Thursday, September 20, 2012

Palak-paneer kofta...Spinach-cottage cheese balls in gravy

We all are familiar with the popular Indian dish Palak-paneer or Saag-paneer. Palak is spinach and paneer is cottage cheese in Hindi. Every single Indian restaurant in this world have them in their menu. I simply love the traditional pairing of soft cottage cheese and creamy spinach. The combination of some hot oven-fresh naan(Indian flat bread) and a bowl of palak-paneer is unparalleled.
Today I made a dish which combines the spinach and cottage cheese, but in a different way. I remember many years back, in a cookery show I watched a different type of spinach-cottage cheese combination. It was a very popular Bengali cookery show of that time, "বেনু দির রান্নাঘর" (Benudir Rannaghor) hosted by one of the renowned cook in Bengal and actress Supriya Devi. I used to love watching her cooking. She used to create mouthwatering delicacies with such ease and grace.
I remember once she made some koftas with spinach and cottage cheese. Though it was long ago, may be it was something different, but the main ingredients were these....Spinach and cottage cheese. So using whatever I had stored in my long term memory from that show, I made these palak paneer koftas. And to my joy it was an instant hit in my family.

Things needed to make Palak-Paneer Kofta:

Chana/Cottage cheese: 1and 1/2cup
Spinach(finely chopped):1cup
Onion(finely chopped):1/4cup
Ginger Paste:2tsp
Ginger julienne: to garnish
Sour cream:1tbsp
Cumin powder:1tsp
Coriander powder:1tsp
Turmeric powder:1/2tsp
Red chili powder:1/2tsp
Kashmiri red chili powder:1/2tsp
Garam masala powder:1tsp
Whole garam masala
Bay leaf:1
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste

Steps of making Palak-Paneer-Kofta:

1.To make the home made cottage cheese or chana: Boil 2 litre whole milk in a heavy bottom pan. As the milk boils add lime juice and curdle the milk. Strain the curdled milk, wash in running cold water or keep it in bowl full of ice cubes. Drain all the water and hung the chana on a strainer for 1hr. Your home made cottage cheese/chana is ready. Cover and keep aside.
2. Wash spinach leaves well and chop them fine. Try to use the fresh soft leaves. I used baby spinach.

3. To make the spinach stuffing: In a non stick pan or kadai add oil, as the oil is hot add the chopped onions. Onions should be chopped very fine. As the onion changes color to pink add the chopped spinach, mix well. Cook on high-medium heat. Add little salt, sugar, pinch of garam masala powder. If you like you can also add chopped ginger and green chilies, if you are going to serve this dish to kids better not to add them. Keep cooking till all the water from spinach is gone. Let the stuffing cool down.

4.To make the Koftas: Knead the chana with your palm till smooth, approximately 1 cup of chana takes 3min of kneading. Add salt and sugar to the chana and mix well. Try to make balls out of it, if it does not stick to your hand and it feels soft smooth then you are ready to make the koftas. If the chana has too much water in it, then it will stick to your hand, mix little all purpose flour or corn starch to the chana(not more than 1tsp). And if the chana is too dry, it may fall apart, in that case add little milk and corn starch to it.

Make 8 equal size of balls from the chana. Make a deep depression on each balls and add the stuffing.
Close the balls and make a round shape. If a little spinach come out from the sides do not worry, it will give a nice look to the koftas. If you are making stuffed koftas for first time be careful and resist yourself from adding too much of stuffing.

5. Frying the koftas: In a kadai or pan add oil(3tbsp), as the oil is hot reduce heat to medium and add the koftas to fry. I did not deep fry the koftas. I like them to be shallow fried. It takes a little more time but I like it that way. And I used a non stick pan, that makes it easier. You can always deep fry them. Keep watch on the heat, the koftas should be evenly colored.

After the koftas are fried keep them on a paper towel lined plate. These fried koftas taste so do I know know that...errr...mmm....yeah I tasted one...just one...this is culinary privilege, after all I should check the seasoning....:)

6. Making the gravy: In the same oil(if needed add some more oil) add bay leaf, cinnamon stick, crushed cardamom, cloves, when the spices release nice aroma, reduce heat to low and add ginger paste, cook for 1min. Add the chopped tomatoes.(If you can't use tomatoes for health reason, use 1tsp cashew nut paste, for a healthier version use 1tbsp boiled mashed potato) Cover and cook on medium heat till the tomatoes are mushy. Add turmeric powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, red chili powder, kashmiri red chili powder, mix well and cook for 2min. Add the yogurt and mix well. I always beat the yogurt with little water and sugar before adding it to the gravy. Add sour cream and cook on medium flame till oil separates from the masalas.

As the oil separates from the masala, add 1cup of lukewarm water. Let the gravy boil. As it boils switch off the heat. Let the gravy cool down a bit, then strain the gravy.

Take a clean pan, add ghee. As the ghee melts add the strained gravy. Check seasoning and adjust accordingly. As the gravy boils, add the koftas gently to the gravy. Switch off the heat, sprinkle garam masala powder and immediately cover the pan. Let it stand for 10-12min. Transfer to a serving plate, garnish with julienned gingers or chopped coriander.

Palak paneer koftas...serve hot with pulao or naan


  1. Simply the idea of kofta...with palak and paneer...

  2. nice recipe and looks very tempting :)

  3. I love your recipes and photographs! These koftas look delicious. I also loved your spinach and bori sabzi.

  4. I posted my comment in another recipe by mistake...can I substitute sour cream with anything else in this recepie..or if I skip the sour cream will there be a lot of difference in the taste?

    1. Reshma, double the amount of yogurt (preferably greek yogurt). And after you finish cooking, add a tablespoon of fresh cream. Sour cream brings a smooth texture as well as a rich taste, but adding fresh cream can be a good substitute.