add ginger and green chili and sauté till cooked and light brown. Add tomatoes and coriander and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes are pulpy and dry and the oil begins to separate, about 15-20 minutes. Purée the mix in a small blender or with a hand blender till smooth.

Add honey, red chili, dried methi, and Garam Masala and cook for 5 minutes till thickened. Add butter, cream and sal and simmer on low heat till a thick sauce forms. Must stir continuously to prevent the sauce from splitting.

Cool and set aside.

To cook the paneer:

Heat an oven to 250°F. Line the paneer pieces in a single layer on a non-stick baking tray or a baking tray lined with a non-stick mat. Bake for about 20-25 minutes till the paneer is crisped on the edges. Remove and sprinkle some chaat masala.

Alternatively, you can pan sauté the paneer with a few tablespoons of oil till browned in patches. Remove and sprinkle with chaat masala.

Finally, you can grill the paneer on a barbecue till charred slightly on both sides. This is the most cumbersome step, but the smokiness for a charcoal grill makes it worthwhile. Remove and sprinkle with chaat masala.

To make the cakes:

Fry the cakes on a medium high flame with a few tablespoons of oil or ghee Till browned on both sides. They are going to be really soft and gooey, so be gentle turning them, an art form I have yet to master. I have found that they are easier to turn once the bottom has browned and developed some structure.

To serve:

You can add a spoon of the heated makhani sauce to the center of the dish, top with the spinach care and then the paneer. Decorate by splashing a few drops of the makhani sauce all over the plate and some minced cilantro and/or micro greens. Serve immediately.

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