Pick leaves from three bunches of English spinach. Wash and rinse them in cold water to remove sand and dirt. Bring a pot of water to boil. Add spinach leaves with a pinch of salt to the hot water and cook for 2 minutes. While the leaves are cooking, add cold water to a large bowl/basin. Add ice cubes to ensure the water is very cold. As soon as the 2 minutes are up, scoop the spinach leaves into the ice water bath and submerge them completely. Set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a sauté pan on medium. Add green chilli, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, tossing constantly until onion is glazed and caramelized.
Add the onion mixture to a blender. Scoop the spinach leaves out of the cold water, squeeze them lightly and add to the blender with ½ cup cold water from the bowl. Blend into a very smooth purée.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same sauté pan on medium. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf, cloves and peppercorns. When the whole spices turn fragrant in a few seconds, reduce heat to low and add the spinach purée to the pan. Mix well.
Add turmeric, chilli powder and methi. Increase heat to medium-low and cook for a minute.
Add paneer, amchur, garam masala and salt. Mix gently and continue cooking on medium low for another 2 minutes until heated through.
Remove from heat and serve hot.
*Spinach – Cook the spinach for the exact amount of time stipulated in the recipe to ensure you retain the vibrant green colour. (2 minutes blanching in hot water, a long soak in the ice bath, and 2-3 minutes final cooking time). Overcooking the spinach will result in more oxidization and the spinach will become darker. Make sure you are picking only the leaves and removing all the hard stems to ensure that your dish is not bitter.**Methi - Methi is dried fenugreek leaves and is available at Indian supermarkets and specialty spice stores. If you can't find it, just skip it.***Amchur – Amchur is dried mango powder and is available in specialty spice stores and Indian supermarkets. It adds a touch of sourness to the dish. If you can’t find amchur, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. This also helps reduce the bitterness of spinach.For more decadence, use ghee instead of olive oil and add a tablespoon of cream to the finished dish.Extra Tempering – I often add this extra tempering when preparing this Palak Paneer dish for special occasions or entertaining. It is a technique often used in restaurants and adds an entirely new dimension to this already delicious recipe. After the dish is done cooking, heat two tablespoons of ghee/olive oil in a small frying pan on medium-low heat. Add ½ teaspoon of cumin seeds, 3 large garlic cloves sliced thinly and smashed, one whole red dried chilli (or a teaspoon of red chilli flakes) and ¼ teaspoon red chilli powder. Cook only for a few seconds until the cumin seeds start spluttering and garlic is gently caramelized. Remove from heat and pour over the finished dish.Paneer – Paneer can be added in its raw form or you could pan fry in a bit of oil until slightly golden (like in this recipe) and add that to the curry.Make It Vegan – Substitute paneer with tofu in the main recipe.