Palak Paneer Quiche
- Oil for greasing pan
- Flour, as needed, for dusting quiche pan
- Unsweetened pie crust for a 23 cm (9-inch) tart pan or a frozen pie shell*
- 227 to 340 grams (8 to 12 ounces) paneer cheese or any other non-melting mild cheeses (queso blanco, queso fresco, halloumi) or well-drained firm tofu (preferably high-protein tofu, with less water so denser)
- 30 ml (2 tablespoons) ghee, clarified butter, butter or unflavored vegetable oil
- 10 ml (2 teaspoons) ground cumin
- 2.5 ml (½ teaspoon) ground coriander (optional)
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) minced garlic
- 15 ml (1 tablespoon) grated ginger
- 156 ml (2/3 cup) small-diced onion (yellow, Spanish, Vidalia or red)
- 454 grams (1 pound) fresh spinach** or about 850 grams (30 ounces) frozen chopped or whole spinach or any green leafy vegetables
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) red chili pepper or cayenne pepper
- 7.5 ml (1 ½ teaspoons) ground turmeric
- 2 small diced fresh or canned tomatoes
- 5 ml (1 teaspoon) garam masala
- 3 large eggs
- 473 ml (2 cups) heavy cream
- 7.5 ml (1 ½ teaspoons) salt
*If using a frozen pie shell, read the cooking instructions. Some need to be precooked.
**Any green leafy vegetables, fresh or frozen, may be used. If using fresh leaves, after washing, separate the stem from the leaf. Finely chop the stems. Put aside. You can also choose to skip this task and keep the stems to make soups or stocks. Chop the leaves. You don’t want to have long strings or big chunks of leaves, which would make the cutting of the quiche difficult and messy.
- Regardless of whether you are using a homemade or store-bought crust, grease and lightly flour the quiche pan. Line the mold with the rolled-out dough about .3 cm (1/8-inch) thick. I like to raise a bit of dough (about .2 or 1/6 inch) above the rim of the mold to avoid spillage. Firm up the dough in the fridge for half an hour or in the freezer for few minutes.
2. Cut the cheese or tofu into small cubes about .6 cm (¼-inch). Sauté the cubes in hot oil in a large sauté pan until they acquire a light blond color on several sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve.
3. Add a bit of oil to the sauté pan if none is left. Add the cumin and coriander, if using, to the hot oil and stir over medium of less than a minute. Then add onions and sauté them until translucent. Then add the garlic and ginger. Stir. (At this point you have the option of adding the chopped stems and cooking them until tender; you can cover the pan the pan with a lid and lower the heat to soften the stems for about 5 minutes.) Add bay leaves, red chili and turmeric. Stir for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes. Stir until the tomatoes are cooked, about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.
4. Add the chopped spinach. Stir. Add 5 ml (1 teaspoon) of the salt and cook until tender. Depending on the thickness of the leaves, cover the pan with the lid. Remove the lid and let liquid evaporate toward the end of the cooking. The mixture should be fairly compact without excess liquid. Add the garam masala. Stir. Let cool.
5. In a bowl, combine the eggs, heavy cream, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt; whisk until blended. Once the palak mixture is cool, fill the chilled pie crust 2/3 up the rim of the mold. Distribute the mixture evenly and pack it lightly. Uniformly distribute the cheese or tofu cubes on the surface of the spinach mixture. An approximate .6-1.2 cm (¼-inch to ½-inch) spacing around them has proven to be satisfactory, but there is no real rule here.
6. Preheat an oven to 200°C (390°F). Place the quiche on a baking sheet. Slowly pour the egg-heavy cream custard almost to the top, leaving .3 cm (1/8-inch) space below the top rim of the dough. Make sure that the custard has time to infiltrate the spinach mixture. You can use a fork and gently poke holes between the cubes to help the custard mix with the spinach.
7. Bake the quiche for 20 minutes, 20 minutes, then lower the heat to 177°C (350°F) and bake for another 20 min. If you had to prebake the crust, this cooking time might be shorter. The visible part of the crust should be dry and slightly colored. Add a few minutes of baking time if the crust doesn’t seem cooked or if the top of the quiche doesn’t have a nice light brown color. Let cool a bit on a rack before serving.
- If using tofu cubes instead of cheese — if this is not intended to be a vegan dish — you can sprinkle some grated cheese on top of the custard.
- The egg custard has some salt and can hold up to additional seasonings. If you decide to add some cumin or turmeric or red chili powder, dry roast and sauté the spices in a little bit of oil before adding them to the mixture. It is a staple of Indian cooking to sauté spices to liberate their aroma and avoid a raw taste.
- If you have leftover spinach mixture, add a bit of heavy cream, ricotta or plain yogurt (approximately 15 ml/1 tablespoon of dairy for 1 cup of spinach mixture) and savor it the traditional way with plain rice or flat bread. Alternatively, you can make crustless quiches with the leftover spinach (approximately 1 egg and 118 ml (1/2 cup) of cream for 237 ml (1 cup) of spinach mixture). Here you can fold in the quiche batter with the spinach and pour mixture into a small gratin dish or ramekins.
- The spinach-spice mixture can be made ahead of time and stored, refrigerated, for up to 2 days.
- The quiche freezes well. Defrost it overnight in the fridge then reheat in a 93°C (200°F) preheated oven for about 15/20 minutes.