Meet my neighbour, Lakshmi Singam

August 3, 2020

We came to Australia from India. My husband Raja and I decided to come here to make a better life, and our two boys Aatish and Advaith were born here. It was encouraging to see the number of opportunities available in Australia. Also it is a multicultural society with a growing economy.

There is a richer and more diverse culture as well as a more skilled workforce.

Moving from India was a big change for me. I fell in love with Melbourne from day one. It is a rich city with great weather and shops full of goodness.

On my first day I went shopping. I walked into a shop and was greeted by a smiling shop assistant. She asked ‘How ya’ going’ in Australian slang.  I felt like I belonged

Initially it was hard to get work in my profession. (I had a degree in Accounting and Raja is a software engineer).

The boys manage well living with the mix of cultures. My husband and I want them to know the best of both cultures. We like to include them in all Indian events and festivals, we try to teach scientific cultural values behind celebrating festivals. We wear traditional dress for these events as well as for special occasions. We often visit our parents and immediate family in India. We try to maintain close connections to our families in India through regular phone calls.

We like life here in Lucas because we have friendly neighbours and we love all the walking tracks.

We like to eat Indian food two to three times a week. We also like Thai and Chinese food.

When we have takeaway food it is usually Chinese or fish and chips.

I have chosen to share a recipe that uses ingredients that many of you will have at home.

* The Paneer / pieces of cottage cheese can be bought at any Indian store.

Palak paneer is a popular vegetarian Indian dish made of cottage cheese mixed with a creamy spinach sauce that is infused with spices. This flavourful dish is easy to make at home.

Serve the dish with Roti (flat bread) or Rice

INGREDIENTS

Paneer

10 Pieces Paneer / (special cottage cheese)

3 tablespoons ghee or Butter

Pinch of salt

Spinach Sauce

3 cups of pre-washed baby spinach or palak

2 tablespoons ghee or Oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

½ inch ginger - roughly chopped

1 or 2 small to medium garlic cloves - roughly chopped

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons garam masala

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

2 Chillies or ½ teaspoon Chilli powder

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/4 teaspoon salt

Bay leaf

1 to 2 teaspoons of cream

Process

Pan Fry Paneer

Cut the paneer into small pieces. Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of ghee or Butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add paneer pieces and pan fry until golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Sprinkle a small pinch of salt over the paneer before flipping them over. Then, pan fry the other side until golden brown, (about 2 minutes). Transfer the fried paneer to a plate.

Spinach Sauce

Boil 3 cups water in microwave or in a pan. Add  ¼ tsp salt to the hot water and stir. When the water comes to a rolling boil, switch off the flame. Add the spinach leaves in the hot water. Let the palak leaves sit in the water for about 1 minute. Strain the spinach leaves.

Immediately add the palak or spinach leaves in a pan or bowl containing ice cold water. This method helps in preserving the green colour of the spinach. Just add 8 to 10 ice cubes to 3 cups water to get cold water. Allow the spinach leaves to be in the cold water for a minute.

Then drain the ice cold water. Add the spinach in a blender or grinder jar with ½ inch chopped ginger, (1 or 2 small to medium) garlic cloves and 1 or 2 green chillies. Make a smooth palak puree. No need to add water while making the puree. Keep the spinach puree aside.

Heat oil or ghee in a pan, Add the cumin and let them splutter, add bay leaf.

Add the finely chopped onions. Sauté till the onions become golden, then add the finely chopped garlic. Sauté till the raw aroma of garlic goes away. No need to brown the garlic. Then add the turmeric powder, red chilli powder or chillies and Stir very well.

Then add the spinach puree and Stir well. Add about ⅓ to ½ cup of water or as required. Stir again.

Simmer the gravy for 6-7 minutes or more till the spinach is cooked. Season with salt. The gravy or sauce will also thicken by now.

Stir and add (½ tsp) garam masala powder.

Stir again and then add the paneer cubes (cottage cheese). Stir gently and simmer on a low flame till the paneer cubes become soft and succulent. Cook for about half to 1 minute.

Lastly add cream, Stir gently again so that the cream gets incorporated in the gravy uniformly. Switch off the flame.

Stir and serve palak paneer hot with some roti  or ghee rice. You can top it with some butter or cream also while serving. Also drizzle a few drops of lime or lemon juice on top along with ginger julienne on the palak paneer.

Thank you to Lakshmi Singam for this great recipe.

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