Spinach is in season and I love it so much, I think I kind of went overboard with the number of bunches I happily put into my grocery bag. To save my bursting little fridge some space, I thought it'd be a good idea to cook them in some sort of pureed soup because spinach cooks down beautifully, but then I suddenly thought of one of my favourite Indian dishes, Palak Paneer!
Saag (or Palak) refers to a pureed spinach curry and it's super handy because you can make proud claims to a list of at least six Indian dishes with just one recipe. Just pour the spinach gravy over ____________(fill in the blank), usually marinated in Indian spices and panfried/roasted a la tandoori, and you get:
1. Paneer --the ever-favourite Palak Paneer.
2. Chicken-- Palak (or Saag) Murgh
3. Mutton-- Saag Gosht
4. Prawns-- Jhinga Saag
5. Chickpeas-- Chana Saag
6. Potatoes-- Saag Aloo
There are two recipes which I've tried and love. One uses tomatoes and cream and tastes just divine, while the other uses yogurt and nothing red and is also delicious (and a brilliant shade of green).
Saag/Palak Recipe No. 1 (adapted from vahchef, I love this enthusiastic Indian chef)
makes about 1 1/2 cup
4 large bunches of spinach leaves
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tbsp minced ginger
1 tomato, chopped
whole garam masala (1 cinnamon stick, 3 cloves, 3 cardamom pods)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp chilli powder (or to taste)
1 tbsp fenugreek leaves (I don't have this so I left it out)
2 green chillies, chopped
1-2 tbsp cream
1 tbsp ghee
1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 1 min, uncovered (vahchef says the whole process should be uncovered to keep the bright green of the spinach). Drain. Refresh. Puree.
Watch this mountain of spinach that's too huge to fit into the photo,
wilt into 1 cup of cooked spinach (spinach being refreshed under cold running water)
2. Over medium high heat, add the ghee. Toast the whole garam masala for a while.
3. Add the onions, with a pinch of salt (this helps it to 'melt' faster). Saute until translucent.
4. Add the ginger, followed by the garlic, turmeric, and finally the chopped tomatoes. Saute until tomatoes turn to mush.
5. Add the ground spices and green chillies, saute for couple more min.
6. Add the spinach puree, season, and cook till the oil separates. Stir in the cream, plus drizzle more to finish!
Saag/Palak Recipe No. 2 (inspired by sanjeev kapoor)
4 large bunches of spinach
1 handful fresh coriander i.e. cilantro (secret ingredient!)
8 cloves of garlic, minced (he loves garlic and so do I)
1 onion, sliced thinly (I chopped instead)
2 green chillies, chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup yogurt
squeeze of lemon
1 tbsp of ghee
1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 1 min, uncovered (vahchef says the whole process should be uncovered to keep the bright green of the spinach). Drain. Refresh. Puree with the fresh coriander.
2. Over medium high heat, add the ghee. Toast the cumin seeds.
3. Add the onions (plus pinch of salt), garlic and green chillies, and saute till the onions turn translucent, but aren't browned.
4. Add the ground spices to toast for a while. (He says to add the yogurt before the spices but I tried it and the sauce split after being boiled.)
5. Add the pureed spinach, season bring to boil, before adding the yogurt and simmering gently for 2 more min.
6. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon (His granny says that helps in the digestion of greens, and granny/mummy's always right;) ) and a drizzle of yogurt.
I love both recipes and switch them around depending on the __________ and my mood. This is my favourite way to get spinach into my diet. I'd find it difficult to munch through 4 large bunches of raw spinach, but I can easily finish a bowl of saag. Cooking spinach also reduces the oxalic acids in the fresh greens, making it healthier and more digestible. All that aside, the best thing about saag or palak is, simply, that it's really yum !(: