Spinach & Chicken Curry
This is my variation on a classic Indian dish called "Saag Paneer." You can omit the chicken to make a vegetarian dish, or you can omit the paneer, or neither - your choice! One secret to Indian cooking is to make sure all of your ingredients are prepped before you begin cooking. It may add to the overall cooking/prep time, but it is worth it to be stress free. This dish freezes well, too.
as part of a rice-based meal.|
Total prep and cooking time: 1 hour
1/2 lb. fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1 chicken breast, cooked & diced
1 cup paneer*, cubed
3 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves- optional
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida powder - optional**
1 large onion
1 thumbs-length of fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno or serano chile, de-seeded and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato, de-seeded
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne - or to taste
1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon garam masala***
2 - 4 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
water, as needed
Roughly chop your peeled onion, garlic & ginger and purée in a food processor or blender. Scrape out into a small bowl and put to one side.
Place your clean spinach and fenugreek leaves in the food processor (you don't need to wash it out first) with a 1/4 cup water, and liquify. Using a spatula, pour and scrape out into another small bowl, and put to one side.
In a third small bowl, place your jalapeno, chopped tomato, turmeric, coriander seed, and cayenne.
In a large frying pan, heat the canola oil and add the asafoetida powder and the cumin seeds. Cook on a medium heat until the seeds start to pop, but take care that they do not burn. This only takes a few seconds, a minute at the most. Add the onion mixture and stir, frying gently until the mixture darkens and begins to brown. Add the tomato mixture and salt, and cook - stirring constantly - until the mixture becomes a thick paste and the oil starts to separate out in little shiny orange drops. Add the spinach mixture, and stir well.
Add enough water to get a spoon-coating consistency, bring to the boil, cover (very important! unless you want hot spinach splatters throughout your kitchen!) and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add the diced chicken and stir well. Add the paneer and stir
gently so not to break up the fragile cheese squares. Allow the
mixture to continue to simmer for another five minutes. Sprinkle
with garam masala, and add the cream. Turn off the heat, and stir
gently to incorporate the cream. Allow to rest for five minutes
before serving, so that the flavours meld. Serve with rice.
** This "stinky" gum resin helps the body digest. It tastes better than it smells.
*** Garam masala is an Indian spice blend that can be bought in most stores. It is a blend of coriander, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, black pepper, and cloves. Recipes vary from region to region and individual to individual. I make mine from a recipe in Seductions of Rice.
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