Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club

Saag Paneer (Greens with Fresh Indian Cheese)

Saag Paneer (Greens with Fresh Indian Cheese)

Immigrants from Northern India have popularized dishes like this one in Australian cities. The Sanskrit word saag means “greens”—not just spinach (known as palak). Paneer is a firm cheese with a high melting point made from milk curdled with lemon juice or another acid. If you cannot find it, halloumi, feta, or queso fresco make good stand-ins.


  • 1 pound baby spinach, cleaned of any sand or grit
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea)
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided use
  • 8 ounces paneer, halloumi, feta (drained), or queso fresco
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 to 2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure chili powder, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Basmati rice and/or naan, for serving


Step 1

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spinach and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the spinach, reserving a few tablespoons of the cooking liquid. Place the spinach and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking liquid in the jar of a blender or the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is coarsely pureed. Set aside.

Step 2

Cut the cheese into 1-inch cubes. (If the cheese is damp, dry it on paper towels first.) Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil as well as the cheese cubes. Sauté the cheese in a single layer (work in batches, if necessary), until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to paper towels (again, in a single layer).

Step 3

Add an additional tablespoon of olive oil to the oil that remains in the skillet. Add the onion and chile and sauté over medium heat until soft, about 3
minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and chili powder and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the reserved spinach mixture and the cheese and heat gently. Stir in the lemon juice and cream and add salt to taste. Serve warm with basmati rice and/or naan.

Serves 2 to 3 as a main course