Route 79 : Saag
The effects of feeling hungry on the way home
November 1 2003
Tonight - being a Saturday night - Ms.79 and me decided to cook a simple but delicious dinner for ourselves: simply saag. A simple, uncomplicated, wholesome and very fulfilling Punjabi dish that we try to make a tradition of cooking every Saturday morning - to eat on Saturday night. And here follows the recipe:
All you need is a couple of medium-size finely chopped onions. some spices: haldi (turmeric), garam masala, ground coriander, salt - as well as some thawed, frozen lumps of chillie, garlic and ginger from your freezer. (For an explanation of what I mean by thawed lumps - you have to read a previous recipe) And some maize flour (otherwise known as polenta or cornmeal). Oh - and you also need some spinach leaves and leaves of spring greens.
Got these pretty cheap from Asda
We got some green leaves from the supermarket. Spinach and Spring Greens - 300g and 500g respectively. See how cheap they are! Wash all the leaves in your kitchen sink - and then chop them up in batches into coarse ribbons on a chopping board. Dump the chopped-up leaves into a large-ish pan one-third full of boiling water on the stove. (Thanks to Ms.79 for providing the graceful, sexy and sensuous, saag-cooking hands modelled in the kitchen photos.)
Boil the leaves for about 1 hour on a semi-agressive simmer
After about 45 mins of semi-agressive simmering - use a magi-mix blender to zap the mixture in 5 or six very-short bursts in order to break-down the coarse, stewing ribbons of leaf into more finely shredded bits:
Zap the mixture about six times in very short 1-second bursts
After another 20 minutes of simmering - give the mixture a good stir - and then prepare the cornmeal mixture: put two heaped dessert-spoons of maize-flour (polenta/cornmeal) into a glass and then add some water from the tap. Give it a good stir - ensuring that there are no lumps - and then add to the simmering saag mixture.
Add the polenta mixture to thicken the saag
Let it simmer for a few minutes - and then chop a generous knob of butter and add to the pot - stirring until melted.
You will especially enjoy the fact that at this point - the saag is not simmering as such - instead large bubbles start to form just below the surface of the mixture - and erupt like mini-volcanoes - making a gloopy sound - and splattering your kitchen in a 2 metre radius around the pot. So make sure that you keep a lid handy - just haf-covering the pot so that some of the water evaporates and thickens the mixture. Simmer like this gently for another half-hour - stirring occasionally - and then turn off the heat after it has reached your desired consistency.
The pot has been simmering for around 1.5 hours now.
Then get another small pot - put in a little oil - heat up and then add onions. Fry until the onions are slightly golden-brown. Then add the ginger, garlic and chillie. Stir-fry for a few minutes until the smell of it all spreads across the kitchen.
Then add the spices to the browned onions: 2 teaspoons salt, 3 teaspoons turmeric, 3 teaspons garam masala, two teaspoons ground coriander. By now - the special aroma will be wafting its way out of your kitchen and into your garden - and from there - onwards into the kitchens of your next door neighbours. They will be envious.
Add the spices and stir-fry until the spices are roasted and the aroma prevails
Then add the onion-spice mixture to the saag pot - and stir until well mixed:
Adding the spices to the saag
Then - when you are ready to eat - heat-up the completed saag until its just about to boil - serve into a bowl and accompany with either fresh roti - or naan bread (or pitta bread) and a fresh salad of chopped cucumber, halves of cherry tomato, chunky strips of carrot, halves of small radish, and chunkily-chopped red-onion - all tossed in a few dashes of tangy vinegar. Simply delicious!
Serve with fresh roti, naan or pitta bread - and a colourful salad!
If theres any saag remaining in the pot - just put it away into a microwaveable container with a lid - and store in your fridge. It will keep for around 2 days. Just take out of fridge at any time and put container in microwave for a few minutes of reheat - stirring and reheating until piping hot. You can even store in freezer - and will keep for weeks like that. Just make sure you defrost for a few hours before attempting to reheat in microwave. You could also try making aloo saag or paneer saag with the leftovers: in either case you simply get some cubes of potato or paneer and fry them until golden brown - perhaps adding some more masala spice and salt to the frying cubes - and then stir them into the saag and serve piping hot. Wonderfully simple - very nutritious and extremely delicious!
Have you tried this? Even
if you haven't - let me know what you think!