Saag Paneer or Saag Aloo is the quintessential Indian dish – which comprises of spinach cooked in spices with pan fried Indian cheese (paneer) or fried potatoes (aloo) added. This recipe is definitely not a traditional saag recipe and my mother does not approve of it at all. I think, she also complains because I make it all the time and she is simply bored of eating it. Though, the truth is, in my humble opinion, that she doesn’t like that I have modified her wonderful recipe and pass it off to my non-Indian friends as saag paneer. To make matters worse, all of them actually love it. It may just be a bad case of sour grapes. Sorry Mum!
Fortunately my little one approves whole-heartedly and it has meant that spinach has been a regular part of her diet since she was a wee baby. She eats it with rice and dhal, stuffed in quesadillas (with other things added), mixed in mac and cheese and with just about any grilled/roasted piece of meat/fish. The possibilities for use in leftovers are endless. In fact, this dish is probably more of a spiced up steakhouse creamed spinach. Killer with a good piece of steak and takes your dinner in a cool, fusion-y direction. I have served it at dinner parties in this manner as well: Steak (or even roast chicken or pork loin), this spinach/saag and roasted spiced cauliflower. So very American Masala. And just a little bit irreverent.
However, to appease mom and, because she has taught me a good deal about life (and cooking) and I love her, I don’t call this “saag-paneer/aloo”. It’s an Indian spiced creamed spinach. And I am pretty sure you will fancy it.
Indian “Creamed” Spinach
This is staple at our house and a regular at dinner parties. My daughter has been eating this with rice since she was a year old. A great filling for quesadillas and stir in for basic mac & cheese. A delicious side for a grilled piece of meat, chicken or fish. In a pinch, I make it without onions or ginger and it is still quite yummy (and cooks up in a flash). You can use chopped up fresh spinach, but I never have.
Serves 2 adults and 2 kids
- 1 lb frozen chopped spinach, thawed or unthawed
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 1 tbsp minced ginger (optional)
- 2-3 tbsp canola oil
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- ½ tsp garam masala (optional)
- ½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (optional)
- ¼ – 1/3 cup of heavy cream (add less, add more – depending on mood and size of waist on particular day. Ok, to omit but I wouldn’t :))
- salt and pepper to taste
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy bottomed skillet and add diced onion and salt to taste. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes till onion is soft and then add ginger. Fry for about 2 minutes.
- Push the onion and ginger mixture to the side and add remaining 1 tbsp of oil to skillet. Add cumin seeds, coriander, chilli powder and garam masala and fry in the oil for 15-30 seconds. Combine spices and onion mixture and fry for about a minute.
- Add spinach, stir as needed to prevent spinach from sticking to bottom of pan. (You can add fried paneer cubes/fried cubed potatoes at this point, if you like) It should take about 7-9 minutes for water get cooked out of the spinach
- Season with salt and pepper to taste
- Add heavy cream, stir to combine and simmer covered for 2 minutes. Ready to serve.