Palak paneer is a popular dish of North India made using blanched spinach and soft cottage cheese. Most of my Indian friends have known and mostly eaten palak paneer that is bright green in color, and without any doubt it tastes fantastic. I don’t know how popular is this version of palak paneer with lentils among Indian households but for sure it tastes amazing!. I was introduced to this method of making saag paneer by one of my Punjabi friends, and this recipe has been a family recipe for generations in her house. She learnt this recipe from her grandmother and I was lucky enough to have adapted it from her. Since then I have never cooked Palak Paneer without Moong Dal, I love this version so much, that today it has become a favorite in my family too. Even DH who is not too fond of cottage cheese, has started loving it because of the beautiful texture, flavor and aroma of this dish.
The yellow moong dal gives a unique consistency and flavor to this dish. Blanched spinach leaves are cooked along with the lentils and tomato puree; and later soft paneer cubes are added to the medium spicy smooth gravy to form a beautiful aromatic dish full of flavors. Most commonly Palak Paneer is enjoyed with rotis or Naan in North India, however I personally prefer to enjoy it with some Pulao or Jeera rice.
I would like my Indian friends to comment on how popular this version is among Indian households and if at all they have ever come across this method of doing it with lentils. I have been a big fan of palak paneer since the time I adopted this version. I hope you all will like it too!!
Spinach leaves – 1 bunch washed thoroughly
Yellow Moong Dal – 1 fist full
Cottage Cheese / Paneer cubes – 1 cup
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Hing / Asafoetida – 1/2 tsp
Onions – 2 finely chopped
Garlic – 2 -3 cloves
Ginger – 1 small piece
Green chillies – 2-3
Tomatoes – 2
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
Amchoor powder / Mango powder – 1/2 tsp
Milk – 1 Tbsp
Salt – as per taste
Boil the yellow moong dal in a pressure cooker until just done. Use very little water, just enough to cover and cook the lentils.
P.S. The amount of lentils used should be less than that of the spinach (Ideally the ratio should be 1:2 for lentils to spinach). We are using moong dal just to impart texture and flavor to the gravy. So do not use too much else the lentils will overpower the dish.
Blanch the spinach with very little water.
Blend the spinach and cooked lentils together. Pulse a few times. In this recipe, the spinach leaves are supposed to hold shape rather than getting completely mashed up.
Heat some oil in a pan.
Add cumin seeds and asafoetida. Let the cumin seeds splutter.
Then add the chopped onions and fry them until golden brown.
Grind the ginger, garlic and green chillies into a fine paste.
Add this paste to the pan.
Cook it until the raw smell of ginger and garlic is gone.
Puree the tomatoes in a blender and add it into the pan.
Add the dry spices – turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder.
Give everything a good mix. Stir and cook until the tomatoes are cooked and oil starts oozing out from the sides.
Now add the spinach lentil puree and mix well.
Add salt and Amchoor (Mango)powder. Mix well.
Let this come to a boil.
Then add in the paneer cubes. (P.S. If you are using frozen store-bought paneer, soak them in warm water for at least 30 mins before using them in the sauce)
You could fry the paneer before hand; but personally I don’t usually prefer to fry them.
Mix well. Cover and cook for 5 -10 mins.
In the end add some grated / crushed paneer to the gravy. Add 1 tbsp of milk. Mix and switch off the flame.
Dish it out and serve hot.
Enjoy Palak Paneer with Moong Dal along with some rotis, naan or even Jeera Rice.