“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.” -Dave Weinbaum
Lohri, a festival celebrated by people from Punjab and North India is traditionally associated with the end of winter and the harvesting of Rabi (winter) crops. These crops include wheat, barley, mustard (sarson) and peas. New marriages and births are also celebrated with grandeur during Lohri, marking them as new beginnings with wishes for a bright and fruitful future. People have gatherings and large parties asking for blessings and celebrating this new stage in life. Celebrations include dressing up, singing folk songs while dancing around a bonfire and throwing sesame seeds, gur (jaggery), puffed rice and other items into the fire. Children go around asking for Lohri (blessings, money, toys, and sesame & peanut candies from elders. Sarson ka saag and makki ki roti is the traditional meal during this festival.
Sarson ka saag is a mixture of slow cooked mustard greens and spinach. It has an earthy flavor and is tempered with warm spices making it the perfect dish for the cold weather. It’s different from cooking other vegetable dishes as it’s cooked on a medium low heat for an extended amount of time.
It was a special holiday for us this year we celebrated Little Mirchi’s first Lohri. I also couldn’t be prouder that one of her favorite foods lately is a milder version of this dish… okay, okay it’s pureed kale and spinach, but close enough for baby saag! We paid a visit to the Gurdwara for blessings the day of and ended it with a quiet evening at home with the traditional dinner of daal (stewed lentils), saag and roti. Saag is a staple in our home during the winter months. With greens and spinach being ample this time of year, I generally make big batches and freeze it for a rainy… or snowy day. It reheats wonderfully is even better when fresh chicken tikka or paneer is added for additional taste and flavor. I didn’t develop a taste for Saag until after marriage, as my husband is a huge spinach fan. I toyed with my mom’s and Dadima’s (paternal grandmother) recipe and finally figured out what worked for us.
Some tips & ticks about Saag:
- Saag is not the same as palak ki saabzi. Saag is a culmination of different greens as opposed to palak which is just spinach.
- By following the first step below (pressure cooking the greens) you will cut down your slow cooking time in half.
- Traditionally the spices for saag are tempered in ghee (a clarified butter made from cow’s milk) Ghee is an acquired taste and can be substituted with canola/vegetable oil.
- If freezing, wait until the cooked saag cools and store in an airtight container. When you are ready to have it again take it out of the freezer the night before and let thaw at room temperature. Once thawed, simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- 4 packed cups spinach
- 3 packed cups mustard greens
- 3 green chillies (minced)
- 1 large onion (finely chopped)
- 1 medium tomato (chopped)
- 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons kasoori methi (dried fenugreek)
- 2 teaspoons gud or brown sugar
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 5-6 cloves
- 3-4 cardamom pods
- 2 teaspoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3 teaspoons salt (adjust accordingly)
- pinch of asafetida (hing)
- 2 tablespoons oil
- In a large pressure cooker add mustard greens, spinach and gud (the gud doesn't make the dish sweet, it just takes the away any bitterness from the greens. As an alternative, you could use sugar). Give the greens 2-3 whistles. [If you do not have a pressure cooker, steam the greens until they are wilted] Strain the steamed greens but reserve the water for later. By taking this extra step it will help cut down your cooking drastically.
- In a food processor pulse the spinach mixture a few times. If you prefer a paste texture, process the mixture a few more minutes.
- In a heavy bottom pan or skillet heat oil and add cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods. Fry on medium low for about a minute. Add the asafoetida, green chillies, ginger garlic paste, kasoori methi and fry until the garlic paste starts to slightly brown. Kasoori Methi to me is like Butter to Paula Deen, I just can’t get enough – the aroma, flavor and depth it gives dishes is incredible! Add the garam masala, cumin, coriander and turmeric powder. If the mixture has become too try add 1 tablespoon of the reserved mustard greens/spinach water. Roast for 1-2 minutes.
- Mix in the chopped tomato and simmer until the juices have released. Add in the Mustard Green/Spinach mixture, heavy cream and reserved water. Cover and let cook on medium heat for 30-35 minutes, mixing occasionally. Uncover, add salt and let simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes.
- Once cooked, add lemon juice and serve hot with roti, naan or rice.
*This recipe first appeared on Masalamommas.com