In 2006, Adam and I went to India for our honeymoon. We started in New Delhi in northern India where some of my family lives, and made our way by train to Chennai in the South, where my family is originally from. We had a wonderful trip and absolutely loved our time there as newlyweds.
My family doted on Adam and I can understand why. He just fit in! Even though everything was foreign, the country, culture, languages and climate, he seamlessly joined in, enjoying and appreciating it all. It was so wonderful and special for me as India is dear to my heart. When I saw my new husband felt the same way, I had yet another reason why I had made the right choice in a life partner.
If you ask my dear family what they remember most from our visit, they might say Adam’s love for Indian food. Feeding him was a great pleasure, because he relished all the food. He didn’t hesitate to try anything new and he tried it all, carefully prepared homemade meals, craving fulfilling street vendor food, masala spiced mangoes and cucumbers at the beach, fresh coconut water right from the coconut… all of it was delicious. I can’t recall a meal we didn’t enjoy.
These days, when I meal plan at home for the week and I ask Adam what he wants, he always says Indian. I try and plan at least two Indian meals per week and being the spoiled child that I am, I usually get one of these from my parents. The other one I prepare myself, sometimes North Indian, sometimes South Indian.
Palak Paneer is a popular North Indian dish found in many restaurants. My version is vegan, using tofu to replace the paneer (Indian cheese), and cashews to replace the cream. It’s lighter than the traditional version but the flavors are all there. It is wonderfully fragrant and spicy, and the perfect shade of green! We often eat it with scented basmati rice or with naan.
If you love the restaurant version of this dish you have to try making it at home, enjoy!
- 10 cups spinach (or a 312 gram box of spinach)
- ¼ cup cilantro
- ¼ cup cashews
- 1 onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 small green chili or ½ a jalapeno, chopped
- 2 inches ginger, chopped
- 3 tomatoes, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp chili powder
- ⅛ asafoetida powder (omit if you don’t have it)
- 2 tsp grapeseed oil
- 2 175g organic, extra firm tofu, cubed into small pieces
- In a large blender cup, soak the cashews in ¾ cup of water.
- Blanche the spinach in boiling salted water for 2 minutes. Drain immediately and rinse with cold water.
- Add the spinach and cilantro to the soaking cashews. Blend until thoroughly pureed. Set aside. Don’t rinse the blender cup as you will be using it again later.
- In a pan, heat the grapeseed oil on medium. When the oil is hot add the onions, garlic, ginger and chili.
- When the ingredients have softened, add the cumin seeds, garam masala, turmeric, chili powder, asafoetida, and bay leaves.
- When the spices are fragrant and incorporated add the tomatoes.
- When the tomatoes have broken down and have released their juices, take the mixture off the heat. Remove the bay leaves and set aside as you will re-incorporate them later. Put the spiced tomato mixture into the blender and puree until smooth.
- Combine the spinach puree and tomato puree in the saucepan. Add the bay leaves you removed earlier. Heat gently until warmed through. Do not over heat as this will alter the color of the spinach, taking away it’s bright green appearance.
- On a non-stick frying pan, heat a couple of teaspoons of grapeseed oil on medium high. Add the cubed tofu onto the pan. Try not to overlap the pieces too much. Don’t flip the tofu until it has browned. Salt the tofu lightly. Do this until the tofu is generally golden and crispy.
- Add the crispy tofu to your spinach mixture. Stir to combine. Taste the sauce and add salt as needed. If the mixture is too thick, thin with a small amount of boiling water.
- Serve over basmati rice or with naan.
- To make this nut free, simply eliminate the cashews