sarson ka saag (recipe)
I came across a recipe online many years ago for a curry of mustard greens. By chance mustard greens were in season and I bought them not for onigiri, as the Japanese use them, but for Sarson Ka Saag. Since then I’ve sampled dozens of recipes, which don’t vary much.
Mustard greens aren’t popular here, so when they come into season I buy them in bulk to freeze. I stem them and blanch the stemmed leaves from the stems separately. I prepare the dish with the tender parts of the leaves for guests and use the leftover stems for when I make it just for myself — either way, Sarson Ka Saag is a treat.
The species of mustard greens that we can purchase is less pungent than what I’ve eaten in India and the states, so unless I need to stretch the dish, I make it with only mustard greens whereas typically it’s 1:1 or 1:2 mustard greens:spinach.
Many recipes will finish the dish with a temper of onions, tomatoes, spices but if I’m making this for myself I omit that extra step because I’m too impatient to wait. However,if I’m serving them with the corn roti (that’s most popular to eat with them) I make the effort — corn and mustard greens have an affinty with each other, which is why many recipes add corn meal the curry to thicken it.
This is the recipe I most often come back to. For me, I don’t need extra spices. I wan to enjoy the the flavor of the greens as directly as possible.
Sarson Ka Saag
Tier one (you must use)
Mustard Leaves – 2 bunches (approx 3 lbs)
Spinach – 1 bunch (approx 1 lb)
Water – 2 cups
Oil – 1 Tbsp or ghee
Onions – 1 1/2 medium, finely chopped
Tomatoes – 2 medium, finely chopped
Tier two (suggested)
Ginger – 1 Tbsp, minced
Garlic – 1 Tbsp, minced
Salt – to taste
Red Chili Powder – to taste
Garam Masala – 1 tsp
For Garnishing (Seasoning):
Oil – 1 Tbsp
Onion – 1/2 medium, chopped in big chunks
Tomato – 1 medium, chopped in big chunks
Tier three (optional)
Corn meal (for thickening)
Stem the mustard leaves and blanch them in boiling salted water for 2 – 3 minutes, drain, cool with running water or in an ice bath to stop the cooking. When cool enough to handle squeeze them over a bowl collecting the liquid. Rough chop the mustard greens and set aside.
In a large kari, wok, or skillet heat the ghee/oil and add cumin and when you hear the characteristic pop add the hing, quickly followed by the onions. When they brown add 1/4 of water and reduce until the oil comes out. (see note here)
Add the garlic and chili paste, the green and red chilies, turmeric, corriander powder and cook for 1 or 2 minutes and add is you’re using fresh tomatoes add them now, if not add the chopped mustard greens and mix the onion mixture into the greens well. At this point add the canned tomatoes, if using, and guage the water level. The flavors need to meld so there should be enough to make it slightly soupy. Add up to 1 cup of water or some of the mustard juice you pressed out and cook for 20 minutes to reduce the liquid and bring it to the consistency you would like to serve it.
During the last five minutes add the garam masala.