Whenever the name of Punjab(also known as India's bread basket, because it is the largest provider of wheat to India) comes to discussion, it's kind of impossible not to mention Makki di roti te Saro da Saag(Dish made with brocalli rabe & spinach eaten with corn tortilla kind of indianbread)......This post was due actually from many days but because I didn't had good pics, so I was kind of delaying it but now as lohri is here I can't delay it any more. It's the best time to post this recipe as Lohri : the liveliest bonfire festival, is very important festival of punjab and is celebrated every year on 13th of January and next day which is makar sankrant is celebrated in other parts of India by different names. Lohri(lori) is a festival connected with the solar year, it marks the beginning of the end of winter, confusing.....let me simplify, lohri is beleived to be the longest night of the year, so from next day the day light start to increase(so end of winters begin). For more info on Lori click here & here or for more interesting option rent bollywood hit movie "Veer Zaara" (again shahrukh khan but don't worry this time he's with sadi apni kudi preety jinta). I would like to wish all my fellow bloggers a very Happy Lohri/ Makar sankrant/ Pongal. For some reasons I always loved this festival may be because through out India each state celebrates it but with different name & different rituals.
Now, coming to today's recipe, when you ask any Punjabi or for that matter any north Indian about saag its usually assumed to be sarson(mustard greens) ka ssag. In case of any other leafy greens are used for saag then it's kind of specific like bathua ka saag, chaulli ka saag etc. As I mentioned above if you want the original taste the brocalli rabe is the right choice but if you don't get it go ahead and use mustard greens by all means. Before starting the recipe another thing I like to say that there are hundreds of recipes for this same dish out there, everyone claiming to be authentic, but what my experience is basics are same but each & every household adjust it as per their taste so its kind of authentic to their household. Claiming one particular recipe to be authentic is too much of a statement, to me if it's sarson da saag & it not only looks but taste & smells like one it's authentic enough. On the part of looks, those who have eaten saag in any part of northern India will agree with me it's not pureed & it's not bright green instead coarse texture with dark green color.
Indian sarson is sometime bit hardy, in that case chop around a inch or two from the bottom & chop the rest of the stem & leaves very fine. These greens have some sort of bitterness to it & if you don't like that in that case you can always add a turnip or two. Saag is a winter vegetable, so with the onset of winters street hawker with fresh saag straight from the farms will come to the residential areas even in the cities like Delhi, early in the morning, calling in loud voices "Sarson Ka Saag lelo...." and my Mom cooks excellent saag, I don't remember even a single day when she refused to the hawker that she doesn't need it, because if you like it you really can't say no to this stuff. In my house the day it's bought, it's cooked same day but final preparation(tadka) is usually done next day. Because it always taste better after a day or two(try it & u'll know it). Over here, though brocalli rabe & mustard greens are available thru out the year but for some reasons I don't feel like cooking them till the cold weather starts. I believe when you eat seasonal food it tastes better. And as the post is already longer, so for health benefits only one statement everyone out there is right "Dark Green Leafy Veggies are good for you", so just believe them & don't get into technicalities of nutrients & vitamins in it. Finally the recipe......
- 2 bunch brocalli rabe, washed, rinsed & chopped
- 1 small bunch spinach, washed, rinsed & chopped
- 1 medium size turnip(optional) chopped
- 6-7 green chillies(adjust as per your taste)
- ginger around 2 Tblsp. chopped
- 6-7 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped tomato
- 1 Tblsp. tomato paste(optional)
- desi ghee(calrified butter) or any cooking oil for vegan version
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds(jeera)
- 1 tsp. red chilli powder
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 3 Tblsp. corn meal(makki ka atta)(alternatively use whole wheat flour)
- Pressure cook for one whistle, all the greens along with green chillies, ginger, salt & turnips(if using) with very little water. I would probably use 1/2 a cup if greens were allowed to drain well after wash. Some of you must be thinking who pressure cook greens, well for this recipe I do, alternatively u can steam it in microwave.
- Let it cool a bit, now using hand blender mash it coarsely. DO NOT PUREE IT, IF USING REGULAR BLENDER, DO IT IN SMALL PORTIONS, USE ONLY PULSE BUTTON, saag has some texture if you puree it you lost it. Traditionally a ghotna is used to mash the saag, it's kind of a pestle, a wooden one about a feet long with rounded(kinda half baseball) wooden piece on one end, which is used to mash the cooked greens. Ghotna in hindi literally means crushing something. At my mom's house this is my dad's duty as you need some muscles for this job, but it's worth it.
- While blending it add 3 tablespoon of corn meal & mix it. Put the cooker back on to the slow gas with no lid & let it simmer for around 10-15 minutes or so. We need to cook the flour so there is no raw flour smell, this process will bring creaminess to the saag. Keep stirring & be careful as at this stage it will start to splutter.
- Now after this stage for best results let it cool down keep it in the fridge for a day or if you are like me make a double batch & freeze half, refrigerate half.
- To get it ready for the meal, final step is prepare tadka, a very basic recipe which is used for most of the dals also. Heat some ghee in a kadai or a big pan, add cumin seeds to it, let them splutter add garlic, once it start giving u the aroma add onions. Saute them for a bit, once translucent add dry spices.
- After few seconds add tomato paste & tomatoes, let everything cook together. Once the tadka starts to leave ghee on the sides of the pan add saag mixture mix everything nicely & let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Turn off the gas cover & let it sit for some time.
Serving suggestions : The best way to serve it is with makki di roti, which I'm not posting today, because I don't have access to good makki da atta here, so I have to manage with regular corn meal now-a-days. But it also tastes good with plain prantha or naan. As for me I eat bowl full of saag with a dallop of fresh white butter. Traditionally home-made butter(makhhan) is used but since I'm in U.S.A, I manage with Land-0-Lakes All Natural unsalted whipped butter, quite close to home made one. Another things to serve with this dish, simple onion salad with some lime juice, green chillies & last but not the least Gur(jaggery).
Many places you'll read traditionally lassi(punjabi yogurt drink) is served along with it but if it is day time meal then only. If it's a dinner affair with the cold weathers of north india no body can even think of lassi with this meal as yogurt comes under the category of cool foods.
Note : I think of a ghee as healthy fat only, though I don't use it in my regular cooking but there are certain dishes I can't cook without it, so those of you who really freak out on the name of ghee go ahead & use your fav. cooking fat and also if u substitute ghee with some oil it'll become a Vegan dish.Now for the title, I couldn't think of any thing better than this. Here's my authentic Saron de Saag de recipe....go ahead make it at least once before this winter weather flies away, play Veer-Zarra movie and enjoy it with your family.