If you are a Hindi movie fan like I am, or even watch the occasional odd one, especially a Yash Chopra film, you have surely heard of 'makki ki Roti and sarson ka saag'. Its a cult classic, just like the gajar Halwa, Mooli ke parathe et al. I especially remember Amrish Puri exclaiming nostalgically and dancing around in DDLJ ( famous Hindi Movie),just by the thought of getting to eat his favourite sarson ka saag.
Although I cannot claim to have the earth's bounty around me as you would in rural Punjab, nor the sprawling yellow mustard blooms that one can run amock in, I did lay my eyes on some fresh bunches of mustard leaves or Sarson that beckoned to me in the local grocery store. Even though we have seen the occasional swallow or two, and the temperatures have tempted us showing the 70s now and then, they do still seem to fall back into the 50s and 60s. Its as if winter just does not want to go away this year. So presented with a chilly evening, some welcome spare time and lots of fresh mustard and spinach greens, I decided to try my hand at this classic Punjabi dish. My only introduction to this was a couple of times I had it at a friend's place, but I learnt from the experts, I must say!
Mustard greens are slightly bitter in taste and they need to be balanced with something, in this case an equal quantity of spinach. Indeed, even when i prepare a simple stir fry with any frozen mustard greens, i always combine it with an equal amount of spinach.After carefully cleaning the spinach mustard leaves, cut off any thick stems and pressure cook the leaves for 1-2 whistles. Meanwhile, you can prepare the curry paste or the sauce. Sautee two medium onions and all the spices in 1 tsp oil till its light brown. Drain all the water from the cooked greens and blend all the greens and the onions and spices to a smooth paste. All you need now is to simmer this a little and viola, your saag ( greens) is ready !
The detailed recipe is as follows -
1 bunch of spinach and mustard greens
2 medium onions roughly chopped
2 inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp peppercorns
1 small bayleaf
1 tbsp ghee or butter optional
2 tbsp thick cream or half/half
Pressure cook the greens as given above and drain all the water. Sautee the onions and spices on low heat till they are roasted and aromatic. Blend all the greens and onions/spices in a food processor to make a smooth paste. Transfer to a pot and simmer on low. Add water as needed. This dish is generally of a stew consistency so that it can be easily soaked into the corn/ makai roti that it is eaten with. After simmering the greens for 10-15 minutes, they should change colour and turn slightly dark. Add salt to taste and some cream or half and half. This will lend the dish some richness and also balance any remaining bitterness. You can also add butter/ghee if you want to splurge.Serve piping hot, preferably with Makai Roti ( Corn meal roti)