Here’s the thing, I’m a Delhi girl living in Bombay for the last three years. I have needs. they range from bigger apartments, wider roads and an actual winter season. But my most primal need is to have sarson ka saag on my dinner plate from November to March.
But not just any sarson ka saag, no sir! Just the one that my mother makes. She has modified and mastered the recipe over years to make it the best darnest thing I’ve ever tasted (we are Marwari and not Punjabi, mind you). But in the last three years, my consumption of my most favorite dish has gone down from twice in a month to once in six months. Pretty sad, I know.
So I decided to not waste another winter and make my own saag in Bombay and this post is about the recipe of the best sarson ka saag in the whole wide world (tada!). Anyway the world in ending in less than a month, so I might as well spread some joy.
As always, a few disclaimers:
1) It’s green, it’s gooey and if not made well it tastes like shit
2) It’s downright hard to make, so you really must be the kind of person who likes to see things through. You know, if there’s one dish that’ll make you want to quit mid-way, it’s this
3) I never anticipated that I will post food stuff (I’m not really a foodie), so ignore my kitchen and my food photography unfriendly utensils
What you need:
1) 2 bundles of sarson
2) 1 bundle of spinach (paalak)
3) 1 bundle bathua leaves
4) 4 small onions
5) 2/3 large tomatoes
6) 1 teaspoon grated garlic
7) 1 teaspoon grated ginger
8) 1 tablespoon desi ghee (don’t go easy on this one)
9) red chili powder and salt as per what rocks your boat
10) 1 bucket
11) 1 small cauliflower (gobhi)
12) 2 teaspoon besan
Step 1- Run Forrest Run!
Pluck the leaves from the sarson, spinach and bathua bundles. Don’t leave the stems (they don’t become soft despite all the boiling in the world). Also a word of caution, sarson stems have tiny thorns so wear gloves while wrestling with the leaves.
Step 2- Rinse it like you mean it
Sarson leaves are basically residue from the farms. The farmer keeps the flower and seeds and throws away the leaves. They aren’t the cleanest, most well taken care of leaves out there. So you really have to clean the living daylight out of the leaves. How you ask? Enter bucket 😀
* I’m pretty sure my mother has a more elegant way of cleaning the leaves. But I don’t know. So throw in all the leaves and dho daal!
Step 3- Boiling Point
Throw the leaves and the chunky cauliflower pieces in the cooker with a little water (careful about not adding too much water and thereby making sarson soup, nor too little thereby burning the leaves). Also see use a bigger cooker it you can. 5 low flame cooker whistles or 30 minutes in the microwave and you’re good to go.
Once the boiling is done, use the Indian hand beater as in the picture below to churn the leaves. This makes the leaves blend well but leave them chunky enough to still taste a little crunchy and texture-y. That’s how I like my saag, of course there are people who blend the leaves to the point of smooth paste.
Okay it was really hard so I cheated!
The saag wasn’t of the same consistency but it was doable. Just take care of the water though, neither too much nor too little.
Step 4- The tadka!
This is the easy part. Grate garlic and ginger. Throw in onions and tomatoes (again I like them a little chunky). Do not go easy on the ghee, I repeat- don’t bother about clogging your arteries otherwise you’ll ruin the saag! (Even if the saag clogs your arteries a little, you’ll realize next morning that it unclogs other stuff to make up for it).
Ginger and garlic simmering away.
Onions and tomatoes join the ghee jacuzzi.
Step 5- Aaaaaaand it’s touchdown!
In the blended leaves+cauliflower mixture, add two teaspoons of besan diluted in water (just sieve away the lumps, alternately you can use diluted makke ka atta as well).
Pour this mixture in the golden brown onions and tomatoes and lower the flame and let this divinity simmer away.
After 5 minutes add red chili powder and salt as per your taste (again no harm in adding a little and tasting your way through it rather than overdoing the chili/salt and regretting).
Also after some point your simmering saag turns into bubbling molten lava in an active volcano and tries to escape the vessel. Save yourself from some burns and keep the lid covered. Remember saag should be semi-dry and should not be runny.
What you see here is a little watery saag, but for someone who made this colossal dish for the second time in her life it was pretty darn good.
Also no matter how many times I make it, I won’t be the mother who is making her daughter’s most favorite dish 🙂
Step 6- Dig in
Add a few dollops of butter, make some makke ki roti (don’t ask me how to make that, I never cared for), play some Punjabi folk music, throw in some chaas and eat with your hands.
That’s that from me, now I’ll go back to refraining myself from going near the refrigerator. There’s some saag in there I’m trying to save for my husband and it’s proving to be a real test of my love for him.
Also I love you ma. You are the most incredible mother ever.