Whilst picking nettle tops a few weeks ago, a friend and I mused about how delicious they would be if featured in the classic Indian dish Palak Paneer in place of spinach. Man, was that right on…
What You’ll Need:
1 pound fresh stinging nettle tops
1 pound paneer, cubed (you can use any firm cheese such as haloumi or farmer’s cheese)
1 medium onion finely sliced
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 3 inch long piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1/4 cup milk (can use coconut milk)
1 cup tomato sauce or puree
4 tbsp ghee (can also use butter or coconut oil)
1 whole cayenne pepper (either dry or fresh—minced if fresh)
A 1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
4-6 whole cloves
4-6 whole cardamom pods
1 heaping tsp (or more to taste) coriander powder
1 heaping tsp (or more to taste) cumin powder
1 or 2 heaping tsp Garam Masala (or your favorite curry blend)
Salt to taste
- Put a pot of water on the stove at medium heat with a steamer basket.
- Wash the nettle tops and chop into rough 1 inch sections.
- When the steamer is at a rolling boil, add the nettle tops and steam for about 5 minutes, until they are very tender and bright green. Once steamed, wash them in cold water, squeeze off the excess moisture, and set aside.
- In a medium to large pot (or dutch oven, which is ideal) heat the ghee on medium heat. Once melted, drop in your panner and fry on each side until a light golden brown. Set on a plate covered with brown paper or a paper towel once cooked.
- Drop in the onions and sweat them down until they just start to caramelize—around 5 minutes or so.
- Drop in the clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add all dry spices and cook for another 1 minute or so.
- Add the finely minced garlic and ginger. Cook this for around 2 minutes, until the sharpness of the garlic and ginger mellows out. Add around a 1/4 cup of water to keep the spice mixture from burning.
- While the spices cook down, either finely chop the steamed and rinsed nettles or pop them into a food processor and pulse them into a fine paste (I like to chop half and pulse the other, for a more textured end result).
- Put the tomato puree and nettles into the pan, add in the milk, and stir everything together. Cover and let cook down for 2 or 3 minutes.
- Remove the lid and stir. Add salt to taste.
- Drop in the dried paneer, stir together, and let the mixture heat on low for another 5 minutes.
- Serve over cooked rice and indulge.