Unless you’re cooking with a particularly robust bunch of spinach, the stalks can be cooked alongside the more tender leaves. To cook spinach whole, lay the stalks in the bottom of a thick-based pan and fold the leaves over the top. Smash a clove or two of garlic in its skin, nestle it in among the stalks, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. Put the pot on a medium heat, pop a lid on top and cook without stirring for a few minutes, until sizzling, steamy and cooked through. By this point, the stems and garlic will be tender and a touch caramelised, while the leaves will be perfectly steamed, tasty and oily. Season to taste, dress with an optional squeeze of lemon juice and serve. And if you do have some tougher stalks, separate them from the leaves, slice finely and start them off in the pot a few minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients, to soften them up. Upcycle any cooked spinach leftovers into this satisfying saag paneer.
Twice-cooked spinach paneer
Saag paneer is a favourite in our household, not least because it works really well when made with leftover or/and frozen spinach. The same approach works with almost any type of leafy green, really, including mustard, cauliflower, beetroot and turnip leaves. At home, I preserve leafy greens before they “turn” by frying or steaming them, then I freeze them until we have enough in store to turn into dishes such as this one. Leftover cooked spinach can be added to all sorts of savoury dishes, from soups and stews to salads and stir-fries. If you ever have an abundance of cooked spinach, try upcycling it into classics such as creamed spinach simply by reheating with a dash of cream and a pinch of nutmeg, or serve at room temperature or cold and dressed with toasted pine nuts, raisins and lemon zest.
2 tbsp ghee or oil
1 small onion, peeled and finely sliced
½ tbsp grated ginger
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1 fresh green chilli (or more or less, to taste; optional)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp turmeric
140g cooked spinach, or other leafy greens, chopped
20g fresh coriander, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
1 tbsp tomato puree
190g paneer, cut into cubes
Sea salt, to taste
Heat the ghee in a frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion, saute for five minutes, or until it softens, then add the ginger,garlic green chilli, if using.
Cook for another few minutes, then stir in the ground coriander, cumin and turmeric. Add the cooked spinach and fresh coriander to the pot, stir in the tomato puree and heat through, stirring regularly.
Add 300-400ml boiling water (or whey, if you’ve made your own paneer) to loosen the mixture, then boil for five minutes. Stir in the paneer cubes, simmer for a final five minutes, stirring occasionally, then season to taste and enjoy.