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Sunday Chronicle epicuriosity 31 Mar 2019 Go green with spinac ...

Go green with spinach

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | FAREEDA KANGA
Published Mar 31, 2019, 12:31 am IST
Updated Mar 31, 2019, 12:31 am IST
There are more ways to cook super food spinach than the traditional ones.
Ghee Mutton roast, spinach upma.
 Ghee Mutton roast, spinach upma.

Cooking with spinach or palak can get repetitive as it is usually a set of tried and tested recipes that make it to the table such as perennial favourites like palak paneer and dal palak to name a few. However, in spite of its strong taste, spinach lends itself to multifarious innovations from soups and salads to meats and more when paired sensibly.

ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION
First cultivated by the Arabs, spinach was then found in Persia 2000 years ago. The Moors took it to Spain from where it spread across the globe. The word ‘spinach’ comes from the Spanish word Hispania. In India, it grows in abundance in a moist and cool climate. High humidity is essential for good foliage. It is a cool season annual crop with fast maturation. The leaves can be either flat or slightly ruffled, and are bright green when young, deepening to a more intense colour when older.

 

COOKING WITH SPINACH
“When you plan a dish, it is not about yourself. Who is your audience? What are their  expectations? In my cuisine, the roots of the cooking skills remain intact, the style remains classic. The flavour profiles, however, will change. We mix ingredients that you may think cannot be mixed together, but it works! In the case of spinach, it is a very versatile ingredient that has found a way into our everyday kitchen vegetable baskets,” suggests mentor chef Vineet Bhatia at Ziya, The Oberoi, Mumbai.

His twist on saag paneer for example bears mention: “Here, the saag or the pulp of the spinach is reinforced with cottage cheese — paneer. Again, from the northern part of India. But here is a twist, where it is enveloped in fine Carpaccio of zucchinni and you get earthy flavours with the zucchinni, spinach and the paneer that come together. It is beautifully offset with pine nuts.” (See recipes below.)

Of course, the bitter flavour of spinach is an acquired taste — you either love it or hate it and works best with dairy products and eggs.

The milder, young leaves can be eaten raw in a salad, while the older ones are usually cooked (spinach has one of the shortest cooking times of all vegetables).

In fact, cooking with this leafy wonder is so easy you don’t need any elaborate recipes. Sauté fresh spinach leaves in olive oil with minced garlic until the leaves are wilted. Top with a squirt of lemon juice and serve as a nutritious side dish to accompany grilled meat.

STORAGE AND SELECTION
Select spinach with bright green leaves, tender but crisp stems and a fresh smell. Avoid any that is black or wilting and soggy. Avoid  washing before refrigerating.

You can start by blanching the leaves for a tasty soup made with stock and milk or cream. Move on to a salad consisting of baby spinach leaves and any other vegetarian or non-vegetarian fillers. Remember to wash the leaves thoroughly before cooking and the water that clings to the leaves is
sufficient for cooking. You can boil spinach leaves for
three to five minutes in salted water, too.

NUTRITIVE PROPERTIES
Dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are considered a super food. “It is beneficial for its micronutrient properties and its fibre content.

Ghee Mutton roast, spinach upma

Ingredients

For the upma

60 gm ghee
5 gm mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
100 gm onion
2 green chillies
200 gm samolina
200 gm spinach puree

For the ghee mutton                 
500 gm mutton
20 gm ginger-garlic paste
5 gm turmeric
100 gm ghee

For the masala

10 gm dry red chillies
10 gm tamarind pulp  
5 gm Kashmiri red chilli
powder
10 gm coriander seeds
5 gm cumin seeds
5 gm fennel seeds
5 gm fenugreek seeds
10 gm pepper corn
5 gm mustard seeds
1-2 mace  
1-2 cloves
1-2 cinnamon stick
300 gm fried onion
10 curry leaves
5 gm garlic
Lemon juice to taste
Salt to taste

method    

For the upma

In a pan heat ghee and add the mustard seeds.
Once the mustard seeds starts spluttering add the curry leaves,chopped green chillies and chopped onions.
Sauté the onions till they become translucent.
Add the samolina and roast every thing together. When the samolina is brown add hot water and cook for few minutes.
Add spinach puree and season with salt.
Cook for two to three minutes till the upma thickens.

For the ghee Mutton

Marinate the mutton pieces with ginger-garlic paste, salt and turmeric.
Keep aside for 15 minutes.
Put the marinated mutton in a pan and sauté for few minutes.
Add water and cook for 30 minutes till the mutton is soft and is cooked well.

