My husband and I have a lot in common, in spite of being opposites, if that makes sense. We’re both homebodies, yet we also love to travel. And we both love Indian food. Actually these might be the only things we have in common. But they’re important things!
For a small celebration at my house recently, I decided to make an Indian spread. I planned it like a buffet you’d experience at a good Indian restaurant. You’ve never heard these words come out of my mouth before, but at Indian restaurants, I’m not at all opposed to eating from the buffet.
I think it must be difficult for Indian restaurants to make bad food, even for their lunch buffets, because I’ve never had any. (Unlike the case with Chinese buffets, for example.) There’s never been a curried protein, vegetable, or bean dish that I haven’t enjoyed. And if their naan is good, then I’m in heaven.
One of my husband’s favorite dishes on a typical Indian buffet is sag paneer or mattar paneer – curried spinach or peas with paneer. Traditional aneer, which is easy to make from scratch, is similar tofarmers’ cheese. It add something texturally but not really flavor-wise to me, so I can take it or leave it.
Many years ago I came across a dish simply called sag – fried spinach and broccoli – no paneer. The recipe is in one of my favorite cookbook series – Foods of the World by Time Life.
It’s a lovely vegetable dish, and a wonderful accompaniment to chicken curry, lamb korma, or any vegetarian curry dish.
Following is the recipe exactly from the cookbook.
Sag, also spelled Saag
Serves 4 to 6
1 cup water
1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 pound fresh broccoli including the stalks, washed, trimmed and coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons ghee*
1 tablespoon scraped, finely chopped fresh ginger root
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Combine 1/2 cup of the water and a handful of the spinach in the jar of an electric blender, and blend at high speed for 30 seconds, or until the mixture is reduced to a smooth purée.
Turn the machine off and scrape down the sides of the jar with a rubber spatula. Then add another handful of spinach, purée for 30 seconds and stop the machine again. Repeat until all the spinach has been puréed. Transfer the spinach to a bowl, and pour the remaining 1/2 cup of water into the blender jar.
Purée the broccoli a handful at a time as you did the spinach, then stir the puréed broccoli into the spinach.
In a 10″ karhai or heavy skillet or a 12″ wok heat the ghee over moderate heat until a drop of cold water flicked into it sputters instantly.
This is a photo of an Indian karhai, also spelled karahi. I used my large wok.
Add the ginger and fry for 1 minute. Add the onions and salt and continue to fry, lifting and turning the mixture constantly, for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the onions are soft and golden brown.
Stirring after each addition, add the cumin, turmeric, coriander and garam masala.
Fry for 1 to 2 minutes, until the ingredients are well combined, then stir in the spinach and broccoli a cup or so at a time and fry for 5 minutes more.
Reduce the heat to the lowest possible point and, stirring occasionally, simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture leaves the sides of the pan in a solid mass.
Serve at once from a heated bowl or platter. I added a little flaked salt to my sag.
In the Punjab, where it originates, sag is usually made with fresh mustard greens; you may substitute these for the spinach and broccoli if you like.
As much as I love Indian meat and seafood dishes, I also really love dal – the various legumes of India. So today I served myself sag along with curried chick peas. A delicious and satisfying meal!
*Ghee is simply clarified butter. Sometimes I use it, sometimes I don’t. The clarifying of the butter removes the solids which can brown and also burn, but it’s the solids to me that provides such lovely flavor. If you’re not using extremely high heat and can’t get your hands of ghee, regular butter will work fine.
Note: If you want to add paneer to this dish but don’t want to make it from scratch, use firm or extra-firm tofu – the kind in water, not the silken variety.
Great post Mimi. Great to hear you love Indian food, that has got to be my most favorite cuisine too, but then I’m biased :). I like your saag recipe, lots of great healthy nutrients in there. I like the taste of ghee too, so I always add it towards the end to round out the flavors. You can also get paneer in an Indian store, in my last post on the Indian curries I made, I did buy the paneer in an Indian store. I’ve never tried making it on my own. The part of India where my parents hailed from is called Goa, it’s a small state on the west coast of India and was ruled by the Portuguese for about 500 years. Our cuisine is a blend of Portuguese and Indian flavors. I’ve posted some recipes on Goan cuisine as well.
