Last year, my Punjabi neighbor bought Saag to the Diwali potluck. It looked like a regular ol’ saag, but when I tasted it, I couldn’t believe it. It tasted creamy, delicious and heavenly. Greens are like gods of nutrition to me, and to make greens taste this good required some hidden knowledge. What was it?
My neighbor was puzzled at my enthusiasm. She insisted she was doing the regular recipe. I instantly barraged her with a bunch of questions:
Me – What greens did you use?
She – Just regular greens, mustard greens, sometimes kale, spinach, etc.
Me – What spices did you use?
She – I added ginger, green chillies.
Me – Eh? That’s all…What? no other spices.
She – Wait, I added red chilli powder, did I? She turned to her husband, “did I add red chilli powder?”
Oy, ve!! This was becoming very frustrating. She was treating this awesome recipe with the carelessness we South Indians talk about rasam or something.
Me – How long did you cook for?
She -I cook it like regular saag, for an hour and a half.
Me – Wait, what? That seems rather long for something you are going to grind anyway…
Her playful expression now vanished. She admonished me lightly, “You NEVER grind saag. You have to mash it and mash it and mash it. Otherwise, how will you get the kids to eat it?”
Armed with this advice, a ton of traditional Punjabi women cooking videos, many recipe trials and my own need to make recipes easy, I present to you Upgraded Creamy Saag recipe.
I use the slow cook option in the Instant Pot so that the hearty greens in the saag falls apart in tenderness overnight. In the morning, all I got to do is the tadka and mix the mashed greens and voila! – awesome saag!!
- 1 lb Mixed green (Kale+Chard+spinach)
- 1 in Ginger
- 2-3 Green Chillies
- 6 cloves Garlic
- 1/2 cup Corn Flour (Makki ki atta)
- 4 tbsp Butter (2 for tadka, 2 for serving)
- 1 medium Onion (chopped)
Add the greens into the instant pot. Add 2 cups water. Set it to slow cook mode for 8 hours.
Open slow cooker. Switch to 'Saute mode'. Sprinkle corn flour and mash it together with cooked greens till you get a creamy consistency. Let it boil for a minute. Switch off instant pot.
Prepare a coarse paste of ginger+garlic+green chilli. Add butter to pan. Saute paste in butter for 30-60 seconds.
Add chopped onion. Saute well.
Add required amount of mashed greens to the pan and boil for 2-3 minutes.
Serve with butter.
Preferred combination of greens - 2 Hardy greens (Mustard greens, collard greens, kale) : 1 soft greens (spinach, chard etc).
If you don't want the slow-cook method, cook the greens in Instant Pot Pressure Mode for 20 minutes or slightly longer.
Step by Step Pics
Cram greens in the instant pot.
Slow cook for 8 hours. Next morning…
Switch to Saute mode. Add corn flour, mash…More corn flour mash..some more,mash..
In a pan, add garlic-ginger-green chilli paste to butter and saute…
Add onions and soften
Add greens to tadka (picture not available), boil for a few minutes and serve with butter. So Yum!!
Greens – Nutrition Questions
Greens are such a bargain for nutrition, that we must include it weekly – daily if possible. Low in carbs, fat, high in fiber, Ca, Fe, Vit A, protein etc – it is truly a superfood.
Now, this recipe has a rather high proportion of fat added to it….and given its superpowers, I consider it a fair bargain. You don’t want to eat a high calorie vegetable – say, potatoes dolled up in fat, but since greens are low in calories, they are a perfect complement for fats.
What about all that cooking? Doesn’t it kill all the nutrition? Not really…long cooking has an impact on water soluble vitamins like Vit B and Vit C. But the other nutrition carries on, and are possibly even enhanced. Regarding Vitamin B, the chapathi you eat with the greens should be able to offer you that missing piece. Vitamin C is easily available in fruits or by squeezing a dash of lemon to your plate before eating.
I have been looking at so many saag recipes. Here are the basic rules that I observed:
- The real traditional ones use a wooden masher to get that creamy texture. Alternatively, you could use a potato masher too.
- You always put saag on the tadka and not vice versa. In my mind, I think it is coz – The greens get a chance to sear on the high heat and caramelize right before serving. Reserve extra greens for later use.
- Ginger and green chillies seems to be the base flavoring for saag. Others additions/flavorings are optional and based on your taste.
Here’s another traditional saag recipe I like on youtube. This Punjabi cook gives her grandma’s recipe and I really like her version. She adds methi seeds and jaggery to her saag. I have tried it and liked that version very much also. There is a bitter-sweetness to the recipe that I really loved!!
Time for my dear readers to share their thoughts and comments down below. As always, I look forward to hearing from you.