To make the masala

Take a heavy bottom pan and add dry red chillies, Kashmiri chilli powder, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, pepper corn, mustard seeds, mace, cloves, cinnamon stick, fried onion.
Roast the spices for few a minutes till the mixture is brown.
Add the tamarind pulp and blend into a fine paste .
In another pan, add ghee, the prepared masala paste, curry leaves and garlic.
Cook well untill the ghee is separated.
Add the cooked mutton and sauté for few minutes

For the plating

l In a bowl spoon the upma in the bottom of the bowl and arrange the ghee mutton on top of the upma.

Spinach also forms a very good stomach filler for individuals trying to lose fat and struggle with appetite issues since volume wise it occupies space in the gut, but calorie wise happens to be low.”says Dr Siddhant Bharga va, co-founder, Fitness & Nutritional Scientist, Food Darzee. It is a great source of Vitamin A, C, and K. Vitamin A and C act as potent antioxidants and Vitamin K helps in the regulation of blood parameters.

“This leafy vegetable is rich in iron and folate, which are important for the appropriate functioning of the blood cells. Being loaded with potassium, it helps reduce the effects of sodium and indirectly help reduce blood pressure .The great magnesium levels in spinach prevent cramping and fatigue. The rich fibre content  is very beneficial for gut health as well. Spinach is truly a superfood,” Dr Siddhant Bhargava concludes.

Zucchinni Paneer, spinach saag, pine nuts

Ingredients

For the paneer roll
         
480 gm paneer
2 zucchinni
10 ml oil
5 gm turmeric
5 gm ginger-garlic paste
5 gm cumin powder
Salt to taste

For the Saag
        
500 gm spinach leaves
150 ml ghee
10 gm garlic, chopped
10 gm cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies
100 gm onions
100 gm tomatoes  
7 gm coriander powder
7 gm cumin powder
5 gm turmeric powder
Salt to taste
8 gm white butter
50 gm pine nuts
method    

For the zucchinni paneer roll

l Slice the zucchinni length wise and grill on a sandwich griller and keep aside.
l Cut the paneer into juliennes  and marinate with salt, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste, cumin powder and oil.
l Roll the grilled zucchinni on the marinated paneer and bake in the oven for four to five minutes.

For the saag

Shred half the spinach and keep aside. Blanch the other half and puree it.    
Heat ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds,chopped garlic and chopped green chillies.
Sauté till the garlic turns brown.
Add chopped onion and saute, add chopped tomatoes and cook till they soften.
Add cumin powder, coriander powder and  turmeric powder .
Then add the shredded spinach and cook for five minutes .
Add the spinach puree and further cook for few minutes.
Season with salt and finish with white butter.

For assembling, spoon the saag on a flat plate and arrange the zucchinni paneer on top and garnish with roasted pine nuts.

Green lentil and spinach soup, kachori 

Ingredients

For the soup
250 gm green moong dal
60 ml oil  
5 gm cumin seeds     
15 gm ginger, chopped     
60 gm onions, sliced     
20 gm fresh coriander stems
2-3 green chillies     
100 gm spinach leaves     
Salt to taste

For the kachori                 
200 gm green peas     
50 gm oil
2 green chillies     
3 gm turmeric powder     
3 gm asafoetida     
5 gm sesame seeds     
5 gm sugar     
1 gm black salt     
15 gm cashewnut     
10 gm raisins     
300 gm atta     
20 gm ghee     
Salt to taste
Oil for frying the kachori

method    

For the soup
Wash and soak the green moong dal for about two hours.
Blanch the spinach and puree it.
Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds, sliced ginger and onions and sauté for few minutes.
Once the onions start cooking add the sliced green chillies and fresh coriander stems.
Sauté for few minutes and add the soaked green moong dal.
Add five cups of water, cover the pot and let it cook for about half hour or till lentil soften.
Once they cook completely,  puree the lentils and strain.
Add spinach puree to the strained lentils and cook for few minutes.
Season with salt and serve hot.

For the kachori
 
Prepare the dough by mixing flour, ghee and salt.
Add hot water and kneed a hard dough and let it rest.
Divide the dough and roll the portions into small disc.
Cook the green peas and crush them a bit using the grinder.
Heat oil in a pan and add asafoetida, sesame seeds, crushed cashew nuts andchopped raisins.
Sauté for few minutes and add turmeric powder, crushed green peas and season with salt
Stuff the green peas mixture in the dough disc and make small dumplings.
Deep fry in hot oil.

The recipies are by chef Vineet Bhatia at Ziya, The Oberoi, Mumbai

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