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)
1. To blanch the spinach, in a large, wide pot bring water to a boil.
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).
3. Add the washed spinach leaves and bring the water back to a boil.
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.
5. Remove from the iced water and lightly squeeze to remove any excess moisture.
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)
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).
2. Remove the pan from the heat and crackle the cumin seeds.
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).
4. Now add the chopped chillies and fold.
5. Return the pan to the heat and add the puréed spinach to this ‘infusion’.
6. Cook over moderate heat, folding regularly, and let the oil rise to the surface.
7. Once the oil has risen to the surface, remove the spinach from the pan. Let cool and then refrigerate.
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!!