I used to dislike paneer saag, and, by extension, saag dishes in general. I have never been a big fan of cooked greens of any sort, and with apologies to those who love paneer, it kind of tastes like tofu to me. Which is to say that while totally inoffensive, it seems, to me anyway (maybe I’ve never had great paneer?) to take on the flavor of the sauce it is in but does not seem to contribute much.
But then one day I was at an Indian buffet, where I always like to take advantage of trying different dishes, and they had saag with chicken instead. Eureka! With some yogurt or raita and tamarind chutney, the dish was stellar, completely different. The chicken added some quality, perhaps that 5th flavor umami everyone is talking about lately, that really balanced the spinach for me. So when I saw Julie Sahni’s recipe for gosht saag, the same dish made with beef, in Classic Indian Cooking I knew I was going to try it.
I personally like this dish spicy, but I also like the additional yogurt, not for cooling, but more for its sour tang. And the tamarind is outstanding on it. The whole family enjoyed this, especially Alex who was still asking for it several days later. Good thing we froze some! Next time I will use chuck, as I have called for below. Its texture is just so much more tender and melting than the beef round, although higher in fat I grant you. Similarly I would also use less spinach next time and have therefore called for less after consulting other recipes–so increase by 1 cup if you really love spinach.
- 2 10-oz boxes of frozen chopped spinach (or equivalent, about 2 cups, cooked and chopped)
- 4 T vegetable oil
- 3 lbs boneless beef chuck* (see note below) or lamb -- cut in 1½-inch pieces
- 3½ cups onions -- thinly sliced
- 2 T garlic, minced
- 3 T fresh ginger root, minced
- 1 T ground cumin
- 2 T ground coriander
- 1 t turmeric
- ½ 15-oz can of tomatoes, chopped
- 3 green chiles, seeded and minced
- 4 T plain whole fat yogurt
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 12 green cardamom pods
- 9 whole cloves
- 3 bay leaves
- 1 T kosher salt, to taste
- 3-4 t garam masala, to taste
- cayenne pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 300 F.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 5-6 qt Dutch oven over high heat until very hot. Pat the meat dry on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add to the pot in batches. Brown the meat, turning until nicely seared on all sides. After each batch is browned, transfer it to a large plate.
- Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the frying pan, and add the onions. Reduce heat to
- medium-high, and fry until they turn caramel brown (about 25 minutes), stirring occasionally to
- prevent scorching. Add the garlic and ginger, and fry for an additional 2 minutes. Add the dry ground spices and fry for 1 minute, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Then add the tomatoes and chiles, scraping at the bottom of the pot to deglaze it. Fry the tomatoes for about 5 minutes total. The entire mixture will turn into a "thick pulpy paste." Add the yogurt and immediately turn off the heat. Using an immersion blender, puree as best you can (or you can transfer it to a blender, as Sahnit suggests, but frankly I just don't care that much that my braised beef sauce is smooth).
- Add the meat back into to the Dutch oven, along with the whole spices (Sahni recommends tying them into a cheesecloth and crushing slightly but I could not find my cheesecloth so we just picked around them). Add 3 cups of water and/or beef stock (I used water plus some Better Than Bouillon beef soup base) to the Dutch oven. Stir to mix the sauce and beef evenly. Bring to a boil and then cover with a tight fitting lid (if there is a lot of head room in the pot, cover with parchment paper first).
- Place the Dutch oven in the middle level of the oven for 3 hours, or until the beef is fork tender. *Sahni recommends top round but I prefer chuck because I think it gets much more tender.
- Remove the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, and any other whole spices you catch when it is done. Add the spinach and garam masala to the dish and stir to incorporate evenly. Cover the pot, return it to the oven or stove, and cook for 5 minutes more. Turn off the oven, and let the
- pot remain undisturbed for an additional 10 minutes. Taste to see if it needs salt, cayenne pepper or more yogurt. Serve over basmati rice.
That Girl says
I'm such a boring adventuress. On one hand – I love Saag paneer…and obviously must have been fairly bold to try it for the first time. On the other hand, it's the only saag dish I've ever eaten, proving that I stick to what I know.
noble pig says
Oh I wish we had smell-o-vision. Sounds wonderful.
That Girl–sounds like me and aloo mattar. It was all I ever ate at Indian restaurants for about 10 years. No joke. But I don't like my local restaurant's aloo mattar much, ergo I have been branching out. By necessity. 🙂
Ravenous Couple says
the flavors of this sauce sound fantastic! thanks for the recipe…
Wow, this spinach looks so tasty…and I love when yogurt is added to the dish…yummie!
I'm a paneer lover. 🙂 I recently served it in a 660 Curries dish and one thing I loved was how the mellow cheese cut the spiciness of the dish. Very nice. This dish looks yummy and will go on my to-try list. Thanks.
where is the tamarind that you mention in the intro?
Kate: I think you are referring to the tamarind chutney. There is no tamarind in the dish, but rather I loved it with the chutney on top.