Monday, 18 April 2011

Indian eating...saag aloo....

One of the things I love about living so close to Rye Lane is the availability of endless supplies of fresh spinach, aubergines, okra, chillies, coriander and dill – amongst all sorts of other exotic produce – which let me indulge my passion for cooking Indian food.  I love Indian food – both in some of the great restaurants we have nearby like Jaflong in Lordship Lane, delivered to my door by the Honor Oak Tandoori or as cooked by me. 

I find cooking Indian food absorbing – roasting and grinding spices, grating ginger and garlic, slicing onions and preparing meat and vegetables, bringing it all together to make something aromatic and delicious.  I use very little oil so the results are often lighter than many ‘middle of the road’ Indian restaurants, but I think they have as much flavour.

I often make a big batch at one time – of a meat curry, and a dhal – and pack up what’s left to go into the freezer.  We all know the flavours develop and marry together during that resting period!  Once the basics come out of the freezer I decide what we’re having with it.  Always basmati rice, steamed with cardamom pods,  and parathas – occasionally I make my own but usually Khans on Rye Lane provides me with excellent frozen ones.  My current favourite vegetable side is is Saag Aloo – spinach and potatoes – and this is how I make it:

Serves 4 as a side dish 

3 bunches of spinach or 2 large bags – real spinach, not baby
I large potato, cut into 1” dice
1 tblsp. mustard oil
2” length of ginger, cut into very fine julienne
Clove of garlic, cut into fine slices
I medium onion, cut into fine rings
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. fennel seed
2 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. dried dill or handful of fresh dill chopped

Wash the spinach and wilt in a hot frying pan – you don’t need any oil, the water will protect the spinach until it starts to cook.  Drain and chop as fine as you wish – I like mine fairly rough. Boil the potato for 10 minutes in salted water – drain.

Heat the mustard oil in a frying pan or wok and, once hot, add the mustard seeds, turmeric and fennel seeds. Once they have started popping add the onions, ginger and garlic and cook on a high heat until the onions are browned.

Add the potatoes and toss until they have picked up colour from the turmeric and are coated with mustard seeds.  Add the chopped spinach, the dill, a splash of hot water, cover and let steam for five minutes.  A little bit of chopped dill over the top before you serve is lovely.

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