Have you ever tried Indian food? I tried it for the second time a few weeks ago, and it was quite possibly one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. Yes, THAT good! We tried Indian food once before, but it was awful—super oily and way too spicy. In general, it just wasn’t good. That was probably over 5 years ago, so clearly that did us in for a while. But, we decided to venture out and give it another shot.
I was nervous when I called in our order because I just knew I’d slaughter the correct pronunciation, but as it turns out, I was pretty spot on. Yay! I ordered Palak Paneer, Steve ordered Eggplant Bhartha, and we ordered Vegetable Manchurian and Hosharpuri Tikki for appetizers.
You’re wondering what all that is, right? Palak = Spinach, Paneer = Cheese Cubes (that don’t melt!). Eggplant Bhartha is pretty straightforward—eggplant sautéed with onions, garlic, tomatoes, and spices. All entrees are served with basmati rice. The Vegetable Manchurian is vegetable dumplings served in a tangy + spicy sauce…pretty much the best sauce EVER. I must make it at home—I just need to identify the key ingredient because I couldn’t place it while I was stuffing my face. Lastly, the Hosharpuri Tikki is fried potato patties stuffed with spiced lentils + goat cheese, served with tamarind chutney. So amazing, you guys!
Unfortunately, we didn’t order any naan, and we regretted that decision as soon as we spotted a basketful of it when we entered the restaurant. My word, it looked incredible. I should have known it was a necessity because when I placed our order the guy asked if we wanted any bread and I said “no, thanks” and he was like “no bread?”. Clearly he knew we were newbies. Now we know! :)
We had such an incredible experience this time around, and we loved our food so much, that we decided that we needed to make it at home. So, when we went grocery shopping last week, we stopped by an Asian market and picked up a block of paneer. We were so excited! Plus, the store was awesome! So many ingredients we’ve never even heard of.
So, let’s talk about paneer for a second. Cubes of cheese that keep their shape even when cooked. Say what? Is that not the coolest thing ever?! Look, it’s no secret that I LOVE cheese, so this was the perfect meal for me. Plus, I love spinach, so put the two together and now we’re talking.
Palak Paneer is actually incredibly easy to make. All you do is sauté some onions, along with a chili pepper and minced garlic. Okay, so truth be told, I bought the wrong peppers. It wasn’t my fault though…the peppers weren’t properly labeled at the store. I’m pretty certain I bought banana peppers, or maybe Hungarian peppers? I diced one up and tasted it…and there was ZERO spice. It was basically like a bell pepper. Ugh. Good thing I had some red pepper flakes on-hand to toss in for some heat.
So after you sauté all those goodies, you add in some cumin seeds, ground coriander, ground ginger, and garam masala. These spices are amazing! The garam masala has notes of cinnamon and smells heavenly. Your home will smell fantastic at this point. Following the spices, you add a can of fire-roasted tomatoes and then 2 bags of spinach. Sounds like a lot, but spinach wilts down quite a bit. After you pulse all those goodies in the blender, you finish it off with some Greek yogurt and water. Simple! I served it up with some brown rice, but you can keep things traditional and serve it with basmati rice, if you so wish.
This time around, I didn’t forget the naan. I made some myself! That’s right, homemade naan. I was super thrilled about this and it turned out perfectly (although I was skeptical of the dough at first). I’m looking forward to making it again, so I can post it here for you all.
All-around one of the best meals—from the restaurant and at home. We will definitely be having Indian food again!
- 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion—finely chopped
- 1 chili pepper (such as a pablano pepper)—seeded and finely chopped
- ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes (you might want to omit if using a spicy pepper)
- 6 garlic cloves—minced
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 2 tsp. garam masala
- ¼ - ½ tsp. ground ginger
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 (14.5 oz.) can fire-roasted tomatoes—drained
- 2 (8 oz.) bags fresh spinach
- ½ cup Greek yogurt or half & half
- ½ cup water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 8-10 oz. paneer—cubed (if you cannot find paneer, extra firm tofu will work)
- Heat the oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the onion, chili pepper, and red pepper flakes, and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute.
- Push the onion mixture to the side of the skillet, and add the cumin seeds. Let them cook for about a minute (they’ll crackle a bit).
- Add the coriander, garam masala, ground ginger, and bay leaf. Stir and let the mixture cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add the fire-roasted tomatoes and reduce the heat to medium-low. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add 1 bag of spinach and stir until it wilts. Add the second bag and stir again until wilted.
- Remove the bay leaf and carefully transfer the mixture to a blender. Pulse a few times until fairly smooth (don’t fully puree it). Return the mixture to the skillet and add the yogurt, water, and salt and stir to combine.
- Add the paneer, cover the skillet, and turn the heat on medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Serve with brown rice (or basmati rice) and naan, if desired.
Minimally adapted from Pinch of Yum