Yes, I’ve seen those on your website! I really hate saying Indian food when I’m so aware that there are a multiple number of various regional cuisines in India. I have a wonderful Madhur Jaffrey cookbook that is divided by the regions, and it’s wonderful. It’s just hard to look up recipes. Years ago I used to make paneer, which is funny, because it was when I was so busy raising my kids. But we had no Asian grocery stores nearby, so I had no choice. Then I started using firm tofu. Now, I can get just about anything I need online but I’ve never purchased paneer online. Also, I thought it was SAAG too, but I spelled it as it is in this cookbook. Do you think that’s incorrect? Thanks for your comment!!!
Well actually Mimi, that’s true of so many regional foods of different countries don’t you think? So it was just fine saying “Indian food”. I’m not so sure about the spelling of saag, so perhaps we can go with either at this point? :). I have just one Madhur Jaffrey cookbook, and I love it, I read just recently that she is 82 and still producing cookbooks. By the way, I also have that same cookbook that you have on your post. Did it not come with a hardcover and a smaller one in the same package?
Yes – but India is so large, so I think it’s even more extreme than say, France, which also has many regional cuisines. I just know that everything I’ve tried I’ve loved! My mother gave me the Time Life series a million years ago, and I still have the larger format hardback books, as well as the little spiral bound recipe booklets. Love them all. It’s pretty much how I learned to cook and introduced my husband and I to international cuisines I’d never experienced. Love them!!!
Going to look at your blog right away, I love spicy food, especially curries.
This is wonderful, Mimi. I love Indian food and nearly always order a saag with potato, lamb or chicken in a restaurant. Or sometimes a takeaway from my great local Indian restaurant. I have a Madhur Jaffrey book which I used to use a lot and must get out again now you’ve reminded me of her :)
Did you know she also has acted? I once saw an interview with her in her kitchen, and she’d painted the walls a butter color, so that her kitchen always looked like there was morning light streaming in. At least you get fabulous Indian food in London – I’m sure in Twickenham as well!
Oh Chef Mimi! I am so with you on Indian food!! It’s one of my favorites too and I’ve never had a bad dish either. Yum! Thanks for this!
We also love Mexican and Southwestern cuisines – and it’s funny how similar they are with ingredients!!!
Madhur Jaffrey is one of my favorite Indian cookbook authors. Saag is great left over on some garlic naan too.
Oh, I think I could spread it on ice cream!!!
I love many different cuisines – I just don’t cook Indian very often. I took an online class and have a few cookbooks so I really should get motivated after seeing your lovely recipe. Never ate an Indian buffet but I agree with you about Chinese buffets!
I know – aren’t they the worst? I think it’s at least been 30 years since I ate at a Chinese restaurant because of their buffets. Sadly, there are no good Chinese restaurants where I live or nearby. When we travel, we always go to Chinatown!!!
Opposites attract and I think make the best partnerships – the fun bit is finding the common ground that binds us together :) Gorgeous recipe, I adore Indian food and whilst not a vegetarian, I enjoy the huge variety of vegetable dishes this cuisine gives us, perhaps even more than all the fabulous meat dishes!
At Thanksgiving, I tend to not eat any of the turkey! So I completely understand!
This looks fantastic!
Thanks, it’s pretty fabulous!
Wonderful post Mimi. Love the sag and can completely relate to being a homebody that loves to travel. A gypsy with a home base! That’s me.
Love your saag!!! I do love making and eating Indian food ;)
So house smells good when you toast the spices and make the curries!!!
I know! I love it, it fills the whole house :)
I have never cooked Indian food but love eating it in restaurants. Your sag looks healthy and just right for my new Vita Mix.
I used my vitamin! I seemed to require so much less liquid than my previous blender!
hi Mimi, Unbelievable- I used to have that old Indian cookbook by Time Life- it was an old stand by in the 1980s. Your saag looks good, very good, but I have never seen broccoli incorporated in it before. Interesting idea. I also add gently fried paneer to make Saag Paneer, close to my favourite Indian dish.
Us, too! That’s why I love when it’s always on Indian buffets! The broccoli is an interesting mix – it’s not as smooth as a pure spinach puree, but it’s still so flavorful and good!!
What a fabulous recipe, and so healthy, too! I’ve never met an Indian lunch buffet that I didn’t like either. :)
I know! Why are they so good?!!!
