One of my first introductions to South Asian cuisine was saag (cooked greens), specifically palak paneer (spinach with fresh cheese). I want to believe that my friend’s Indian parents made this for me because they were unsure of a tiny kid’s spice tolerance, but I have a feeling they made this dish because the flavors aren’t as bold. That isn’t to say that saag doesn’t have complexities, because it sure does; however, the amalgamation of the spinach (or other greens) and spices are more subtle.
I still remember my friend’s parents eating their meal without utensils, salting their sliced cucumbers and tomato wedges, all the while little 10-year-old me continued rattling away with silly questions like why they weren’t eating with cutlery, while the kids were given forks. They welcomed my curiosity and answered in quiet demonstration of using roti to help pick up their vegetables, cheese, and sauce. I sat there in awe. They made it look so easy! When I went home that day, I couldn’t stop thinking about when I would be able to eat Indian food again.
Over the years, both of us have had a variety of “curries”, with James’ childhood more infused with it due to living in Singapore. Somehow we both settled on cooking this dish, Saag Gosht (Palak Gosht – Spinach with Meat) probably because we both love cooked spinach. We added some goat to give this dish some volume and make it into a meal, but saag can be enjoyed without a protein. It’s so delicious with basmati rice, roti, or naan.
- 500g (about 1lb) Spinach
- 10g (about 1½T) Corn Flour
- 10g (about 2T) Chickpea Flour
- 140g (a large) Onion
- 35g (12) Garlic Cloves
- 4g (2t) Ginger
- 4 Green Chilies
- 70g (5T) Unsalted Butter
- 2g (1t) Cumin Seeds
- 1½g (½t) Turmeric Powder
- 2 large Bay Leaves
- 2g (1t) Chili Pepper Flakes
- 2 medium Tomatoes, chopped
- 900g (2lbs) Goat, cubed
- 2g (1t) Garam Masala
- 60g (¼-cup) Plain Yogurt
- 5g (1¼t) Kosher Salt
- Paneer, optional
- Cilantro, to finish
- Take out a large pot for the saag.
- Wash and drain the spinach. Discard any wilted leaves. Blanch the spinach in a small pot, with about 1 liter of water. Fish out the spinach and blend with the corn and chickpea flours. Place all of the spinach mix into the large pot. Keep the spinach water.
- In a food processor, chop the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies, until the mixture turns into a chunky purée. On low to medium flame, melt the butter in a pan, sautée the cumin seeds for 1 minute, then add the ground aromatics. Continue on low flame until the mixture begins to turn golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Turn off the flame and add the turmeric. Mix well. Pour into the large pot.
- Throw in the bay leaves, chili flakes, chopped tomatoes, and salt. Give the contents a good stir.
- Add your protein (in this case, the goat) into the pot and pour in the spinach water, just until the contents are covered. Close the pot and simmer the saag for 1 hour, or until the meat is tender.
- Turn off the flame, add the garam masala and yogurt, and mix well.
- Serve with chopped cilantro and enjoy with some rice, roti, or naan.
- A liter of water isn't enough to blanch all of the spinach at once. In fact, I kept the amount of water to a minimum because I wanted to add the spinach water into the pot (boiled spinach water = flavor). Too much boiling water would have resulted in a thin saag, so I went through the trouble of blanching and scooping the spinach out in a couple batches.
- Corn flour is not corn starch, nor is it cornmeal. It's corn that's more finely ground than cornmeal. Internationally, corn flour is often what the US calls corn starch. Corn flour can be easily sourced at any South Asian grocery store, or even your neighborhood supermarket.
- Please don't hesitate to adjust the amount of chilies. We just enjoy our dishes with a kick!
- Make sure when you are toasting and browning the cumin, onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies, the mixture doesn't burn. Keep moving the ingredients in the pan.
- We use plain whole milk yogurt in this recipe, though any plain yogurt will do.
- To make this vegetarian, omit the meat and add paneer. Cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the spinach has completely softened.