Spinach and Paneer Cheese Pulao

Palak Paneer wale Chawal

Adapted from Flavors First by Vikas Khanna

Basmati rice pulao with spinach and paneer cheese, seasoned with the aromatic bay leaf has a great balance of flavors. I serve this tasty and hearty dish with raita .

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/4 cups basmati rice

1 cup vegetable oil

8 ounces paneer cheese cut into 1-inch cubes

3 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil

1 dried red hot chile (such as chile de arbol), crushed

3 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

2 1/2 cups water

Salt, to taste

4 ounces fresh spinach, chopped

1. Wash and drain the rice and soak it in cold water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Preheat the oven to 250°F.

2. Line a sheet pan with paper towels. Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat to 350°F. Test the oil with a cube of cheese: the cheese should begin to bubble immediately. Lightly fry the paneer until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on lined baking sheet.

3. Heat the ghee or oil in a 3 1/2 quart ovenproof pot with a tight lid and fry the red chile, bay leaves, and peppercorns for 1 minute on medium-high heat. Stir in the rice and fry for 2 minutes. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the cheese, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding a few tablespoons of water if the rice gets too dry.

4. Stir in the spinach and cook uncovered until the water has evaporated, 5 minutes. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and the lid and place in the oven to bake, 5 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Adjust salt to taste and serve hot.

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