Once when I was on a flight, I was served what I now identify to be palek paneer, and I thought it was really nice because it had a nice earthy flavor. I tried cooking it myself today by a recipe I found online, and after cooking, it felt quite bland with a very less earthy flavor. I fixed it and gave some flavour by adding some more garam masala, but I still am wondering how I could give more of the earthy flavour.

What could my mistake have been?

I am guessing four possible reasons for this to occur.

  1. Made a mistake in blanching step

  2. The fact that I used baby spinach instead of the big one.

  3. The recipe itself is missing something.

  4. I swapped red onions for white.

Ingredients and recipe

Ingredients:- 2 bunches of Spinach (washed and blanched)

300 gms Paneer

¼ cup tomato chopped

1 tsp. Turmeric

3 red chillies dried whole

Salt as required

3 tbsp. Garlic chopped

1 tsp. Cumin seeds

5 tbsp. Ghee

½ cup red onions chopped


  • Drain and grind Spinach leaves to a fine puree.
  • Heat ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds, dried red chillies, garlic and saute until golden brown.
  • Add the onions, salt and saute until light golden brown in colour.
  • Then add turmeric powder, tomatoes, garam masala and stir fry on high flame for 2-3 minutes.
  • Now add the Spinach puree and water.
  • Boil on high flame for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add paneer to the gravy and stir well.
  • Spicing or preparation might be part of the issue, but you may want to look at ingredient selection. Older vegetables tend to have more developed flavors than the ‘baby’ varieties. You might also consider collard greens instead of spinach, as it tends to have some earthiness to it
    – Joe
    Jun 26, 2023 at 18:37
  • 2
    There is a big difference between good garam masala (made with freshly ground, quality spices) and old preground stuff that's been sitting on the shelf for a year
    – eps
    Jun 26, 2023 at 19:52
  • Cabin altitude is about 8000ft, and the air is very dry, so food tastes differently. You need to consider that as a factor.
    – GdD
    Jun 27, 2023 at 7:47
  • 1
    I'd say that food served on a flight would be less "earthy" than food you eat on the surface ;)
    – uriyabsc
    Jun 28, 2023 at 9:45

2 Answers 2


This is not about blanching or the type of onion. It is possible that mature spinach will add a more "earthy" flavor, but this is most likely the result of a combination of spicing and seasoning. Your recipe is quite simplified compared to others I see online, which include ginger, chili, garam masala, turmeric, among other herbs and spices...I would describe all of these as "earthy" to some degree. Maybe do some recipe exploration.

  • Pedantic point: Garam masala was actually used in this recipe
    – Babu
    Jun 26, 2023 at 17:39
  • 1
    Regardless, your recipe above has very few spices of any kind compared with most recipes.
    – FuzzyChef
    Jun 26, 2023 at 17:56
  • 1
    In addition to your points, with which I agree, definitely need ginger in the onion fry, hing [asafoetida] with the tomato, & near the end, some dried methi [fenugreek leaf], same time as the garam masala goes in [after the boil, which i'd also double the time on, 5-6 mins]. Garam is too early in the OP's recipe. Methi & hing will both add 'earth'. Another option would be to separately fry the paneer first, before mixing in; bit of browning will boost flavour depth.
    – Tetsujin
    Jun 26, 2023 at 19:20

This recipe is a good start, but I think it's lacking in spices and other flavors. There are several methods and spice proportions that you can choose from. Check out these videos for some inspiration: [X][X][X]

Personally, these are the additions I'd make to your recipe:

  • After cooking down the onions, add garlic, ginger, and green chilis. Cook until raw smell is gone (about a minute).
  • Add your ground spices. Include coriander and red chili powder. Cook until the spices bloom (about a minute).
  • When you add the tomatoes, make sure you are cooking them down. Oil separating is a good sign of this.
  • At the end, right before you cut the heat, throw in some kasoori methi. Make sure you roll them between your palms to release flavor.

Play around with the spice proportions until you find something that works for you. Hope this helps! :)

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