In the Kitchen: Fake Indian Spinach and Chicken

I have no idea where or when I originally found the basis of this recipe. It's evolved over the years and I think it's the result of cobbling together two separate recipes. You could leave out the chicken, or substitute firm tofu, or, as I sometimes do, use both chicken and tofu. (A little protein overdose never hurt anyone.) This is incredibly good as leftovers. Amazing how often I hear its voice in my refrigerator saying "Have a spoonful of me! Just one spoonful!"

  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 2. T. ghee or butter
  • 4 peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • to taste: cayenne, fennel seeds, whole cardamom, garam masala*
  • 2 onions, diced
  • generous tablespoon of diced ginger
  • 1 T. tomato paste
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 boneless skinless chicken breast, but in half-inch pieces
  • 1 box frozen spinach, thawed (obviously use fresh if you prefer)
  • 1/4 c. yogurt


I cook this in my ancient Atlas wok (one of those 20-pound steel monsters with the wooden handle), but you can use any kind of large pan.

Heat oil until very hot. Add the ghee or butter. If you use butter, pay heed. It will start to foam and brown almost instantly. That's the point of using ghee (which I never do): it has a higher "burn" temperature than butter.

Add the spices and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add the onion and ginger. Cook these slowly over medium heat for about 15 minutes until the onion is caramelized. (It will seem like too much onion, and too long a cooking time. Trust me, it's not and it's not. The onions are what give this dish its body.)

Add the garlic and cook a minute or two. Add the tomato paste and stir and cook a few minutes.  Add the chicken and cook five or six minutes.  Add the spinach, and salt and pepper. Toss with a large fork to mix. Cook another three or four minutes.  

Add the yogurt and a bit of water. Cover and cook for 15 or 20 minutes (or whatever). Toward the end, I usually take the lid off and cook several minutes to let some of the liquid evaporate.

* I make my own garam masala. You can find a recipe anywhere. But you can also buy it ready-made.