I only made saag paneer for the first time a few weeks ago, but this recipe has already made it into the rotation. Of course, it doesn’t taste the same as it does in restaurants, but that’s for the same reason everything tastes different in restaurants: they put pounds of butter in your food. In my humble opinion, this tastes better than I’ve had in a restaurant, and it’s made with just a tablespoon or two or organic rape seed oil. And it has a heartiness that hits the spot on a cold evening. The pieces of haloumi are almost meaty, and with brown rice and roasted cauliflower, it just works.
I’ve made it with frozen spinach, which works well, but the other day I tried it with kale – because my girl at the market still has huge amounts of very tender kale at low low prices – and I think it’s even better.
Saag Paneer / Kale Haloumi
250g paneer / haloumi
500 gm frozen spinach / a few big handfuls of fresh kale, leaves removed from stalks and finely chopped
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 medium onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, grated or pureed
1 inch ginger, grated or pureed
2 tbsp oil
Cut the haloumi into cubes and toss with the turmeric, half a teaspoon of chili powder and a little salt. Heat the oil in a pan, then throw in the cheese and toss for a few minutes until the cubes are golden brown – haloumi and paneer keep their shape throughout this process and take on a lovely fragrant golden crisp. Take the cheese out of the pan (but leave as much oil as possible) and set aside.
Add the onions to the pan, and cook (still over a medium heat – though you can take it down if it looks like the onions going to burn) until it gets a little caramel colour and softens. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a minute or two, and then add the rest of the spice powders. Cook together for 5-10 minutes, until the resulting paste takes on a rich aroma.
Then add the kale, season with a little salt, add a splash of water to make a fury of steam, then stick a lid on it for 2-3 minutes (more if your kale is tough). Simmer uncovered for a few minutes more, until the liquid is pretty much all gone, then add the lemon juice, return the paneer / haloumi to the pan, check the seasoning and serve.
We serve this with brown rice and roasted cauliflower – put the florets in a pan with half a teaspoon of chili powder, add a little salt and a tablespoon or two of rapeseed oil (that’s the only oil we have), mix it all around until it’s all got a share of the oil and seasoning, then roast in a hot oven (200C) for about 20 minutes. Mmmmmm.