My vegetable garden is abundant with mustard, black kale, collards and brunswick cabbage this year. All these amazing organic greens are perfect for a nice big pot of saag!
Saag and makki di roti are the Punjab’s version of America’s Southern greens and corn bread. Saag is mashed or pureed cooked mustard greens combined with a sauteed mixture of onions, ginger, garlic, chiles, and spice. (For a traditional spicy pureed version see Sarson ka Saag recipe in my new cookbook From Vegetables, With Love, or Country Style Saag here on the blog.) TodayI thought I would add some collards and cabbage leaves too.
I filled up my colander with the equivalent of about 2 large bunches of mustard greens and 2 bunches of collard/cabbage greens.
So beautiful, yes? Graceful, green, and prana-charged.
I thought I would keep my saag uncomplicated today. I imagined simpler times a world away, void of blenders, food processors, and electricity… and how the dish was likely prepared, “farm” style. While the chopped mustard greens were simmering in the earthenware pot, the masala ingredients would be chopped, and then fried in hot ghee until golden brown. Then, nimble hands would knead together a dough of cornmeal, water and oil, perhaps with chopped cilantro, salt and ajwain seeds and then cleverly form balls of dough into round flat circles to be cooked on an iron tava already heating over the flame. Then it was a simple matter of mashing the cooked greens with the onion masala, perhaps adding a few handfuls of cornmeal to absorb any extra water, and cooking it a bit more. And there you’d have it, luscious sarson ka saag and makki di roti, or, more simply said, greens and corn bread.
Sounded like heaven and I decided to go there. I could avoid the blender or food processor by simply chopping everything a lot smaller. I kept my masala simple too, just onions, ginger, garlic, ghee, and a chopped jalapeño for a bit of heat. Not much else but some salt!
I put all my greens in a sink full of water to rinse clean, and meanwhile poured an inch or two of water in an 8-quart soup pot and set it on the stove to boil. Then I very finely chopped all those greens and put them in the boiling water.
In no time I’d very finely chopped an onion, some ginger and a few cloves of garlic, and they were sizzling in ghee on the stove. Oh my! It smelled so good!When I added the greens to the masala I also added almost a cup of cornmeal, stirring all the while. I stirred and cooked this another 10 minutes and then added salt to taste.
I happened to have some Queso Fresco (a fresh cheese that is essentially the same as paneer) in the fridge and sliced a few ounces into 1/2-inch cubes and added them to the mix.
Here’s my bowlful, with a dab of butter on top. Simple and spectacular!
Yield: About 8 1-cup servings
4 bunches mustard greens (or use half mustard and half other greens)
3-4 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
2 cups onions chopped in 1/4-inch dice
3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic (optional)
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
3/4 cup organic cornmeal
salt to taste
sweet butter (optional)
Rinse greens and finely chop. Be sure stem pieces are no more than about 1/4” long. Chop the leafy greens into thin shred. Bring no more than 1-1/2 to 2 inches of water to boil in a large kettle. Add greens and return to boil. Then cover and turn heat to medium. Once in a while lift the lid and stir, and be sure the water has not cooked all the way out.
While the greens are cooking, prep your onions, ginger, garlic and jalapeño. Heat ghee in a large wok over high flame. Add ginger and sizzle for a minute or two, then add onions, garlic and jalapeño. Keep frying over medium-high/high flame, stirring frequently, until golden brown and soft. When done, set aside.
Now greens should be well cooked. Gradually add cornmeal to the greens, stirring constantly to ensure it does not form small lumps. Cook this mixture for another 10 minutes so the cornmeal is fully cooked, and then add to the onion mixture in the wok. Combine well. Add salt to taste. Transfer your saag to serving dishes, adding a dab of fresh butter to each serving.
Serve with cornbread. Enjoy!