Authentic Saag and Cornmeal Chapatis

Cornmealchapatis
SaagandCormealChapati

A bit of nostalgia……authentic saag and cornmeal chapatis.

On a winters week day in February with many of our usual weekend activities restricted I need something to look forward to.

We’re heading to our Asian supermarket for spice supplies so what might their impressive vegetable selection have that will offer me a little cooking adventure.

I survey the vast array of greens on display and it brings back memories of my Dad waxing lyrical about childhood winter evenings in his home village in the Punjab. If he was lucky one of his favourites would been on the menu, saag and corn chapatis. Now we’re not talking saag the way you may think of it, spinach with potatoes or lamb, delicious though that is. This is a time honoured dish, a slow cooked, creamy mixture of heady greens traditionally cooked over an open fire accompanied by seasonal chapatis made from maize flour.

It’s been years since I made saag myself and the version Mum made over here was by necessity quite different to the one from the Punjab, but these days so many more ingredients are available and I wanted to see if I could conjure up a Punjabi winters evening!

Back in the kitchen I roll up my sleeves up getting ready for a dish I remember as time consuming and am very pleasantly surprised, that beyond some washing and chopping this was so very easy…and the taste! Creamy, verdant, lightly spicy and completely comforting, accompanied by the soft but satisfyingly weighty corn chapatis.

I offer you below my recipe made with mustard greens and fenugreek leaves a swell as spinach but also my Mum’s 80’s version with the equally wintery but utterly British sprouts…sounds strange I know but ,I promise, it really works and they are a lot easier to get hold of if you’re not going to be anywhere near a Pakistani supermarket.

If you don’t fancy the delicious but stodgy cornmeal chapati then rice works beautifully too.

MUM’S SAAG RECIPE

Serves 4

450g fresh spinach
250g sprouts
200g broccoli
2 large onions chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp grated ginger
1tsp garam masala
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli or to taste
Salt to taste
¼ cup of water
1 small onion halved and thinly sliced
2tbsp sunflower oil

Add all of the above ingredients except the last three to a large saucepan.
Cook on a medium to high heat until the mixture starts to simmer.
Simmer for 1 ½ – 2 hours until the dish is very soft and creamy.
Cook the sliced onion in the oil and butter until golden, add to the greens and stir thoroughly.

YASMIN’S PUNJABI SAAG RECIPE

Serves 4
450g fresh spinach
200g mustard greens (saarson)
100g fenugreek leaves fresh
200g broccoli
2 large onions chopped
1 clove of garlic crushed
1 tsp grated ginger
2 green chillies (or to taste) roughly chopped.
1tsp garam masala
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
¼ cup of water
1 small onion halved and thinly sliced
50g butter
2tbsp sunflower oil

Wash thoroughly and then roughly chop the all the leaves and get rid of any tough stems.
Boil the mustard and fenugreek leaves in a cup of water for 3 minutes, drain and refresh under cold water.
Add all of the above except the last three to a large saucepan.
Cook on a medium to high heat until the mixture starts to simmer.
Simmer for 1 ½- 2 hours until soft and creamy.
Cook the sliced onion in the oil and butter until golden, add to the greens and stir thoroughly.

Maize Chapatis

2 cups fine cornmeal
1tbsp sunflower oil
1.5 cups just boiled water
1 tsp salt
½ tsp ajwain seeds

Spread cornmeal in large wide dish, add salt and ajwain seeds and mix. Sprinkle over oil
Dribble water starting from the centre and start to form a dough incorporate enough water so you have a soft dough using all the flour.
Knead lightly but carefully it may be hot!
Let sit for 10 minutes, add a little more water if necessary.
Form into eight balls
Place in-between a plastic food bag that you have cut two sides of so remains attached by base. Press gently to a round approx. 7/8 cm diameter.
Cook for 1.5 mins a side on a medium hot tawa/nonstick frying pan.
Apply directly to hob flame for a few seconds each side if you want some of the charring you get on flatbreads

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