Indian-Spiced Kale and Paneer, or, Not Quite Saag Paneer

I got The Best Present Ever for Mothers Day this year.  And that is saying a lot, because I was just showered with gifts this year.  The girls’ handmade gifts and cards were almost as sweet as the big proud smiles on their faces when they gave them to me, of course, but J took the cake with one of his gifts.

He organized my spice collection.

Hopefully you feel the full effect of that sentence as I do: you should be bathed in light and joy as the heavens part and you hear the angels sing Alleluia.  Are you with me?

This is a big deal.  Once upon a time, I had a few rows of spice jars tidily tucked into a spice rack.  Later, the jars began to multiply and J put up shelves to hold more of them.  But in recent years the spices had completely outgrown that expanded solution and they began to pile up in tiny bags, then handfuls of tiny bags stuffed into bigger bags, then finally gallon jars full of big and little bags that all were starting to smell like curry powder or cardamom.  It was not a particularly efficient system.

So it was with adoration that I approached my spice rack (it’s really more of a spice wall now) today when I decided to make this dish.  Everything was in its place, alphabetically arranged–except for my assortment of chiles, which take up a shelf of their own.  Bay, cardamom, cinnamon.  Check, check, check.  Cloves, coriander, cumin, right on down the line.  It’s so easy when things are where they are supposed to be!

But, ok, let me get to the part you’re here for.  This is the best Indian food that has ever come out of my kitchen.  Ever.  The recipe is adapted from Kolpona Cuisine, along with a plea to use the whole spices called for despite the mild inconvenience of having to fish them out later.  I don’t know if that is the whole secret here, but the dish was amazing and J marveled aloud, a few times, that it was the best Saag Paneer he’d ever eaten.  (This version was kale paneer, to be precise, inspired by CoolCookStyle, but you can click right here for the original recipe using frozen spinach.)

Indian-Spiced Kale and Paneer: Heat 3 Tbs. oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat and stir in 2 bay leaves, 5 cardamom pods, 3 dried red chiles, a cinnamon stick, 4 cloves, and 1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds.  When spices are fragrant and cumin seeds begin to pop, stir in a finely diced onion and a tsp. salt and saute until onion is tender and browned.  Now add a Tbsp. each grated ginger and garlic, a tsp. each ground cumin and ground coriander, and 1/2 tsp. each ground turmeric and ground red chile powder.  Stir-fry for a minute or two, then add two diced roma tomatoes and let them cook down before adding a washed and chopped bunch of kale.  Let the kale wilt and simmer, stirring occasionally.  If the liquid in the pot evaporates before the kale is completely tender, add a few more Tbsp. water as needed.  When the kale is tender, stir in a block of cubed paneer and a few spoonfuls of cream.  Simmer for another moment or two, then serve over basmati rice.  (Want to make your own paneer?  Check out Paneer 101 from Kolpona Cuisine.)


27 thoughts on “Indian-Spiced Kale and Paneer, or, Not Quite Saag Paneer

    1. emmycooks Post author

      You should definitely check out the paneer tutorial, after my success with this recipe I want to cook my way all the way through Kolpona Cuisine! Try the recipe with ground spices and tell us how it is–cook with what you have, make it easy, right? If you’re looking for kale recipes, allow me to recommend this salad, which I could eat all day: If you’re not a blue cheese fan, you could sub goat cheese, feta, or even Parmesan, or leave it out entirely.

  1. Desi Chick

    That looks awesome! You and Daisy are rockin’ the Kale Paneer so you know what that means, I have to make some too. Back home, everything green (as in a green leafy) is called “saag” and spinach is called “palak” – whenever we cook any leafy green veggie….it’s a saag!

      1. Desi Chick

        Maybe I’ll do a memoir of being a refugee and learning English and then throw in recipes..hahaha! I get asked about that all the time

      2. emmycooks Post author

        I can’t wait to read your book! I’m glad to hear that this counts as Saag Paneer after all. I really did like it with the kale–it was juicy! :)

  2. Mercer Mom

    What a relief to hear that I’m not the only one with the drawer full of baggies of indeterminate spices! This looks great — can’t wait to try.

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Well, actually, now you ARE the only one. :) But I can send J over with a zillion empty jam jars if you like, he’s a spice-organizing pro now!

  3. baconbiscuit212

    Looks amazing, Emmy! I thought how Tahmina instructed us to use whole spices was just brilliant too. When she writes a cookbook, I will be one of the first to buy it!

    I like how you added the water tablespoon by tablespoon. I will do that next time!

  4. xplorexpress

    Sounds delicious… but…. I am lactose intolerent… some cheeses are OK in very little quantity… what would you suggest replacing the cream with?

    By the way, can I borrough J? I have a mountain of spices jars and no spice rack :))

    1. Desi Chick

      Almond milk mixed with a tiny bit of flour to keep it from separating. Works great. Unless you can’t have any gluten then use chickpea flour (Besan).

      1. emmycooks Post author

        Thanks, Tahmina! Last time I tried making this I didn’t have cream or half & half and my resulting dish was really watery–next time I’ll try your milk+flour trick! And Xplorexpress, you could definitely use tofu here for a dairy-free dish–it wouldn’t be the same but it would be another good way to soak up these amazing flavors!

      2. xplorexpress

        Thank you, I will try that… I have chick pea/quinoa/millet/coconut/tapioca flours… so… have the choice. I have to make my own bread as I am allergic to gluten too and all processed foods. Not easy to go out for supper :) but, I consider it as a blessing as I have to eat healthy!

        Oh! May I ask you a question? My grand daughter have the same blessing as I :) but is also allergic to eggs… what would you suggest for me to replace the 3 eggs in her favorite gluten free bread I make?

        Thank you for your inspiration <3

  5. denaelyse

    Would you show a picture of the upgraded spice rack, please? I love to see the effects of J’s handiwork. ;)

    1. emmycooks Post author

      Can’t you just stop by to check it out? I miss you!!! (That said, I did take before, during and after photos. The transformation was amazing.) :) xo

  6. tinykitchenstories

    What a great sub for the spinach! I LOOOOVE saag paneer, and I’m as pleased as you were with your spice organizing to have a new slide-out spice rack in my new kitchen. It’s AMAZING!! Enjoy!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      I have to admit that I was a bit jealous of your spice rack! I spend so much time in the kitchen that I really appreciate any upgrades. Speaking of which, I hope that you’re enjoying your less-tiny kitchen! :)

      1. tinykitchenstories

        Oh, it’s still tiny, it’s just new! And I”m loving it. I’m hoping a friend of ours will give us his 1-year-old fridge when he moves to Ecuador at the end of the month. Fingers crossed! :) That will really be the icing on the cake!

    1. emmycooks Post author

      It really is good. The kale is juicy and so flavorful! I think Tahmina’s guidance in the original recipe about using whole spices made the magic happen. :)


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