Elders in the family always stressed on eating as per season, as some foods are good in winters that keep the body warm and some foods keep the body cool in summers. Eating food as per the climate and season and it’s nature(that we call as Taasir in Hindi/Urdu) has a lot of relevance in Ayurveda.
Nature has its own way of nurturing and giving us. Winter produce consists mainly vegetables and fruits that keep our body warm and also increases our immunity to colds and infections. Fresh green leafy veggies like spinach, fenugreek, vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, fruits like oranges that are rich in Vit C are winter delights.Though it’s a different story that nowadays we get these all around the year.
Mustard Greens or popularly known as Sarson, are available during the winter months mostly in the Northern States of India. If you are from my part of the world where I grew up, then you know how magical is the sight of Sarson fields. The yellow flowers on the green sarson spread across the miles looks like a blanket/sheet that the earth covers to protect itself from cold. Mesmerizing it is!!!
The leaves of sarson (Mustard Greens) are used in making the most popular hot winter delicacy ‘Sarson Ka Saag’ that is relished with ‘Makkai ki Roti’ (an Indian flatbread made with Cornmeal). It’s a must make for winters in most of the North Indian households. Since the sarson has a bitter taste, the leaves are combined with Palak(Spinach leaves) and another popular winter special Bathua(pigweed/goosefoot/wild spinach/Chenopodium). Traditionally the greens are cooked on Chulah(earthen stove mainly used in rural India) in an earthen pot/clay pot on slow flame with ginger, garlic and green chillies and no spices at all. Makki ka atta(Cornmeal) is also added to give structure to the dish and it adds to the creaminess too!! Mathni( a wooden Dasher used in India to churn milk) is used to blend the saag while it is being cooked. As they say in local language ‘Ghoonta hua Saag’. Some people add chilka moong (green lentils) in place of cornmeal to it. Since bathua is not available easily in all regions, you can add methi leaves/mooli ke patte(radish leaves) or Kale.
I pressure cook the leaves with ginger, garlic, some onions, green chillies for 20-30 minutes in a pressure cooker, this saves up the time and speeds up the process, then cook with the lid open, for another 20-30 minutes, adding the cornmeal while blending the leaves with a masher. I add the tempering of red chillies, onions, ginger and garlic while saag is being cooked 10 minutes before taking it off the flame. Many people add the tadka before serving but for me adding the tadka while it is being cooked, enhances the taste, as the flavors of tempered garlic and onions infuse well with saag. Whenever ready to eat, heat saag, give it tadka of cumin seeds and red chilli powder and garlic(optional) or add a dollop of white butter/ desi ghee. Flavor of this saag increases with time.
People make it in a big batch and store for a week, and also share with their neighbors. I still remember mom and other neighborhood aunties shared food with each other whenever they made something special.
So, if you haven’t cooked this saag till now, grab sarson(before it disappears) and other greens from the store or your vegetable vendor and cook up this wonderful winter delicacy, that is enjoyed best with its better-half ‘Makki Ki Roti’, Gur(Jaggery) and a glass of Chass(Indian buttermilk).
Sarson Ka Saag
- 2 Bunches Mustard Greens(Sarson) approx. 1 kg
- 1-2 Bunches Palak(Spinach) 500gms
- 1 Bunch Bathua / Methi(Fenugreek) leaves around 200gms
- 1" piece Ginger
- 7-8 Cloves Garlic
- 1-2 Green Chillies depending upon your spice level
- 1 Onion
- 2-3 tbsp Makkai Ka Atta / Cornmeal
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds/Jeera
- Red Chilli Powder as per spice level
- Dry Red Chillies
- 1-2 tbsp Mustard Oil
- 1-2 tsp Butter/Desi Ghee
- 1/4 tsp Asafoetida
- Rinse all the greens very well in water. Finely chop all the leaves and put in a pressure cooker with 3-4 garlic cloves(keep the remaining for tempering), ginger, green chillies.
- Add some water. Close the lid and put on medium flame to cook for 20-30 minutes.
- Take it off the flame, let the pressure in the cooker subside, mash and blend well the greens with a mathani(dasher) and keep it back to low flame to cook for another 30 minutes.
- Keep stirring in between. In case you don't have a dasher you can just blend with ladle or masher. While the saag is being cooked, add Makkai ka atta(Cornmeal) and mix it very well. Take care it doesn't form lumps. You can also, dissolve the atta(cornmeal) in half cup of water so that it mixes easily with saag.
- Prepare the tempering/tadka. Add in saag and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Switch off the flame. Cover and keep it. Let the flavors infuse. In the end, if you want you can blend the saag a little, with a blender (a little) for a more smooth texture.
- Before serving heat the saag, add the tempering of cumin and red chilli powder and add to the saag or add a dollop of butter or ghee.
- For Tadka(Tempering): Heat oil/ghee in a pan, add a pinch of hing, jeera, add whole dry red chillies, finely chopped remaining garlic cloves, roast it light brown, add the remaining onion and saute till brown and add red chilli powder.
- Transfer the tadka(tempering) to saag. Serve hot.
- You can use Kale/Collard greens in place of Fenugreek leaves.
- For gluten-free Saag recipe, avoid asafoetida.
- For vegan recipe, avoid ghee and butter.
Enjoy this hot with a dollop of white butter or a spoonful of desi ghee, with garam garam(hot) ‘Makkai Ki Roti‘, some Gur(Jaggery) and a glass full of Chass (buttermilk).
Aloo Gobhi and gajar ki subzi is another veggie that goes well the saag. The thali of saag, aloo gobhi with makkai Ki roti and curd/yogurt is a perfect winter Punjabi meal!!
Click here on how to make ‘Makkai Ki Roti‘ recipe.
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