Make your own garden-to-table saag paneer with a vegan option

 Photo Source:  Serious Eats

Photo Source: Serious Eats

If you grow a garden or belong to a CSA, one thing you will have plenty of at the moment is greens. So why not turn some of those healthy greens into delicious Ayurvedic saag paneer-- far tastier, fresher and more nutritious than what you would get in an Indian restaurant? You can make this recipe if you're vegan too, by using cubed tofu instead of paneer.

This recipe is nicely versatile for a gardener as you can use whatever type of greens you have available. I used various types of mustard greens, some radish tops, Italian chicory and a little spinach--a total of two large colanders full of greens to make a meal for four.  (See here how to make paneer.)

The paneer or tofu can be fried or simply put in the saag. Frying it is delicious but adds a lot of fat and calories and is not kapha-soothing; plain paneer is bland. In the end I found the perfect option--tandoori-style broiled marinated paneer, ideal for pitta and kapha.

People often add coconut milk, cream or cream cheese because they have a concern about the greens and curry sauce separating. I didn't have a significant issue with this recipe separating and chose to keep to a low-calorie, kapha-soothing recipe.

Ingredients

  • Paneer made from half-gallon milk; or 8oz firm tofu; cubed
  • 2 Tbsp. yoghurt (or coconut yoghurt)
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • ¾ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. mild chilli powder
  • ½ tsp. turmeric
  • Garden greens (mustard, spinach, chicory, etc.) -2 large colanders worth
  • 2 Tbsp. sunflower oil or ghee
  • 1" piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-3 tsp. chopped green chilli, depending on how spicy you like it
  • 1tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. kasturi methi/dried fenugreek leaves, crushed (optional but delicious)
  • 2 pinches nutmeg
  • Salt to taste
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Combine the yoghurt, lemon juice, salt, chilli powder and ½ tsp. turmeric in a bowl and gently stir in the cubed paneer or tofu until it is coated. Let it marinade while you harvest your greens.

Carefully wash and inspect your greens and coarsely chop them. Now blanch them by plunging them into a pot of boiling salted water and boiling for 3 minutes. Remove and drain, reserving the water.

Heat some ghee or oil in a small sauté pan and add the ginger and garlic. After it has browned, add the tomato, ground coriander and turmeric and sauté until the tomatoes are soft.

Place this mixture and the blanched greens in a blender, adding a little of the reserved cooking water, just enough to blend it to a puree.

Turn on your broiler. Place the paneer or tofu cubes on a baking sheet and broil for a couple of minutes, then turn and broil for another couple of minutes. Remove from the oven.

In a large flat-bottomed pan, heat another tablespoon of oil or ghee and sizzle the cumin seeds until they darken a shade or two. Immediately add the blended greens, stepping back as it may splutter. Simmer for a few minutes and add the paneer, garam masala, nutmeg and salt. Sprinkle on kasturi methi and cilantro. Let it rest for a few moments to combine flavours, stirring occasionally to prevent it separating.

Serve with basmati rice and flatbreads.

Enjoy!

Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is an Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.

Enliven your holistic health! Visit Alakananda Ma in Alandi Ashram’s ayurvedic clinic to support the overall rejuvenation of your body, mind, and spirit. In-person and virtual appointments available. Book now!