Palak ‘Paneer’

Palak is spinach in Hindi. And paneer is cottage cheese. Palak paneer is a very popular dish in the North Indian states. You will often find it on dinner tables when guests come for dinner. It is a very tasty dish, very mild and easy on the stomach. I have never been a fan of paneer. Mainly because when you say that you are a vegetarian in North India, paneer dishes make a magical appearance on the table. I found paneer bland and tasteless. It normally absorbs the spice powders that is added to the dish. But palak paneer is one dish that I have enjoyed. So, when I turned WFPB, this is one of the very few paneer dishes that I missed. It is very easy to substitute paneer with tofu. But the taste could be different. So, I decided to make the dish to find out. The taste is marginally different, but every bit as tasty!

Palak Tofu

250 gms spinach, roughly torn
2 green chllis
1-2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1″ piece ginger, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
1 bay leaf (tej patta, bringi elai)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1/2 tsp red chili powder
A pinch of asafoetida (omit if you are gluten-free)
1/2 tsp garam masala
200 gms firm tofu, cubed
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi, ularntha venthiya elai)
Unrefined salt to taste
2 tbsp plant based milk cream
Wash the spinach leaves well under running water
Keep the tender stems, discard the stringy ones
Boil 3 cups water and add a little salt (a generous pinch) and mix well
When the water comes to a rolling boil, switch the flame off
Add the spinach to the water and let it remain for a minute
Then pick the leaves out of the water and add them to ice cold water
Let the spinach remain for about a minute
Drain the water and add the spinach to a blender
Add the ginger, green chilis and the roughly chopped garlic
Grind to a puree (no need to add water)
Set aside
Heat a wok and add the cumin seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the bay leaf
Add the chopped onions and sprinkle a little water, if necessary
Cook till the onions are lightly browned
Then add the finely chopped garlic
Continue to cook for about a minute till the raw smell of the garlic has evaporated
Add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy
Once the tomatoes are mushy, add the turmeric powder, red chili powder and asafoetida
Mix well
Add the spinach puree and mix again
Add about 1/2 cup water and mix again
Simmer for 7-8 minutes till the spinach is cooked and the gravy has thickened
At this stage, add salt
Stir in the garam masala powder
Add the tofu cubes
Mix well and immediately switch off the flame
Transfer to a serving bowl
Top the spinach and tofu dish with plant based cream
Serve hot with Indian breads or even steamed red/brown/millet rice

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