I’ve had a huge writer’s block lately because it’s another month with so many competing concerns in my brain. Whether it's worrying about what to do with our kids for school, losing or finding a job, the health of our family members, finances or a slew of other issues, our brains and emotions are working overtime to find some semblance of calm and balance. For me, that means varying levels of emotions as well as energy (or a lack thereof).

One thing I’ve done is analyze many of my actions and thoughts through this process, such as why I think a certain way or why I do certain things. It’s brought me a little peace to dissect my own mannerisms. It was during this time I started analyzing what draws me to food. I like the solace the food world provides. When the world seems full of problems, food, recipes and preparation can bring us together. We have food every day — at birthdays, celebrations, even funerals. Even when the world is bleak, there's food. It breaks language barriers, it invites cultural learning and it can evoke memories of times past without a single word. It’s our glue and it holds me together when there’s too much pulling at me from all directions.

It’s because of the strength of food that I envelope myself in recipe development, cooking for others and anything food-related. It seems like the perfect thing to absorb my worries and allows me to be helpful in some way.

While I was in the thick of this writer’s block, I had several friends text me with regards to needing help with cooking and recipes. It instantly took me out of my head and gave me purpose, followed by action. I was able to refocus my mind with something I’ve taught myself to do well. I was able to text one friend and tell him how to temper chocolate. I texted back another friend with a palak paneer recipe. Another friend needed a fail-proof garlic bread recipe. I slowly felt aligned again and was able to break my writer's block.

I know recipe posts are scrolled past quickly to get to the actual recipe, and maybe this post will be no different, but I hope it is. I hope the right eyes read this and know that we’re all feeling pulled all over the place and that all of us are trying to realign ourselves with whatever we can. We are all worried about something, but all of us have food in common, whether we cook or not. It’s for all of us.

I hope this recipe is something that brings you together with someone, even if it’s just yourself.

 

Palak Paneer

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of paneer cut into cubes

  • 4-5 cups of fresh spinach (or 2 boxes frozen)

  • 1 onion, chopped

  • 1 tsp. garlic ginger paste

  • 1 tsp. of red chilli powder

  • 2 tsp. of coriander powder

  • 1 tsp. cumin powder

  • 1/2 tsp. of turmeric

  • 1 large pinch dried fenugreek leaves

  • 1 tsp. of garam masala

  • 2 tsp. of or oil

  • 2-3 tsp. of tomato paste

  • 1 cup of milk (I like to substitute 1/4 of it with cream)

  • 1 tbsp. of plain yogurt

 

Directions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and add spinach leaves. Let simmer for about 2 minutes and then remove. Puree to a smooth paste. For frozen, let it thaw and purée.

  2. Drain the water and in the same bowl, heat the oil. Add the cumin powder then add the chopped onions. Saute until golden brown and add the remaining spices. Cook for a few seconds.

  3. Add the minced ginger garlic paste and the tomato paste. Mix well and add the pureed spinach. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

  4. Add the milk and cream, if using. Mix well, bring to boil and add the fenugreek and salt.

  5. Cook covered for about 6-8 mins until the spinach is completely cooked and spices have blended well. Gently add the paneer pieces to the spinach.

  6. Top off with a tablespoon of plain yogurt if you want the sauce to be thicker. Mix well and remove from heat. Adjust spices if needed.

  7. Serve hot with nan, roti or pulao.

 

From Z to A with Zara Abbasi

Zara Abbasi is the pastry chef and recipe developer for Zara Made It. Follow her food adventures on Instagram at @zaramadeit