Saturday, March 14, 2009


One of the best things about winters setting in here is the early morning calls made by saag vendors. One look at the carts can make you feel healthy. It is loaded with fresh tender green stalks of Sarson leaves, fresh tender and green baathu(, fresh tender and green Palak and juicy white and fresh radishes with green leaves. So much goodness that goes so cheap. You come away with armloads of this stuff for much less than a hundred.

Check the sarson leaves for freshness, tenderness and unspotted leaves. Ditto for Palak. Dont forget to get a couple of radishes with leaves. Of course the radishes in Chandigarh are huge, one can weigh a kilo. You need a Sarson-saag n Palak ratio of 2:1 (my favorite ratio - though you can even go 3:1). Palak can be substituted with Baathu - though my favorite is palak, it makes the saag softer. Or you can add the palak and baathu half-half. If you have bought the mooli with leaves and they look fresh, you can add the mooli leaves to the saag too.

Take a break - listen to this song while you read this ...

Wash all the leaves liberally with fresh water, so there are no vestiges of mitti. These days the saag is well washed by the vendor, so little needs to be done. People in US will probably get everything in packs anyhow. OK, so post washing chop the sarson leaves WITH THE STALKS (the tender part, do away with any hoary ones) in about half a cm bits. I love the scent of mustard when you are cutting up the leaves. Cut up the palak similarly, and/or baathu n mooli leaves. Put it all in a pressure cooker and turn the heat to low. Usually the saag here is so juicy that it sheds water immediately, if your saag looks kinda dry put in some water, enough to cover the saag. Put in half an inch of ginger and a few pods of garlic, some salt (be a little stingy with salt as the saag is kinda naturally salty, you can add later when it is done)

Let the cooker sing for at least 30 mins on low flame and inhale the aroma of saag. Switch the heat off n let the cooker cool off to warm. Traditionally one lady holds the cooker steady with a towel and another uses some kinetic energy to stir the saag into a fine paste with a ghotna, a thick wooden stick with a flat bottom. But these days, alas, we just dump the almost cool paste into a mixie and whir it into a paste - dont mix too much, as a very fine paste does not taste too good.

In a saucepan, heat some desi ghee (tadka size) n put in a pinch of heeng n some red n green chillies, if you neglected to put in ginger and garlic with the boiling saag, now is the chance. Throw the tadka over the saag n stir, n heat on low flame for a bit till it looks all mixed up. Sarson da saag keeps for a long time, so the trick is to re-tadka it whenever you serve it again. A cousin of mine had this killer tadka of diced spring onions and tomatoes with a lot of green chillies and red chillies... yummy !

Makki ki roti is a bit more complex, because the atta is very roughly ground and does not bind too well. Some people like to add a lot of wheat flour to it to make it bind well and roll like a chappati, I dont like that. Mix makki ka atta with wheat atta in the ratio of 4:1. One cup will make about two rotis, so figure that out. Dont forget to throw in a pinch of salt in the makki atta. Use slightly hot water to bind the atta. Add little water at a time and mix well, the atta should be quite soft and lumpy, not as hard as the wheat atta mix.

Sigh ! My aunts used to scoop up big balls (tennis ball size) of makki ki roti and pat out a roti with their hands, flipping it expertly on to a hot tawa. Luckily, i learnt the plastic sheet trick. Make a ball n a peda with the atta and throw a sprinkle of water on a plastic sheet laid out on a chakla. set the peda down on the pastic sheet in pat a roti into shape with your hands, keep your hands wet with the warm water. Start out with small pedas - about the same size as the wheat ones, till you get the trick. Flip the roti on your hand by turning the plastic sheet and slap it on the tawa. Cook it like a parantha. Serve the thali of makki di roti te sarson da saag with a bit of mooli, spring onions and nimbu ka achar.

Makki di roti tastes yummy with kadi as well. I love makki-methi di roti and makki-mooli di roti. To make that you have to grate some mooli (or chopped/cleaned methi leaves) and mix with makki ka atta before you bind it. Put in a bit of chopped dhania and hari mirch too. On no account forget to salt the makki ka atta before you bind it, it tastes quite bland without it. Initially you can make makki di roti slightly bigger than a tikki till you learn how to handle the ductile atta.


couchpapaya said...

avdi - that was quick, thank u so much !!!! i have some frozen sarson which has been sitting arnd until i found the time to research these recipes !!! we get fresh sarson very rarely, i've seen them only in the fall months (aug-sept) for some reason ..... have to figure out if i know baathu by some other name :)

couple of q's, when the pressure cooker is on low for cooking the saag, this means that it shouldnt whistle??

and for makki ka atta, is this the same as corn flour which we use as a thickener in chinese cooking or some other atta ??

thanks again for the recipes avdi, they sound simple enough. will make them as soon as i can and let u know !!!

avdi said...

I have given a wiki link for baathu. Do check it out.

The cooker will whistle of course, but not madly, just once in a while. Unless you have those 'silent' futura kind of cookers.

No no, its not corn flour, definately not. Corn flour is very fine and white. Makki atta is decidedly golden yellow and grainy to touch. Shakti bhog brings out packets of Makki-ka-atta. I suppose you can ask at an indian store.

Even here fresh saag is found from october onwards till february.

Smita said...

We call is bathua :) my mom makes delicious raita of same :)

I make it a point to cook sarsoon ka saag every season but this time was unable to...saag hi nahin mila yahan :-( even if i get it, it doesn't taste as good :-(

But the recipe is too good specially the special touch lile 'let the cooker sing' ;-)

avdi said...

Yes, some people are able cook stuff out of baathu, but I am kinda peeche here, though I love green stuff - methi palak saag whatever.

I know how hard saag is to come by in the western India. When we were in Jamnagar, all visiting people from Delhi had to bring along saag. I couldnt figure out what the fuss was when I was younger, but now I do !

Bouncing-Bubble said...

hmm for all this I hv to master the art of making a simple chapatti, no? but I'll try the first one..

avdi said...

Is Right .. though patting out small makki ki roti is simpler than rolling a perfect roti.

couchpapaya said...

avdi - just made the saag, it's very yummy!! used the tadka of spring onions and chillies :) didnt make the rotis because still no makke ka atta, ate with plain chapattis but have decided next time will be the whole thing!! thanks again for the recipe!

avdi said...

oh wow ! You could get saag in this season? thts great. In fact, my mouth is watering !

couchpapaya said...

it was frozen! i think the frozen veggies dont have the same taste as fresh ones, but beggars cannot be choosers .... even in season i dont see the saag hereabouts :(

avdi said...

As long as it was tasty !