By a show of hands, who here is a kale skeptic? For the longest time, I would have joined you in your kale skepticism. While I used to be one of those kale disbelievers, I’m telling you this kale & paneer saag might just turn you.
Saag (specifically mushroom saag…if you haven’t had it before, PLEASE give it a go…for me) is one of my five major food groups; I simply cannot get enough of it. That creamy, spicy, and spinach-y goodness is the best comfort food and can brighten up a really crappy day. Every. Single. Time. If you can just picture in your head for me, Buddy the Elf chowing down on his spaghetti with maple syrup, Pop-Tarts, and mini marshmallows in Elf. Well, that’s me every time I sit down and eat mushroom saag. No joke. I love it that much.
With this in mind, one might say that I am a spinach fiend. It will always hold a special place in my heart, but I’ve never been a big kale lover. Honestly, with the big kale, green healthy smoothie trend, I never really wanted to be associated with it (that sounds bad, I know, but come on, a KALE SMOOTHIE?? That just sounds gross). Recently though, I went out on a limb and tried Alison Roman’s Raw and Roasted Kale With Pistachios and Pecorino from her book, Dining In, and I began to realize that my initial distrust and hate of kale may have been unfounded.
For mother’s day we made THE Alison Roman salad (okay, FINE. no one really calls it that except for me), but WAY over-bought on the kale, so I was left with this big bunch of kale just sitting there in the fridge, lonely and calling out for me and pleading, “Please, please use me.”
I just bought a fantastic new cookbook called, East, by Meera Sodha (she also has an amazing cookbook called, Fresh India, that you should definitely try out too). It is full of vegan and vegetarian recipes from eastern countries and saying that I love it would be an understatement. I’ll just leave it at that.
So kale was on the forefront of my brain as I was looking through East one night, when I came across this recipe for kale and paneer saag (psst! it can be vegan if you use oil for the frying of the paneer and onions). It was like it was meant to be, I had everything to make it already in my pantry and fridge, so I set out on a kale saag making journey.
I will say, while this saag tasted amazing, I did need to add a little more salt and chili powder to it than the recipe calls for and it needed more time to cook out (I like my saag a little thicker). That said, served over rice it was fantastic and the ingredients are ones that you either have on hand already or that are easy to find at your local grocery store.
Now for what you’ve all been waiting for, the recipe!
Kale & Paneer Saag
- 1 lb. curly kale, with stems removed
- 10 oz. paneer, cut into 3/4 in. cubes
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
- 3/4 inch. fresh ginger, grated
- 1 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 1/2 – 2 tsp salt
- Chili powder, to taste (optional)
- 1 tsp agave syrup
- 1 – 14 oz. can petite, diced tomatoes
- 1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk
- 4 TBS oil or ghee
- Cooked rice or chapattis/naan, for serving
Step 1: After the kale has been rinsed and the stems removed, working in batches place the kale in a food processor and blitz it into tiny pieces. Once all the kale has gone through the food processor, place it in a bowl and set it aside for later.
Step 2: Heat up 2 TBS of oil (for vegan version) or ghee in a large, deep skillet with a lid. Once the oil is hot, working in batches add in the paneer. Fry it for a few minutes on each side, until the paneer is nice and golden brown all over. Place the golden paneer on a plate and set it aside for later.
Step 3: In the same skillet, add two more tablespoons of either oil or ghee and turn the heat to medium. Once hot, add the onions to the skillet and let cook for about 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Then add in the garlic, peppers, and ginger and cook for another 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, add in the can of tomatoes and cook for around 8-10 minutes, until the mixture resembles a paste. At this stage, add in the spices, salt, and agave. Mix well.
Step 4: Next, stir in the kale and the coconut milk to the mixture. Reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid. Let cook for about 15 minutes.
Step 5: Take off the lid and add in the paneer. Cook for another 15-20 minutes, adding a teaspoon of water at a time if it starts to look too dry.
Step 6: Serve over rice or with either chapattis or fluffy naan. Enjoy!