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”.

Basic ingredients

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 it’s 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 there’s 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!
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