Recipe: Chameli's saag


Note: The secret of great Indian saag is simmering mustard greens for hours to bring out the full flavor. For her April cover story on Indian vegetarian cooking, Barbara Hansen talked Chameli owner Hari B. Alipuria into giving us this relatively quick recipe for his restaurant's saag, an adaptation of his family's traditional slow-cooked greens. The mustard greens cook in about 40 minutes and they don't ooze with as much butter as they would in India because Alipuria tries to reduce some of the fat that normally is so much a part of traditional Indian cooking. Even so, Hansen wrote, "a pat of butter should go in th e center of a bowl of steaming saag. One can skip the butter and sprinkle the saag with Chameli's alternative topping--fried chopped ginger. Or make a good thing even better by using both."

The saag makes a terrific meal when it's served with makki ki roti, pancake-flat Punjabi corn bread. You can also eat it with rice or dal.

1 1/2 pounds mustard greens

3/4 pound spinach

7 inches ginger root, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno chile, chopped


1 quart water

3/4 cup oil

3 medium onions, finely chopped

4 teaspoons ground coriander

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 small juicy tomatoes, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 teaspoon dried methi (fenugreek) leaves

1 tablespoon butter

Punjabi Corn Bread, optional

Rinse mustard greens and spinach thoroughly. Remove only coarsest bottom portion of stems. Chop roughly. Place in Dutch oven and add 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger root, chile, salt to taste and water. Boil, uncovered, about 30 minutes.

Heat 1/2 cup oil in large pot. Add onions and fry until tender but not browned. Add 1 tablespoon chopped ginger root, then coriander, cumin and turmeric. Fry 1 to 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic and 1 tablespoon salt, or salt to taste, and cook until tomatoes are tender. Add methi leaves.

Drain any liquid remaining with greens and reserve. Place greens in food processor or blender and blend until finely chopped but not pureed. Add greens to onion mixture with reserved cooking liquid. Boil, uncovered, 40 minutes, until well combined and liquid is reduced but mixture is still moist.

Meanwhile, in skillet fry remaining ginger root in 1/4 cup oil until lightly browned. Turn cooked saag into serving bowl. Place butter in center. Sprinkle with fried ginger, or serve ginger on side to add as desired. Accompany with Makki Ki Roti. Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Note: Dried methi (or fenugreek) leaves are available at Indian grocery stores.

Each serving, without Punjabi corn bread, contains about: 258 calories; 150 mg sodium; 4 mg cholesterol; 23 grams fat; 13 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 2.02 grams fiber.

Punjabi Corn Bread (Makki Ki Roti)

3 cups water

3 cups yellow cornmeal


Place water in large saucepan and bring to boil. While boiling, add cornmeal. Stir to make soft dough.

Turn out onto board and cool slightly. Knead mixture thoroughly, occasionally picking dough up and slapping down hard on surface. Form mixture into 9 balls. With moistened hand, pat each ball into flat circle about 1/4-inch thick. Re-wet hand occasionally.

Place bread on ungreased griddle over medium heat. Cook until bread is browned on bottom and slips about easily on griddle. If using gas range, place cooked bread directly over flame for few moments to brown. Place on plate and brush with stick of butter. Cook remaining breads as directed and stack on plate so top of each roti butters bottom side of roti above. Makes 9 roti.

Each roti contains about: 414 calories; 882 mg sodium; 10 mg cholesterol; 24 grams fat; 46 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 2 grams fiber.