This week I want to share a dish made with spinach.
Spinach is so versatile whether it be palak paneer, or saag murgh, or saag gosht, or . . . and most chefs can cook these dishes and make them taste good (this comes with practice).
A few chefs can even cook these dishes and make them smell good, too (this comes with even more practice and some procedure).
However, it is only a fraction of chefs who are able to retain the color of the spinach (this comes with lots of practice, great process and deep knowledge about the ingredients which are being added)!!
So, even our simple spinach dish belies a lot of experience and knowledge to raise it from being an acceptable green side dish to something fresh tasting, vibrant and totally delicious!
In a good restaurant, great results are achieved by using a simple technique called bhunao which you do to the saag. [Bhunao means to cook, uncovered, over a constant heat to remove any excess moisture. Keeping it at the same temperature means the purée cooks without getting a ‘shock’, as it were, and thereby it cooks evenly and retains an ‘even’ colour.]
This is a simple, yet very effective process that keeps the colour of the puréed spinach so that it remains bright green for at least a week! (Yes, that’s right! It’ll keep its colour for that long, if it hasn’t already sold out because it’s so good and looks so fresh.)
Don’t worry about the bhunao, the taste and smell will always be good!!
So, let’s take a closer look at this simple, yet flavoursome, dish:
1. 2 bunches of English spinach, washed and stalks removed, approx. 400 gms
2. Plenty of water to cook the spinach (a.k.a blanching)
3. A pinch of Alleppey turmeric
4. Ice-cold water to cool the spinach (a.k.a arresting the cooking of the hot spinach)
clockwise from left to right: ice-cold water, turmeric & spinach
1. To blanch the spinach, in a large, wide pot bring water to a boil.
boiling water in a wide pot
2. Add a pinch of Alleppey turmeric (Alleppey turmeric has a bright yellow colour and helps bring out the colour of the spinach; it also acts as an anti-oxidant).
add a pinch of Alleppey turmeric
3. Add the washed spinach leaves and bring the water back to a boil.
add the spinach
4. In a strainer, drain the leaves immediately and plunge into the ice-cold water for a few seconds to cool the leaves. Do not rinse in running tap water as this will discolour the leaves.
plunge the spinach into ice-cold water for a few seconds
spinach leaves in ice-cold water
6. Place in a food processor and blend to a fine paste.
7. Refrigerate immediately.
1. 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2. 1 teaspoon brown cumin seeds
3. 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
4. Salt, to taste
5. 1/2 teaspoon Madras turmeric (you may use Alleppey if Madras turmeric is not handy)
6. 1 fresh green chilli, chopped (retain the seeds)
clockwise from left to right: vegetable oil, cumin seeds, crushed garlic, Madras turmeric, salt & fresh green chillies
To bhunao the pureed spinach:
1. In a pan, heat the oil until it is just about to smoke (this makes the oil light and helps it rise to the surface easily).
heat oil in a pan
2. Remove the pan from the heat and crackle the cumin seeds.
add cumin seeds and let crackle
2. Add the crushed garlic, as soon as possible, and fold. Then add the salt (adding the salt helps to caramelise the garlic without burning it).
3. Add the Madras turmeric (this has a very earthy smell and goes well with spinach).
fold quickly before adding the Madras turmeric
add the Madras turmeric
4. Now add the chopped chillies and fold.
add fresh chillies
5. Return the pan to the heat and add the puréed spinach to this ‘infusion’.
add the puréed spinach
6. Cook over moderate heat, folding regularly, and let the oil rise to the surface.
folding & cooking spinach
cooking the spinach, always over moderate heat
7. Once the oil has risen to the surface, remove the spinach from the pan. Let cool and then refrigerate.
the spinach is almost ready, just waiting for the oil to rise to the surface
yummm…the spinach is ready to go!!
portioning the spinach for a “rainy day”
refrigerate or have it now, this is pure “green gold”!!
A great and simple way to use your ‘bhunaoed’ spinach is palak paneer . . .
And remember to do all the little things right. Yes, that’s right. Every single little detail, no matter how tedious it might seem. If you get the small things right the big ones look after themselves. So, whether it’s cooking spinach, or boiling rice, or even frying pappads, follow every little rule.
And it is this that I call ‘consistency’!!!
Anah Daata Sukhi Bhaava!!