PANEER AND ALOO KOFTA IN SAAG CURRY
Vegetable Koftas and Malai Koftas were regular rotations in our dinner menu, growing up. We loved that restaurant style curry and taste, with the triangle parathas that mom would make. The sauce would be a creamy tomato base, made with a cashew paste and heavy cream. That sauce was pretty versatile. You could simply add par boiled vegetables to it as well and make a wonderful vegetable to go with the parathas. My mom would make the most amazing koftas, the taste would stay lingering in the mouth, much after we were done with our meal. We went out to eat in a restaurant only once a week, or maybe once in two weeks, so having restaurant style koftas at home was really a meal we would look forward to.
There was not really a concept of leftovers in India. Everything was consumed fresh and the day of. So we never had leftover koftas to consume! Looking back, I wish we did have leftovers so that we could enjoy the benefits of this meal for a bit longer.
HOW DID I COME UP WITH THIS RECIPE?
My kids do not like paneer. I don’t know if it is the texture or what? They do like tofu, so I am not sure why they do not like paneer. I do like paneer, but that is the reason why you will not see paneer recipes on my blog. Whatever I cook and make for my family is present on the blog. That is how I came up with this recipe. I decided to make the Malai Koftas which are essentially Paneer and Aloo Koftas, or Paneer and Potato Koftas. It is usually in a red creamy tomato based sauce, but I decided to put it in Saag Sauce or Curry and get some greens into my kids too, this way.
WHAT IS SAAG?
Saag is essentially a mix of the beautiful winter leafy produce such as mustard greens and spinach. It is typically a North Indian dish origins could be Punjab and Haryana, and is full of flavor from the greens and the spices that go into it. The combination is Makki ki Roti and Sarson ka Saag. That is the combination that you will find in the little dhabbas, or little eateries on the roadside in Northern India. I have one too many memories of us going for family vacations to North Indian destinations, and stopping at these little eateries to get some real authentic, delicious, ghee laden dhabba food. It is really cheap and full of flavor, and you can feel the love that is put into it by the owners of the dhabba, who make the food. You have to wash it down with a savory lassi.
Sarson ka saag means it is made only of mustard greens. Saag is a mixture of the mustard greens and spinach. California is blooming with beautiful greens right now in the winter, and this leafy vegetable was at the farmer’s market, so I bought it and had to make this quintessential saag curry. If you have tried Paneer Saag at Indian restaurants, you know what I am talking about.
This vegetable is my take on the Saag Paneer, with Paneer and Aloo Koftas, which is my opinion is a much better, and delicious combination!
HOW TO GET THE VIBRANT GREEN COLOR?
My very close friend from my childhood days, is here in the Bay Area too, and she is Punjabi. Her mother was from Punjab, and she would make the best chole. I learnt how to make a good looking chole from her mother. Her secret that she shared with me, is in my blog post here. Aunty made good food, good Punjabi food. This is what I learnt from my Punjabi friend(it was her mom’s hack) that to retain the vibrant color, you add a pinch of baking soda to the water, in which you will wilt the greens. The beautiful green color is retained.
HOW TO MAKE THE PANEER AND ALOO KOFTA?
The paneer and potato koftas are pretty easy to make. You essentially grate the paneer and the potatoes, so that there are no lumps in the batter. Add the spices, panko bread crumbs, cilantro and bind the dough. Make about 13-14 balls and stuff each ball with broken cashews. You can try to make smaller balls, if you want more of them. I prefer this size. The flavor profile of these koftas are really delicious and once I fry them, a couple always disappear because my kids love them as is! They are shallow fried, until the balls are golden brown in color.
HOW TO MAKE THE SAAG CURRY?
The Saag Curry itself does not take time to make. You want to wilt the mustard green and spinach in a bit of water, only for a few minutes. The greens are then turned into a green paste, in a high speed blender. I preserve the boiled green water, because it has all the vitamins and minerals from the greens. I just drink the water as is, once I have used a bit to make the curry into a good consistency. I use ghee to make the saag. It gives the curry a good luxurious and richer taste than regular oil. It gives the curry a bit of oomph. The curry is made with a base of onions, tomatoes, bay leaf, garlic, ginger, green chillies, and dry spices. I also add a bit of brown sugar, which is not the norm, but I always add it to balance out all the flavors. The curry cooks up very quickly and you can smell the wonderful aroma in your kitchen. The bay leaf is removed just before serving.
The curry is placed in a serving dish while hot, and the kofta balls are placed on top in a pretty manner. I simply drizzled a bit of heavy cream on the top as a garnish. This curry is wonderful with some parathas, or plain ghee smeared rotlis, or even with some cumin rice. The curry keeps well the next day too. Infact, my family had this dish the next day as well, since my kids had 1 ½ koftas, so we had leftovers for the next day as well. How I love leftovers! 🙂
I hope you get to make this curry and enjoy it, as much as my family did! It was a hit, and I plan to change up the kofta filling with a vegetable kofta perhaps! 🙂
IF you do make it, please do not forget to comment on this blog post, and on the Instagram post as well. Please tag #thejamlab if you make it.