Winter Special – Sarson Da Saag Te Makki Di Roti


Earthy, flavorful, full of nutrition and delicious in taste sarson ka saag or mustard greens is a perfect winter meal. A staple in rural Punjab it is enjoyed by both Punjabis and non-Punjabis alike. The meal is often accompanied with buttermilk, homemade white butter, curd, radish/onion/green chili, jaggery. Made with seasonal mustard leaves along with other leafy veggies like bathua (Chenopodium or pigweed) and spinach the main dish has its variation in every household. Some people add turnip or radish to it while cooking. Others may use a little jaggery to balance the slight pungent taste of mustard greens.  A mix of spices is stirred in to build up the flavor.

I learned this recipe from my MIL. Their village home surrounded by fields of mustard and maize. Fresh mustard leaves are tender dark green colored broad leaves with flat surface and may have either toothed, frilled or lacy edges depending on the cultivar type. Its light-green stem branches out extensively into many laterals and have a sweet peppery flavor.

My MIL always discarded the big, damaged or yellowing leaves. Only tender small/medium leaves were used for the saag. She used the tender stems called Gandal too. Gandal is also used to make delicious pickle but that we will talk about some other day. The stems are peeled and the upper thick fibrous layer discarded. Then they are cut into small cubes and added to the chopped leaves. She said it provided the sweetness to the saag and she is so right. The addition of gandal is a game changer in the making of this dish.

Preparing sarson ka saag is a labor of love, a time consuming process so many people make it in large quantity and freeze it. Whenever the craving strikes the saag is thawed and seasoned freshly to be enjoyed again.  If you have a time crunch do clean and wash the leafy greens in advance and cook them with essential ingredients to save time.

Here is the recipe :

Sarson ka Saag :

500 gm – cleaned, washed, finely chopped mustard or sarson leaves and tender stems

250 gm – washed cleaned and chopped bathua or chenopodium leaves

250 gm – cleaned, washed and chopped palak or spinach leaves

Ginger –  1/2 inch piece+ julienne 1 tbsp

Garlic – 8-9 cloves

Green chili -4-5

Onion – 1 medium . chopped fine

Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

Red chili whole/ powder – 1/ to taste

Salt – to taste

Ghee/Clarified butter – 2 tbs

Turmeric Powder -1/2 tsp

Hing / asafoitida – 2 -3 pinch

Coriander seeds – 1 tsp

Maize flour / makki ka aata – 3-4 tbsp

Method :

Once you have all the greens cleaned, washed and chopped add them to the pressure cooker with a little water, salt, turmeric powder.

Pound the ginger, garlic and green chilies together in a mortar and pestle and add to the greens. This adds a delicious flavor to the saag.

Pressure cook till 3-4 whistles and lower the flame to cook for another few minutes or till the leaves are completely cooked. Let the cooker cook down then open and coarsely mash the saag with a potato masher or a buttermilk churner (Mathani) till it is a nice even mix. Add the maize flour and mix well so that there are no lumps.

Let it cook on slow heat to get the desired consistency then turn off the gas.

Now it is time  season it. You can cool and keep the saag in the fridge at this stage for future use.

For the Tadka or seasoning, heat ghee in a pan and once it warms add asafoetida and cumin seeds and coriander seeds. When they crackle add whole red chili and chopped garlic. Fry it  little till it browns a bit then add chopped onions and fry till they becomes translucent and pinkish in color, add some chopped ginger. red chili powder, stir and add the cooked saag to it. Cook on low flame for sometime and then urn off the stove. Keep it covered for sometime for the flavors to seep in. Serve hot with makki ki roti topped with a dollop of fresh butter r warm ghee.

Note – If you do not find bathua you can add a small tender turnip or  chopped fresh tender radish with ts greens. It gives a very nice flavor.

Never ever blend the greens in a mixer, it not just changes the flavor a bit but makes texture sticky and goey.  Saag should always be preferred “Ghota hua” or ” coarsely mashed” for the authentic taste.

If you wish add tomatoes then grate 1 large tomato and add to the seasoning after the onions have changed color. Fry the mixture properly till it is well cooked then add the saag. I avoid tomatoes at all cost.

You can change the proportion of  the tadka / seasoning as per your taste but do not let the spices overwhelm the dish. The flavor of leafy greens must play a major role in taste.

Makki Ki Roti : 

The makki ki roti is traditionally made by flattening the ball of dough between the palms of hands. I learned it this way and even cooked it on chulha but here is an easy way.

Makki atta / Maize Flour – 1 cup  (2-3 rotis)

Warm water – as required

Method – 

Take the flour in a plate and add warm water slowly. Keep rubbing the flour with your fingers as you bind it. Warm water ensures that the rotis come out soft and nice. Bind the flour and press it with the base of your palm till it becomes a cohesive mass and comes together in a nice dough. Cut the dough in two parts and make a ball.

Take a cling wrap and spread it on the kitchen counter. Apply a little oil and place one ball of the dough. Flatten it a bit  with fingers and cover with one side of the cling wrap. Roll with a rolling pin till it s round and flat. It should be a little thicker than the wheat roti. Gently lift it and place it on the hot tawa. I usually apply a little oil to the tawa and wipe it before putting the roti. Let it cook on one side on slow flame. Once slight brown spots appear flip itand let it cook. Once both sides are nicely cooked toast it on open flame by moving the so that the entire area is nicely toasted.

Remove on a kitchen cloth and crush a little by holding it on you palm. Apply ghee or serve with white butter on top.

