Asha’s North Indian Saag – vegan sauce or main, or use with meat
Asha and her husband are our next-door neighbours. She is a marvellous cook and often shares food with us. During lockdown I did a lot of their shopping and Asha reciprocated by passing delicacies over the garden wall on a regular basis. We call each other up and say “come to the wall” – I pass over bags of shopping and she passes over trays wrapped in kitchen foil. My family always love having something from Asha on our table – the flavours are not strong (they don’t like highly spicy things) but elegant and flexible. This is a perfect example of her food – it’s a spinach curry, which can be eaten just as it is, with rice or naan for a vegan meal, or used as a sauce for meat which is separately cooked. It’s not spicy hot, although there is a warmth to it.
It’s a very versatile dish - the original recipe calls for spinach – I used chard leaves from my allotment. I used a leek instead of the kale, and you can include a turnip or not depending on what’s in the shops.
Serves 4. Timings 20 minutes preparation (if you have to wash the spinach. If you are using a bag from the supermarket it will take less time!) 40 minutes cooking.
Place all the ingredients except the cumin seeds/lemon juice in a pan with about 1 cup of water – you need about 2cm liquid in the bottom of the pan so it depends on what vegetables you have used. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes until the vegetables are soft. You can also do this in a pressure cooker – bring up to pressure and cook for 2 minutes at high.
Cool and liquidise briefly – not too liquid, you still want some texture not a soupy smooth puree. Taste and add salt/pepper as required. You might want a squeeze of lemon juice or a teaspoon of sugar depending on the sweetness of the tomatoes you used – use your judgement.
Put about ½ tablespoon vegetable oil in a pan and cook the cumin seeds briefly until browned. Add the spinach mixture and simmer for 15 minutes. It is quite a thick mixture and will spit and bloop in the pan so you’ll need a lid on and stir it sometimes. You just want it to cook down a bit and let the flavours blend.
Eat as it is – easy lunch with naan bread or dipping tortillas or add some grilled meat or halloumi or cubed cooked potatoes for additional protein and texture. It also freezes well as a sauce.
Nice to have a lighter vegetarian dish as an alternative to all that Christmas protein!
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.