During winters the most commonly eaten delicacy in Punjab or I should say in almost whole part of northern India is a saag made of Sarson (Mustard) leaves. Though I didn’t relish it much in my childhood as I dreaded the sight of green vegetables at that age. But soon when the taste and aroma of the saag started to grip my senses, I realized that it is much more than any other green vegetable.
During winters the most commonly eaten delicacy in Punjab or I should say in almost whole part of northern India is a saag made of Sarson (Mustard) leaves. Photo from Flickr
And then my tryst with this exquisite dish started and I became more inquisitive to learn how to bring to platter the Sarson ka Saag. And who better to approach than my grandmother who has a vast database of recipes in her mind.And here is a candid description of what my grandmother shared with me.
As per her this dish is cooked with lots of patience. Starting from the first step of picking the best leaves in the lot till the point of slowly simmering the saag on a flame, everything has to be done with utter care and patience.
With first rule of cooking the saag in my kitty I was given the second lesson. And that was never to throw the stems of the leaves. Remove the cover of these stems and cut the pulp into small pieces with the leaves of the saag. Once finely chopped, put the leaves and the stems in a large dish and put it on flames to steam them. Do keep in mind to keep the flames low. Let the leaves take their own sweet time to become tender and soft.
Till the leaves of saag are getting tender it is best to prepare the masala for the saag. In a pan take some ghee and add onions, ginger and garlic to it and cook till they are perfectly caramelized. keep aside. Once you are satisfied that the saag leaves are soft then is time to blend them. Blending them into a paste using a blender or a mixer is surely an easy and convenient way. But it would be best to blend the saag using your hands. And the instrument available in Punjab to blend the saag is “Madhani”. Oh the result of blending using Madhani is awesome as neither it makes the saag into a flowing paste and nor the leaves are left intact.
The next step was simple. Just mix the caramelized onions, garlic and ginger to the blended saag. Add salt as per the taste and lo the saag is ready.
My heart was pounding hard to taste the saag prepared by me under the able supervision of my Grandmother. But I was told to hold my horses. As per my grandmother there was another secret ingredient that goes into the saag to make it sumptuous.
And here she unfurls this secret ingredient. It was maize flour. To the saag that was made using a bunch of Sarson leaves she added a teaspoon of maize flour or Makki ka atta as is called in Punjab. After giving it a nice mix she poured a spoonful into a big bowl and to decorate the same just pure simple butter on top.One big dollop of butter on top.
Now was the time to prepare the Makki ki roti or bread using the maize flour. For this also I was lucky to receive yet another tried and tested advice from her. She grated a few radishes and mixed it in the flour. Added water and started to knead it. After that roll out chapatis from that flour and off they go on heavy based pan. Once cooked they were also be garnished with a dollop of butter on top.
That afternoon, while basking in the sun, everybody was all praises for my culinary skills while eating Sarson ka saag with Makki ki roti. But heart of heart I was thanking my grandmother to be by my side to teach me the authentic way of cooking this Punjabi delicacy.