Hi Mimi – I too share a love of Indian food with my husband – I’d recommend checking out Rick Stein’s India cookbook if you like cooking it at home – amazing recipes – like the dhokla I posted a few months ago.
I’d never heard of Rick Stein until I was in Ireland. He’s just not heard of in the US as far as I know. I will definitely check out his books now that you’ve reminded me of him. I guess you can’t have too many Indian cookbooks!
No you can’t have too many Indian cook books especially as each region serves such different food!
I’m in love with Indian food too, but tends to be pedantic about roasting and grinding the spices as they’re needed. The vegetarian dishes are always good, but I especially like saag paneer. I’ll add some broccoli next time
The broccoli changes the texture a little, the flavor is still outstanding!
This looks beautiful Mimi! What a gorgeous curry. I love a dish called palak paneer which seems to have a similar ‘saag’ kind of sauce (I also eat one with potatoes) and cubes of Indian cheese. So delicious! My husband and I also have the same things in common that you and your husband do, haha… travel and food is important! x
Whenever I have an Indian cab driver, I pick his brain with various food questions, restaurants, and grocery stores, if it’s somewhere I can shop. I remember asking the difference between palak and sag/saag but for the life of me I can’t remember!!! I need an Indian friend!
Haha, me too – if you find out the difference let me know! Much better than asking Google 😉 X
Hi Mimi, what an interesting post. I’ve never eaten in an Indian restaurant and this is unlike anything I’ve ever eaten. The cooking technique of blending the vegetables is amazing. In my new position I have a colleague from India, so I may ask him about an authentic restaurant in Amsterdam.
Oh I wish I could remember where we ate in Amsterdam – it was so so good. I have photos from our dining experience, but could never remember the name. It seemed to me like there were a lot of Indian restaurants to choose from. When you go, I would definitely make sure to get sag/saag paneer. Spinach has never been so good! Your colleague can recommend what to order – or better yet, have him go with you!
Great method Mimi. Very accomplished.
Thanks so much Conor!
I think Indians are the only people to truly master spinach. This looks great. I used to always judge a restaurant by its sag paneer. Now it’s their tarka dal!
That’s very interesting!!! I think for me, if I can order off the menu, it’s the lamb korma.
We have many Indian friends, and I love stepping into their kitchens. Authentic Indian food is amazing. Great post, will try soon.
Oh, absolutely! I need some Indian friends!!!
Mimi, I was lucky enough to have friends in high school, college, grad school and beyond who have taught me about the cuisine from their specific regions/religions. This said, their food is always better than my attempts. :-)
Dear Chef Mimi,
I’ve been incommunicado for awhile with Christmas and a new course we’re teaching from our cookbook, Inspiring Cuisine, at our church. But how fun to check out your blog again and learn a new way to prepare vegetables!
In our course, we recently created a mixed vegetable, colorful dish with julienned rutabaga, sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts and added spices and honey. We talked about how much we love vegetables since we’ve learned new ways to prepare them.
Thank you for another new way. We will certainly be using you recipe. Thank you for the inspiration!
RuthAnn Ridley: inspiringcuisine.com
Well thank you for the lovely comment!
My husband is also my opposite but like you, we both love Indian cuisine! Your saag is a beautiful colour. This is a fabulous Indian dish. I haven’t ever made it but now I’m inspired xx
This recipe takes a little more time than others I’ve made, but it’s fabulous!!!
We’ve been making a lot of Indian lately, and I would love to try this. Indian curries really are our most favorite comfort food!
It’s just the best, isn’t it? Such sexy hearty food!
When friends and I frequent one of the nearby Indian restaurants, sag paneer is often one of the dishes that’s passed around the table. Your recipe sounds tasty and I bet they’ll love it. Thanks!
It was definitely enjoyed! The Indians have a way with spinach, which someone else commented, which is really true!
I avoid Chinese Buffets like the plague. Well buffets in general but I’ll be game now to try an Indian one. Lovely recipe.
Oh do! There’s usually a couple of meats, a couple of vegetables, at least one vegetarian option, condiments, and bread. Colorful, flavorful, and definitely easy to over eat!
Good to know. We’re big fans of Indian food.
I am such a big fan of Indian food in general. Can’t say I ever made sag paneer. Bookmarked.
All the recipes I’ve used are wonderful, but I really like this spinach and broccoli combo!