“Saag” means greens. “Paneer” is a fresh milk cheese. The combination of spinach (or mustard or collard greens) and the soft chew of paneer cheese originates from the north of India, but is eaten all over the world. You can even buy it already prepared in sealed packages at many supermarkets.
This recipe avoids the time and effort by substituting feta cheese for the paneer. Even though you can find paneer cubes at online Indian markets, feta cheese is easier to find and adds a salty bite that puts a little zing to this centuries old dish.
Saag Paneer – Spinach with Cheese Cubes
- Food Processor or blender
- Large skillet or wok
- small saucepan
- ¼ cup Ghee
- 2 tbsp Coriander seeds
- ½ tsp Ground cardamom
- 1 small Onion, roughly chopped
- 1 clove Garlic, roughly chopped
- 2 inch Fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
- 1 lb Fresh baby spinach (12 cups) or regular spinach
- 1 small Green chile or serrano chile, chopped
- 1½ tsp Lime or lemon juice
- Kosher salt
- 6 oz Feta cheese, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 2 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp Cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp Red chili pepper or paprika
- Spice Spinach – Heat ¼ cup ghee over medium heat in a large skillet or wok. Add coriander seeds and cardamom, stir fry until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add onion and stir fry until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger and cook another minute. Stir in spinach a handful at a time, letting it wilt before adding another handful. When the last batch of spinach has wilted, remove from heat and mix in green chilies and lime juice. Season with salt.
- Cook Spinach – Transfer spinach mixture to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Process until a coarse paste forms, around 1 minute. Pour this back into the skillet or wok set over low heat. Stir in ½ cup water and gently fold in feta cubes. Cook another 5 minutes to let feta absorb some of the sauce. Pour into a warmed serving bowl.
- Make Tadka (topping) and Serve – Before spinach is finished, heat 2 tbsp oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds and remove from heat as they start to pop and brown, under a minute. Stir in red pepper. Pour red oil over the spinach. Serve with roti bread or rice.
- The spinach mixture (before the red oil topping is added) can be made 1-2 days in advance and refrigerated.