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Authentic Saag Paneer & Mixed Vegetable Saag

 

Through my non-culinary career (no, I don’t cook ALL day) I’ve had the fortune of meeting some wonderful people. One of the warmest personalities I have ever met is my friend Dheeraj, from Mumbai, India. He measures in at about six and a half feet tall  and stands out in a crowd wherever he goes. Walking through the conference halls at the trade show we attend together in Las Vegas each year is quite the challenge. Due to his height, you cannot miss him, and due to his warm personality, EVERYBODY knows him. Dheeraj has a big friendly smile and a kind greeting for everyone he meets. He will take the time to ask them about their work, their family, their hobbies – it is mind-blowing. He has the patience of a saint.

In any case, when Dheeraj emailed me to ask me what he could bring me as a gift from India this year (because, yes, he is THAT nice) I simply asked for some of his favourite family recipes for me to try out at home. Dheeraj deferred to his wonderful wife Bhavna who was kind enough to share some of their go-to recipes with me.

Below are two variations on saag – a popular Indian dish with a spinach base. Beyond the spinach it can vary wildly on what else is included. I’ve made some changes to the recipes based on North American ingredients and cooking methods, so I apologize to Bhavna in advance if they do not do her recipes justice. I thought they were absolutely delicious and can be served with a variety of sides such as naan, roti, potatoes, rice, or quinoa. I hope you all enjoy and I look forward to trying more of Bhavna’s recipes soonest!

Saag Paneer – Spinach with cottage cheese
Serves 4

Ingredients :

1 bunch of spinach, chopped
250 grams pressed cottage cheese,cut into cubes
3 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 green chili, halved
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 bay leaf
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoon oil
Salt & pepper, to taste

Preparation:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped spinach, onion, tomatoes, green chili and turmeric. Cover with a tight lid No need to add water, shut the lid and let it whistle just once, then remove it from the burner.
  2. Remove the contents into a dish and allow to cool. Once cooled place in a mixer and blend to make a smooth paste.
  3. In a pan over medium-high heat add 1 tablespoon of oil. Once hot add the bay leaf and finely chopped garlic. As soon as it begins to brown reduce the flame to low and put in the spinach mixture.
  4. Close the lid and let it simmer for five minutes. If it is too thick add some stock or water to thin.
  5. Stir in the the cottage cheese, (Indian paneer would not dissolve the way our cottage cheese does, but the flavour still works just as well and adds a wonderful creaminess).


Mixed Vegetable Saag
Serves 4

Ingredients:
1 bunch of spinach, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chili, halved
1 small potato, peeled and diced
1/2 carrot, chopped
3 teaspoons yellow lentil soaked in water for an hour
1 tablespoon oil
Salt, to taste
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

Preparation:

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the onions and continue to cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
From now on wards, DO NOT STIR.
Toss in the finely chopped spinach, the chopped tomatoes, chopped carrot, chopped potatoes, ginger and green chili. DO NOT STIR.
Drain the water from the lentils and toss in too. Add all the spices and salt to taste. Add a tablespoon of water and put the lid on. Cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat.
Open pot and using a handheld immersion blender blend until desired smooth. Add water a tablespoon at a time if it’s too thick.