Saag three ways (meat, paneer, and vegan!)

This dish is incredible. It's full of anti-inflammatory spices, calcium-rich, pancreas supporting spinach, and it can be made to suit any dietary preferences. Also it's delicious.

*this recipe is a modified version of one found in Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran, a cookbook I love and use often. If you are interested in learning how to make Indian food but are daunted by the task, this is absolutely the cookbook for you. **The paneer recipe here is straight from the book.


2-3 lbs fresh or frozen spinach (or any other dark leafy green)
1 Tbs ghee, butter, or olive oil
3-5 whole dried red chilis, depending on spice preference
2 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds, divided
10 green cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle and husks discarded, divided
7 whole cloves
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, divided
1/4 tsp asafetida (this is technically optional, but well worth seeking out if you can)
1 red onion, chopped to 1/2 inch squares
3 tbs finely chopped fresh ginger
Ground goat, beef, lamb, or turkey, if using
salt to taste

For paneer, if using (NOTE: make this before making the curry)

1/5 lb fresh whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 Tbs high-heat oil, such as peanut, grapeseed, or duck fat 


Place one dried red chili, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp fennel, and 3 cardamom pods in spice grinder and grind to a powder. Set aside. 

Place spinach in a large pot with two inches of water, bring to a boil and simmer until the leaves are wilted (or thawed completely, if frozen), about 5 minutes. Drain, keeping the cooking water, and puree in a food processor.

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat. Add the remaining chilis, cumin seeds, cardamom, and fennel, along with the cloves, and cook, stirring, until the cumin turns golden brown. Add the onion and salt and sautee, stirring frequently, until it's transparent--8-10 minutes. Add the ginger, spice powder, asafetida, and meat (if using), and cook until the meat is cooked through and brown, or if you aren't using meat, cook for about 45 seconds, stirring. Add in the spinach puree and some of the cooking water, until it's the consistency you desire. Taste for salt. Cook for 10 minutes or so to allow the flavors to integrate. If using paneer, set it on top and cook for 5 more minutes. Serve as is or over soaked rice.

For the paneer (recipe from the cookbook mentioned above):

Preheat the oven to 450. Spread the ricotta evenly in a 9x5-inch loaf pan. Bake until the cheese is lightly browned on top and firm but not dry, about 40 minutes. Let cool (the cheese will firm as it cools, then cut into 1- to -1 /12-inch squares. Heat 1/2 Tbs of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium high heat. Add as many squares of paneer as will comfortably fit and brown the squares on all sides. Drain the cheese on paper towels. Continue this way to brown all of the paneer, adding more oil as needed. Set aside.