Winter is the season that brings along an array of beautiful green leafy vegetables to be savored in many forms. The most popular North-Indian recipe using them is Sarson ka Saag. ‘Saag’ is usually a term used to denote a dish prepared with the combination of leafy vegetables.
My mom spent all her childhood in Punjab because my maternal grandfather was posted there. She has fond memories of Sarson ka Saag being cooked over low heat, simmering for a long time. She works very hard to bring back the flavor when she cooks it even today.
The following is the recipe of my (maternal) grandmother that has been cooked and loved by one and all. Every time I cook it, I work hard to re-create the taste that would bring back to my mum fond memories of her childhood while hoping to pass on the legacy of its rich taste to my child.
Sarson ka Saag:
Difficulty Level: Medium
- Fresh Mustard (Sarson) leaves – 3 bunches
- Spinach – 1 bunch ( if using Bathua along, else 2 bunches)
- Bathua (called Chakwat in Marathi) – 1 bunch ( optional)
- Green Chilies – 3
- Dried Red Chilies – 3
- Onion – 1 medium size
- Ginger – 1/2 inch piece
- Garlic – 8 cloves
- Maize Flour – 1 cup
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – to taste ( approx. 1.25 tsp)
- Green Mango Powder (Amchur) – 2 tsp
- Ghee – 2.5 tbsp ( you can also cook it in oil)
- Thoroughly clean, wash ( multiple times in a large dish to remove all soil) and chop the mustard leaves, spinach and bathua. Remove the roots but keep the stems and chop them well.
- Chop the onion, ginger, garlic and chilies finely. Break the dry chilies into small bits.
- Place a large pressure cooker or any large pot ( I use a 5 lt. pressure cooker) with 3 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt to boil on a gas stove. When the water starts boiling well, add the green leaves & the chopped green chilies. Add half of chopped ginger and garlic and half of the red chili bits. Keep the water boiling well for 5 to 6 minutes, seeing to the texture of the greens. Make sure you push down the greens every time they rise to the surface. Let it boil till the vegetable is mashy.
- Turn the boiled vegetables in a colander and wash thoroughly with cold water.This will restore the brilliant color. Drain off the water and let the mixture cool. Blend it into a smooth paste in a mixer.
- Place a large, thick-bottomed pot on stove add the churned vegetables and let it cook to let it lose the water of the green leafy vegetables. Mix the maize flour in 2 cups of water thoroughly well, checking that there are no lumps. Pour it in the vegetable and keep stirring briskly to blend it well with the vegetables. In case, maize flour isn’t available, cornmeal can be used.
- Add half of the turmeric, salt and 1 tablespoon of ghee to the mix and allow it to simmer on low heat for another half an hour to 40 minutes. Slow cooking is crucial to the rich taste. Keep stirring in between to avoid the mixture from sticking to the base of the pot.
- Mix the green mango powder in 1 tablespoon water and dissolve well to avoid any lumps. Mix it in the vegetable mixture.
- Place another small pan on gas with remaining ghee. When the ghee is hot, season it with cumin seeds, remaining ginger and garlic. Fry for a while and put in the chopped onions and red chili bits. Fry the onion to nice golden color. Add the remaining turmeric, stir and pour the contents of this bowl in the vegetable mixture.
- Mix thoroughly and remove from heat.
- Serve hot with a generous dollop of butter or ghee on top and Makki (maize flour) rotis smeared with generous dose of ghee or butter. This combination makes for a delightful Punjabi treat in winters that serves greens in a lip-smacking rich flavor.
Tip: This recipe requires a lot of patience and time. Hurrying up will steal the rich flavors that slow cooking over low heat infuses in this recipe. Be generous with ghee or butter to enjoy this delightful recipe in its authentic form.
Variation: Adding a turnip to the Saag while cooking can add a flavorsome twist to its flavor producing an equally tasty variant.
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