‘Super’ saag, a versatile spinach curry


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Spinach

The sun seems to set a tiny bit later in the day and I get woken up at dawn by annoyingly chirpy birds, but the cold winds still blow. I can’t decide if winter is finally over. Much as I love roasted parsnips and carrots, the stodgy root vegetables and potatoes of the wintry months have lost their appeal, and I find myself wishing more and more strongly for the lightness and greens of spring. The more delicate herbs and salad leaves may not be ready to take their place at the farmers’ markets, but there is one vegetable that makes a welcome early start on the leafy green front.

The appearance of spinach marks the turn of spring for me. Its tender leaves make a great addition to raw salads, and are beautiful with goat’s cheese, beetroot and a sprinkle of your favourite nuts; or, for a more decadent treat, with crispy bacon and a warm mustard dressing made from the bacon fat. I love it cooked too, simply steamed/blanched, or sautéed with lots and lots of garlic and anchovies.

But since it’s still a bit too chilly for salads, soups and curries seem to me the best way to use the spinach. Do note that spinach cooks down astonishingly, so make sure you get large bunches. Spinach is incredibly rich in nutrients, so there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be enjoying more of it. Popeye had it right!

‘Super’ saag, a versatile spinach curry

Saag (or palak) refers to a puréed 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 marinade your choice of ingredient in your favourite Indian spices, quickly pan fry or roast them à la tandoori, and pour this versatile spinach gravy over. Paneer cubes for the popular palak paneer, potatoes for saag aloo, chicken for saag/palak murgh; it’s ever so versatile.

IngredIents

  • 4 large bunches of spinach
  • 1 handful fresh coriander
  • 8 cloves of garlic, minced (I’m a huge fan of garlic)
  • 1 onion, chopped finely
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 1⁄2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1⁄2 tsp turmeric
  • 1⁄2 cup local and organic cream or full-fat yogurt sea salt
  • Squeeze of lemon
  • 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • Generous pinch of sea salt

Method

  1. Blanch spinach in boiling water for one minute, uncovered. Drain. Refresh in cold water to stop it from overcooking and to retain its beautiful bright green.
  2. Over a medium high heat, add the ghee. Toast the cumin seeds.
  3. Add the onions (plus a pinch of salt), garlic and green chillies, and sauté until the onions sweat and turn translucent, but aren’t browned. Then, add the ground spices and sauté for a minute more.
  4. Adding the puréed spinach, season; bring to a simmer, before stirring in the yogurt or cream and simmering gently for two more minutes.
  5. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon.

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