Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sarson da Saag

During the winter months, people in Punjab tend to savor the wonderful flavors of Saag. Saag is basically a vegetarian dish that features various leaves cooked together with the mainstay being spinach. As our vegetable garden has abundant spinach leaves, my step mother decided it was time to enjoy some saag.

The very best type of saag is actually one made from "sarson" or mustard leaves. It is relatively easy to make though it takes some time to do it properly. There are people who make use of a mixer or some other shortcut but we do it the old way.

To make Sarson da Saag, you will need:

1 bunch of fresh spinach leaves  
1 bunch of fresh mustart leaves** (tender stems & the flowers can also be used along with the leaves)
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ginger finely chopped 
4 cloves garlic (crushed)
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon ghee (clarified butter) 
oil for frying
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2 tablespoons maize flour (makki di atta or corn flour -- not to be confused with corn starch)

To proceed with making Sarson da Saag, you need to:

Wash the leaves and drain excess moisture. 

Chop the leaves finely. You can do this two ways -- use a chopping knife or make use of a saag cutter.

Saag Cutter
Put the chopped leaves in a pressure cooker  and top with some salt and cover the pressure cooker. And light the stove on low flame. Let the leaves cook until they become soft and gets crushed easily. This normally takes about 2 whistles of the pressure cooker (or 15-20 minutes if using a pot). 

After the leaves have cooked, turn off the flame and uncover the pressure cooker. If, at this stage, you notice the leaves look rather dry or there is barely any moisture or liquid, you will need to add some hot water -- just enough to make it the consistency of a thin paste. The task now is to stir the leaves with a "khotna" or the back of a ladle. 


The idea is to crush the leaves so that they look like they have been pureed. There are people to make use of a hand mixer or a blender but the taste of saag that has been pureed via a mixer is somewhat different -- I have tried it and believe me, using a mixer or blender is not a good idea as the taste changes.)

After crushing the cooked leaves, you need to add the maize flour a little at a time by sprinkling it on the mixture and stirring like crazy so that no lumps form. Once the maize flour has been mixed in properly (the consistency should become like thick paste), place the cooker on medium flame and stir.

At this point, you will need to keep stirring as the saag will now gurgle and thinks can get messy. Add the garam masala. Constant stirring stops this from happening. You can also make use of a piece of cheese cloth to cover the pot so you won't have to stir as often. You need to keep it on the flame for about 10 minutes and then turn off the flame. The saag is cooked and can be eaten as is with a small dollop of ghee or clarified butter. Or, you can proceed to the next step.

At this stage, you need to saute the garlic, onion, and ginger in oil in another pan until the condiments are a lovely golden brown. Add as much of the saag as you plan to consume and cook for about 5 minutes then serve.

Sarson da Saag

Saag keeps for a long time when refrigerated and it tends to taste a lot better the next day. The idea is to let it cool and place in a container and refrigerate. When you plan to heat it, you can sautee some onions to make it taste much more wonderful. 

The ideal accompaniment to Sarson da Saag is Makki di Roti (flat bread made from maize or corn flour). 

Makki di Roti

Sarson da Saag with Makki di Roti

** Note: If you are in an area where mustard leaves are not available, you can use cabbage leaves, or lettuce leaves. We have even made saag from spinach combined with the leaves of raddish. 

Ready to eat Sarso da Saag is also available on
Posted by: Bames Pabla
Bames Live, Updated at: 8:11 PM

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