Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Sag Aloo – My Indian Cooking Quest

Now that Lamb dopiaza (made with beef!) and Aloo gobi have made it into my repertoire of regular family recipes, I’m on the lookout for more easy and tasty Indian recipes. I’ve set myself an ambitious target. My husband’s 50th is fast approaching. The usually suspects are invited for supper, then to be inveigled into boogying on down to some classic 70s and 80s music. He is really enjoying the spices that are finding their way into ordinary weekday suppers, now that the kids are developing slightly more adventurous palates. So it’s going to be an Indian supper for about 24, half adults, half kids. My idea is to have lots of different dishes, buffet style and I’ll need to cook most of them in the morning to be warmed up later, so they need to re-heat well.

We’ve got so much lovely fresh spinach growing in the garden that it was a no-brainer to add Sag Aloo to the list. We arrived back rather late in the afternoon from the children’s various activities yesterday (one girl off on pony camp yesterday, the other with her friend to a course at the Aquarium, son reduced to his computer, book and table tennis with Dad, as his cricket course is only next week). The sun was setting, so there was a flurry of getting in washing before it got damp again, before settling down to chopping onions for the lamb dopiaza. A desultory exploration of Google came up with Sag Aloo recipes that didn’t really inspire – none of them expected fresh spinach to be used and the spices didn’t quite ring true. And then I returned to my Madhur Jaffrey book, finding the authentic original Sag Aloo recipe there after all, listed simply as spinach and potatoes.

It seemed that most of the recipes I’d found via Google had started off from her recipe, but cut things down or out. The biggest difference is in the amount of oil she stipulates – 6 tablespoons to cook one chopped onion in. No wonder the low fat brigade left out most of it. But going back to the original recipe gives you a chance to try it as it is meant to be. All that oil disappeared as soon as the chopped wilted spinach was added, allowing the mellowed onion flavour to be absorbed into the otherwise rather bland spinach leaves. It was delicious just as she describes. Its child-friendly score in our family was only 1/3, but my husband loved it and so did I.

So without more ado, here is Madhur Jaffrey’s original recipe, oil and all.

Sag Aloo Recipe
About 900g 2lb potatoes (waxy if you have them)
450g / 1lb fresh spinach or 1 pack frozen leaf spinach
6 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
½  teaspoon whole black mustard seeds
1 large onion chopped quite fine
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon garam masala
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to the boil. Peel the potatoes and dice them into cubes of about 2cm/ ¾ inch. When the water is boiling add the potatoes and 1 tablespoon of salt. Return to the boil, cover the pot and lower heat so that they simmer gently until just tender – about 6 minutes or so. Drain the potatoes carefully and allow  them to cool and dry. Be careful not to overcook them as they can fall apart to a mush.

Wash the spinach well (if fresh) and drop it into a large pan of boiling water. Leave it in just long enough for it to wilt, then drain it. Squeeze out as much water as you can and chop it fairly finely.
Heat all the oil in a large heavy based frying pan over a medium high heat. When it is really hot test it by dropping in a mustard seed. If it pops almost immediately it is ready. Add the rest of the mustard seeds and then as soon as they are popping add the chopped onion and garlic. Reduce heart slightly to medium and fry, stirring now and then, until the onions are just starting to turn a light brown at the edges. Don’t let them get dark brown or burn or the flavour will permeate everything.

Add the spinach and stir in well, cooking and stirring often for another 10 minutes.
Now add the cooked potatoes with the garam masala, a teaspoon of salt and the pinch of cayenne. Stir everything together gently until the potatoes have warmed through.

Now I’m on the hunt for a good Naan bread recipe – one that isn’t going to cause too much last minute stress. But I guess I’ll try out Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe before i look any further, unless any of you have a great recipe I should try?


  1. I not only adore middle eastern recipes, that gorgeous BOWL.... love, love love!

  2. It is a gorgeous bowl! I've got a smaller version too. A present from my SIL, who got them from a potter just along the coast somewhere east of Cape Town. One more reason for you to pay us a visit!

  3. Loving your India odyssey - and that bowl!

  4. Just made this for the second time in a week - great recipe and I agree with using all the oil she suggests, it makes all the difference. And I second the comments about the bowl - just gorgeous

  5. Excellent and easy too. I've added a pinch of dried fenugreek leaves for complexity


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!