Years ago I decided to expand my culinary horizons by attending a Pakistani cooking class. At that time, I knew nothing about Indian and Pakistani cuisine. I wasn’t even a big fan of it back then. However, if an opportunity arises to expand your horizons, take it. Never turn down the chance to learn.
The instructor of my course was a local Beijing restauranteur named Samia whose Pakistani eatery menu was based on traditional recipes used by herself and her family for generations. Unlike other cooking classes that I have taken, this really challenged my skill and taste level. She taught us how to layer flavors and do things properly. Sometimes in my dreams I can still hear yelling at me in the kitchen to not smash the garlic and hold that clever properly.
This recipe for Aloo Palak (Pakistani Spinach curry with potatoes) was one of the first things she ever taught me. Fresh spinach washed and painstakingly chopped simmered for hours in oil, spices and water before potatoes are added to fry in the mix. It was so tender and creamy that it was hard to believe this magic we cooked up was plain old spinach.
Over the years I’ve been cooking up this spinach curry for my family making changes along the way. Instead of 1/2 cup of oil, I use 1/4. Since fenugreek has a tendency to turn bitter, I’ve cut down the amount from 3 tbsp to 1 humble little teaspoon and threw in some cumin for added spice and substituted plain yogurt for milk to give it a little kick. The end result is a hearty creamy spinach curry with hearty chunks of potato all lightly flavored with all the right spices. I hope Samia would approve.
A creamy Pakistani spinach curry slow cooked with spices and hearty chunks of potato. Serve with basmati rice for a satisfying vegetarian meal. #spinach #potato #vegetarian #Pakistani #curry
2 large bunched of fresh spinach (~1 kg/ 2 lb)
1 head of garlic
2 inches / 4.5 cm ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)
1 large onion (diced)
1/2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp fenugreek
1/4 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp sea salt
2 cups / 480 ml water
1 large potato (peeled and chopped into pieces no larger than 1 inch / 2 cm)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 green finger chiles (chopped)
1 heaping tablespoon of plain unsweetened yogurt
Cut the roots off the spinach then wash and dry as best as you can.
Cut the stalks of the spinach leaves as thin as you can (almost like you are mincing them) then cut the leaves a little bigger (no larger than 1 cm / 0.5 inch thick). Place in a large bowl and set aside.
Remove garlic cloves from shells and cut away the fibrous base. Place in a food processor with peeled and chopped ginger and blitz to form a ginger garlic paste. If you don’t have a food processor, you can grate the ginger and mince the garlic. It works just as well.
In a large pot, heat oil over medium to medium high heat. When oil is hot (after a minute or so), add diced onions and saute until translucent.
When onions are soft and translucent, add ginger garlic paste and stir. Cook until fragrant (about 1-2 minutes) and be careful not to let it burn.
Next add fenugreek, ground cumin, turmeric and sea salt. Stir together and let cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add chopped spinach and mixture into onion mixture. Let cook for 1-2 minutes until wilted.
Add 2 cups of water and increase heat to high. Let boil for a minute or so, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 1 hour.
After 1 hour, increase heat to high and cook off any excess oil. Make sure you remain vigilant when doing this and stir it every so often to prevent it sticking to the bottom and burning.
After most of the water has been cooked off, add 1 heaping tablespoon of plain unsweetened yogurt and stir into the curry until thoroughly incorporated.
Then add potatoes and chopped chiles. Stir them into the spinach curry then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through then turn off heat and serve.
Pair with buttery naan or fluffy basmati rice for maximun feasting.
- Category: Vegetarian, Curry
- Method: Slow cooking
- Cuisine: Indian/Pakistani
Keywords: spinach, potato, curry, vegetarian, Pakistani, Indian, fenugreek, cumin