Citizens, your beloved incarnation of gustatory glory, the omniscient TFD, has this very day decided to share an ancient and delicious recipe from the far-distant shores of India with you!
Archaeologists believe that in approximately 3000 BC, Cardamom, Black Peppercorn, Turmeric and Mustard were harvested for the first time in the Indus Valley region of India.
As early as 2000 BC, the Mohenjdodaro and Harappan civilizations are believed to have made a Saag of Mustard greens in clay pots. It is possible that the Mustard greens were cooked in Yak’s milk.
Paneer came much later. Paneer was an accidental invention by Mongols riding their horses carrying milk in Mushki (Bags made from a dried animal stomach). The heat of their Gobi desert home and the rennet in the stomach turned the milk into Paneer, one of the first cheeses and surviving across the centuries to remain on our tables today.
That said, it was not in fact until the Akbar period in the late 1500s that Paneer was at last introduced to Indian cuisine!
Saag paneer and palak paneer are frequently (and wrongly) used interchangeably, as noted on the fantastic blog monsoonspice.com:
Saag is a generic name for cooked and pureed green leafy vegetables like mustard greens, spinach, fenugreek leaves, kale, spring greens, coriander and even mint leaves and Palak is just palak, ahem, spinach!
Unlike the spinach leaves which takes just few minutes to wilt and cook, Saag takes much longer time as the greens usually have thick leaves and veins and takes long time to break when cooking.
Although many Indian restaurants and takeaways feature Saag Paneer on their menu, most often it is rather confusing for the customer as the base gravy has just spinach! Most often, Saag Paneer and Palak Paneer are used interchangeably, sometimes to mislead and most the times due to lack of knowledge!
Citizens, my bona fide version of this ancient dish is one that I am very confident you will enjoy! :)
Battle on – The Generalissimo