As we’ve mentioned a few times lately, we are trying out a low-carb eating plan. And, as we’ve also mentioned before, we like to do #meatlessmonday. Good for us and good for the planet, right? This week, Monday’s dinner was supposed to be a tofu curry with some homemade low-carb naan. And then I happened to look in the fridge and realize that the half-gallon of milk we had barely used was about to expire. And that there were two big bags of spinach filling up most of one produce drawer. Ah, inspiration!
Lloyd and I both love Indian food, but since we usually eat the vegetarian options (lentil dal, aloo gobi, etc.) we figured we’d have to wait for a “cheat meal” before enjoying it again. But Lloyd mentioned that he was pretty sure that the creamy goodness that is saag paneer at our favorite restaurant (Asiana in Austin) probably fit pretty well with our plan.
A bit of internet research and I was convinced. Except that we didn’t have any paneer and it’s not something our small-town HEB sells. But remember that milk languishing in the fridge? Homemade paneer, here we come! And honestly, it was easier than I thought it would be. Even though I only had ultra-filtered low-fat milk and one small piece of cheesecloth. But, surprisingly, it worked out great and tasted way better than the last block we bought at a store! So, if you have the extra time in your day, I’d definitely recommend making your own paneer. If you don’t, just use the store-bought. No judgment here! I just didn’t want that milk to go to waste.
Paneer aside, let’s get to the meat? of this post – the recipe. I adapted the Instant Pot Palak Paneer recipe from Piping Pot Curry to our tastes and to use what we had on hand. While I did use an Instant Pot to make this, it’s almost as easy (and quick) to do on the stove. You’ll want to puree the spinach at the end with an immersion blender, so make sure to use a compatible pan.
- 1 lb Baby Spinach (washed)
- 2 cups paneer, cut into bite sized cubes (I used the results from 1/2 gallon of milk) (add at end)
- 1 tbsp avocado oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 green chili pepper, chopped (I used a serrano because we like it spicy)
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch ginger, minced (I used Dorot crushed ginger, because I was being lazy)
- 1 medium tomato, chopped
- 1/2 cup water
- 1-1/2 tsp garam masala (to add at end)
- 1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves or Kasuri Methi (add at end because I had on hand, feel free to skip)
- 4 Tbsp heavy or whipping cream, divided (add at end)
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp red chili powder (this should be plain dried red chili powder, not the blend commonly seen in the U.S.)
- 2 tsp coriander powder (ground coriander)
- 1 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
Start the Instant Pot in sauté mode. Heat oil and add cumin seeds.
When the cum seeds start to sputter and pop, add the onion, ginger, garlic and green chili. Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add the tomato and spices and cook for another couple of minutes.
Add water and deglaze the pot.
Add the spinach. Press cancel and close the lid, then put the vent in the sealing position. Pressure cook on high pressure for 2 minutes. Allow a 5-minute natural release, then release the remaining pressure manually.
Use an immersion blender to blend the ingredients in the pot until creamy. This is up to you – you can leave the spinach whole (especially if you used baby spinach as I did) or you can blend all the way into a creamy, spinachy gravy consistency. Both are wonderful!
Add the garam masala, dried fenugreek leaves and stir.
Gently fold in the paneer (especially if you used fresh) so that it doesn’t crumble. Let it sit for 5 minutes to soak up the flavors.
After serving, top each portion with 1-2 Tbsp of heavy cream.
Enjoy with naan, roti or any bread you have on hand to soak up the last of the creamy goodness. We split an extremely inauthentic low-carb tortilla (I made paneer, I wasn’t making naan, too).
Serves 2 hungry people as a main dish. Probably would serve 4 as a side.
You can use frozen spinach, it will just take longer for your instant pot to come to pressure.
If you don’t have garam masala, here’s an easy recipe.
If you don’t like spicy, leave the serrano out or switch to a jalapeno or milder green chile.
If you’re interested in making your own paneer, try this recipe. I used about a quart less 1 cup of ultra-filtered low-fat milk (HEB Mootopia), 1 cup of half and half (to make up for the milk being low-fat), and vinegar to create the curds. That’s what I had on hand.
In case you were curious, this is palak paneer because it’s made with only spinach. Saag paneer is the same, but made with any leafy greens or a combination of greens. I’m planning to try saag paneer made with the big bag of Power Greens from Costco sometime soon.