For the first time this winter I made Sarson Ka Saag. I love this Punjabi dish! I had it for the first time a few years ago when I lived in Toronto. My Punjabi roommate at the time made it one COLD Toronto evening and since then its been on my “must make” list.
I didn’t grow up eating sarsoon (mustard greens), perhaps due to the region my family comes from (now known as) Gujarat, where it doesn’t get quite gets as cold as Punjab (a region split between India & Pakistan). Due to its heating properties, sarsoon ka saag is associated with cold, wet winter months. Its main ingredient mustard greens are tender, bitter, heating making it perfect green to enjoy during Kapha season.
Having lost touch with my roommate, I scoured the web and youtube to find a traditional Punjabi recipe that was well balanced. Most recipes I came across used a lot of heating spices like, garam masala and red chilis. They looked delicious, but for me personally, the extra heat from the spices combined with the heat in the greens would create a Pitta imbalance. If it was just a one time thing, I think it would be okay, but I plan on having this dish throughout the week so I need a recipe with spices that balanced the heat from the greens.
I settled upon a recipe I found on Chawla’s kitchen. Her recipe is traditional and simple. I love how she takes the viewer through the traditional cooking method with no blenders and shares how this dish is eaten in Punjab. Always one for wanting to know the traditional methods of cooking and recipes, I was hooked. Thank you Chawla.
A few things I adjusted:
- less ghee—I encourage you to use more. Ghee is cooling and moist, which helps to balance the heat, bitter and dry properties of the greens (especially if you have a vata imbalance or are vata dominant). (I am currently trying to loose some weight, thus the adjustment)
- added cumin powder—since I reduced ghee, I needed to add a cooling spice for balance. I found lots of other recipes where cumin was used so I opted for this (although I don’t think Chawla will be happy about this).
- substituted makhai (corn) flour with besan (gram or chickpea flour)—this was also used in other recipes, and since this is what I have in my pantry, I though it was a good substitute.
- I used the stems of the greens (I like to use all of the veggie when possible) and baby spinach
- I omitted chili’s as I wanted to ensure the dish had no extra added heat,(mustard green’s are heating enough), but if you like it spicy and can handle the heat enjoy!
Cook Time: about an 1 hour (does not include prep). About 30-40 mins if using a blender.
Equipment Needed: 3-4 quart wide bottom pot, a small sauce pot or frying pan, a masher or hand blender/food processor
- 2 bunches of Mustard Greens (1lb), cleaned and chopped (including the stems)
- 1/2 lb of Baby Spinach, cleaned
- 1/2 lb of Bathua or Lamp’s Quarters (if you can find it—I was unable to)
- 1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
- 1 tsp Salt or to taste
- 2 x 1 inch of Jaggery/Gur (or 2 tsp brown sugar)
- 4 T Besan (chickpea/gram) Flour
- 1 cup of Water (approx)
- 2 T Ghee (solid not melted)
- 1 T (heaping) Ginger finely grated
- 2 tsp Cumin powder
On medium heat, in a thick bottom wide bottom 3-4 quart pot, add about 1/8 of cup of water (this will help wilt the greens), and as many greens you can get in the pot . Cover until greens wilt. Add more greens. Repeat until all the greens are in the pot. Takes about 10 mins.
At this point, watch your heat to maintain the natural juices as it will help you breakdown the greens. I kept my stove at medium. (If using hand blender or a food processor once greens are wilted and soft, blend but do not over blend. Return to pot).
Add fenugreek + jaggery + salt and begin to mash away (its like a workout and meditation in one). About 15 mins.
If you run out of natural juices, add a little more water and lower your heat a tad.
After 15 mins or so of mashing, start adding the Besan/Gram flour and begin to blend it in with the masher (or stir if greens are already blended). You will need to add 1/4- 1/2 cup water during this process. At this point, the aroma changes, I really noticed this—did you, as well?
During this time, you will see the color change of the dish and the texture of the saag begin to form. This is the part I found a little challenging—balancing the water and heat. If you add a little extra water don’t worry, it will evaporate by time you are done. Focus on breaking down the greens. This process took about 18 mins, towards the latter half the texture of the greens really begin to change. (Already blended: simmer covered for 20 mins and monitor water). After 18 mins of blending/mashing, let rest for a few minutes (make sure you have enough moisture in it). You may want to turn down the heat a bit.
Stretch your arms and get your small sauce span or frying pan ready for the tarka (hot oil infusion).
Over medium-high heat, add ghee to your pot/pan. When its hot (not smoking) add your ginger (it should sizzle a bit). Give it a stir. In about 30-40 secs add cumin. Infuse for about 10-20 seconds, you want to release the aroma from the cumin, but not burn it.
Add the tarka to the greens (hear it sizzle). Mix well and add a little more water if its too dry. Cover and simmer for 15 mins (or longer if you wish), just check your water levels.
This is the final texture and thickness of the saag. If your saag is too runny, continue to cook. Indian food loves to stew on low, the flavors get better and better.
Serve with chapati (a wheat tortilla heat in a iron skillet is a good substitute) and Safhid Makhaan.
Although, I was monitoring my fat intake, I had to make Safhid Makhaan (White Butter) and give it a try. Its’ tradition after all! The tart, creaminess of the butter took it to the next level—delicious!
This winter/spring, I hope you enjoy Sarsoon Ka Saag as much as I do.