Spinach sauce with garlic and ginger

June 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Dark leafy greens, Derek's faves, Indian, Other)

I made this recipe when I visited my friend Sarah in Israel last summer, except that we made it with chard not spinach.  I quite liked it, and was curious how it would be different with spinach.  Finally, almost a year later, I got a chance to make it again.  The recipe is from the cookbook The Indian Vegetarian by Neelam Batra.  The head note says it complements all types of Indian menus and also works wonders on cooked pasta, vegetables, and tofu.Below is a doubled version of the original recipe, with a few small modifications.


  • 1 pound fresh spinach, trimmed of tough stems and washed (or 20 oz frozen spinach, or a mix of the two)
  • 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 5 or 6 pieces
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 Tbs. oil (I use olive, original recipe called for mustard or peanut oil)
  • 2 Tbs. peeled and minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbs. minced garlic (original recipe doubled was just 2 tsp.)
  • 2 Tbs. ground coriander
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1 tsp. fine salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, or to taste (I suggest starting with 1.5 Tbs. and adding more if desired)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (original recipe called for nonfat yogurt, whisked until smooth)
  • 1 tsp. garam masala for garnish
  • paneer or tofu, 12-16 oz (optional)
  1. Place the spinach, bell pepper, and water in a 4-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the pepper becomes soft, about 5 minutes.  Cool, then puree (using a stick blender, food processor, or stand blender) and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in skillet over moderately high heat and cook the ginger and garlic, stirring, until golden, about 1 minutes.  Stir in the spices, then add the lemon juice.   Pour the spice mixture into the pureed spinach and peppers and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer for 4-5 minutes to blend the flavors.  Stir in the yogurt and remove from the flame.  Garnish with garam masala and tomato wedges, and serve.
  3. Sauce stays fresh in fridge for 5 to 6 days.  It can also be frozen for 2-3 months.  Makes about 4 cups.


Notes from June 18, 2016:

We made this last night for dinner. We doubled the original recipe (now reflected in the ingredient list above), using half a pound of fresh spinach and 5 oz. frozen spinach. I used one large green bell pepper. I cooked the spinach and pepper in my 4-quart pot and then blended it in the pot with my stick blender.

We 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in my 12-inch stainless steel skillet to brown one package of paneer, then moved the paneer to the pot with the pureed spinach and added the rest of the olive oil to cook the ginger and garlic (but more garlic than called for). We reduced the lemon juice slightly (5 tsp. instead of 6) but used a full teaspoon of salt. After the seasonings were done we added them to the pot with the spinach and simmered in briefly. While the spinach was simmering we used the (not yet cleaned) stainless steel pan to pan-steam some potatoes.

The dish turned out tasty. Derek said he really liked it, and we should make it again. Alma tried a couple of bites then gave it back. We only got out about 4 one-pot meal servings out of it. I think if we had also eaten it with some sort of beans or dal, then it would have lasted for 6 meals. In any case, we were definitely glad we doubled the recipe.

Update July 2012:  I made a doubled version of this recipe, but I used chard (about 800g stemmed equalled exactly 1 pound) rather than spinach.  I thought it came out quite strong flavored, but very tasty.  Derek thought the flavors were off.  My garam masala was homemade and perhaps wasn’t quite right.  He didn’t like it at all on the three-pilaf I had made (basmati rice, quinoa, and millet).  Maybe it’s better on potatoes.

Update Feb 2012:

I made this tonight with 2 small light green bell peppers, and an unknown quantity of spinach.  (I didn’t weigh it, but it was about 4 cups of tightly packed trimmed leaves.)  I was careful to put in the specified amounts of garlic and ginger this time, but I reduced the fat to 1 Tablespoon and used coconut oil.  I added the state amount of all the spices and lemon juice, but I used lowfat (1.5% fat) yogurt.  I didn’t have any garam masala so I just added a few pinches of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and black pepper.  After the sauce was done I stirred in about 1/2 pound of raw tofu in cubes.

The dish tasted similar to me.  The main difference was the tofu.   I expected the tofu to taste bland and raw, but it had a creamy, silky texture that reminded me a lot of paneer.  I was surprised.  I’ll definitely add it next time.  I first tried the sauce over rice and I really disliked it. The rice (a whole grain red rice) was too flavorful and the texture didn’t work well with the creamy sauce.  Also, the rice watered down the intense flavors from the sauce.   It was much better over potatoes.  It might work okay over white basmati rice, or maybe with chapatis.

Derek tasted the sauce and said “Delicious” then asked “how much fat is in here?”  He thought it tasted very rich—Indian restaurant rich.  He said it tasted like authentic Indian food.

Rating: B
Derek: A-

Notes from original post (June 28, 2011):

Last summer Sarah and I made this with swiss chard and canola oil.   This time I made it with bagged spinach and olive oil.  It came out pretty similar tasting, if my one-year-old memory is still accurate.  I liked it perhaps just a tad more with a stronger-tasting green, but it was good with spinach too.  The sauce is quite intense tasting, almost pungent.  Of course, I did use more garlic and ginger than called for.  Derek and I ate the sauce over big chunks of steamed potatoes, which it complemented nicely.  We must have liked it because we managed to scarf up all of it for dinner!   Next time I want to try doubling it, and eating it over tofu too.

Rating: B

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