There is no sight more comforting than seeing the butter teasingly melt on the hot roti. Love hot makki ki roti with ghee and gud /shakkar too.

We make churma with stale or behi roti by crushing it with ghee and shakkar. It tastes divine. One can add a little hot milk in it too.  🙂

Serve the hot sarson da saag and makki di roti with mirchiwale pyaz, mooli, green chili, dahi and gur.

As you see this is not just food this is a love.

Durga Ashtami : All about kale chane and halwa poori prasad


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Durga Ashtami prasad is one of my favorite meals. We never celebrated sharad navratri festival at home so I was basically unaware of the rituals till we shifted to Delhi in 1972.  As a little girl the festival brought cheer and good food. I would wait for the navratra to end so I could gorge on the  lip smacking halwa and chana ghugni with hot crisp puffed up poories and collect my kanjak gifts too. It seemed like an achievement to visit a good number of houses and come loaded with money, gifts and food in that order.

The food would be deposited on the dinning table. I would stash away the money and open the gifts. In between I would take spoonfuls of chana or halwa and wonder how the same chana ghughni which is staple of our daily food suddenly tasted unbelievably different and delicious. Perhaps it was the joy and fervor with which it was prepared and consumed that made the difference.

I felt all important after the kanya pujan etc though with time my thoughts about kanjak or kanya pujan ( worshiping the little girls) changed. We also discussed who made the best halwa poori in the neighborhood and who gave the best gift or was generous with money. It was heartbreaking to grow up as it meant no more kanjak invites to me.

It was only after my marriage that I learned to make the actual prasad the way devotees make it as a bhog  to Goddess Durga, It was made with utmost piety and devotion. No one would eat before the kanjak was fed. One would enter the kitchen only after taking a bath and changing into new clothes. Especial care was taken about hygiene, puja thali was prepared before beginning to make the bhog, etc etc. The boys felt left out and declined to help call the girls (kanjaks). I wonder if they hated that more, or being famished or delivering prasads to immediate neighbors’ whose daughters couldn’t come. The aroma from the kitchen didn’t help much.

It was tough to catch hold of the little ones as they fluttered from one place to another while we waited to hog the food. My MIL grumbled at our lack of ‘sanskars’ but eventually we managed to gather eight girls ( all below nine years of age) and one little boy considered to be Hanumanji’s avtar. MIL had a name for the boy which I can’t recall.

I remembered my granny telling how putting good thoughts in food while cooking makes it good for our bodies and mind. Maybe this is what she meant and did on a daily basis. The art of cooking and eating with mindfulness and gratitude.

Let’s get back to Kala chana ghugni which is made without onion and garlic for the prasad but on other days it has a few variants. I used to make it for lunchboxes, travel meals, afternoon snacks and as a main dish for breakfast and lunch too.

These days this ritual of making Ashtami prasad is a part of nostalgia. I have used ghee to make the sookhe chane or chana ghugni.

You can find the Suji Halwa recipe here.

 

Recipe for chana ghugni or kanjakwale sookhe chane 

Ingredients : 

Black Chickpea | Kala Chana – 250 gm

Green chili – 3-4

Cumin seeds – 1 tsp

Fresh grated ginger – 1 inch piece

Ghee | Clarified butter – 2 tbsp

Coriander Powder – 3 tbsp

Ajwain – 1/4 tsp

Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp

Chana masala or amchur – 1/2 tsp

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped – 2 tsp ( optional)

Steps : 

Wash and soak kala chana overnight in a container.

In the morning drain the water and wash the chana again. Pressure cook it with ajwain, salt and two cups of water till the chana becomes soft but doesn’t get mashed up.

Strain the chana water in a bowl for later use.

In a cast iron pan heat ghee and add cumin seeds. When they crackle add green chili and boiled chana minus the water.  Slightly mash some of them.

Add the spice powders and stir on medium flame. Slowly add the chana water and turn the flame on high so that the water gets absorbed in the chana and the spices get coated properly. Turn off the gas and cover the pan till you are ready to serve.

While the chana water is getting evaporated prepare a tight dough for the poori / puri and keep a kadhayi to heat the oil for frying.

 

Poori Ingredients : 

Wholewheat flour | Atta – 2 Cup

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt – 1 tsp

Water – as needed to knead the dough

Oil for deep frying – about 2-3 Cups

Method:

Mix atta, oil and salt in a large bowl then slowly add water to knead a firm, smooth dough. It should not be too soft or sticky. Cover it with a damp cloth.

Make small balls and roll them out to make the poories. Use a little oil instead of dry flour if needed.

Heat the oil for frying in a large kadhai. Drop a small pinch of dough to test if the oil is hot enough for frying.  The little ball should fry and rise quickly. Discard it.

Put in the poories one by one. Turn the poori within a few seconds of sliding it in oil and press it lightly with a slotted spoon. It will start puffing up uniformly.  Keep adjusting the flame so the oil doesn’t get too cold or too hot.

Turn the poori again and cook till light reddish brown in color. I prefer them this way.

Drain the oil by holding it in the slotted spoon against the inner side of kadhayi. Remove and put on a paper towel. or clean white sheet of paper. Make all the remaining puris similarly.

Serve the hot poories with suji halwa and delicious chana ghugni. You can serve home cultured curd or raita with it. If not making for prasad or bhog you can serve a pickle on the side too.

 

May you discover the Dugra that lies within you. You are She and She is You.

Happy Ashtami and festive season to all.