Saag aloo is usually thought of as being a dish of curried spinach and potatoes, but the word “saag” actually means “greens” and is often cooked with other greens, such as mustard greens. I’ve used spinach in this dish because it’s widely available and, well, I love it, but you can make it with any greens you wish. Saag aloo is usually served as a side dish but is often cooked as a main meal for vegetarians. Be careful if ordering from a restaurant though, as it’s often finished with cream. I’ve used soy cream, which tastes fantastic, but if you prefer you can omit or use non-dairy yoghurt or coconut cream.
I’ve made my fair share of Saag Aloo dishes but this one is really special. It has a flavour that my partner finds comparable to beef. Personally, I was never a big fan of beef and don’t remember what it tastes like, but this meal reaches a whole new level of deliciousness whatever you think it tastes like! I’m convinced that it’s the “secret ingredient” that makes it so special, but this secret ingredient is nothing new or unusual, in fact you may well have it in your home right now; it’s leeks! I know this may seem like an anti-climax but I’m absolutely convinced that putting a leek in my saag aloo has made a world of difference to the flavour of the dish.
I’m not sure what compelled me to throw a leek into this curry, nor am I entirely sure why I decided to accompany it with cabbage bhajis, but I am sure that this meal will be a staple in our household for years to come. The cabbage bhajis are delicious hot or cold and have a really nice texture to them; a kind of light crunch. Also, they’re baked, so much healthier than deep fried bhajis. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against deep fried food and we all deserve a treat now and then, but I prefer to save that treat for vegetable tempura or tofu fish and chips (see The Fresh Vegan Kitchen by Charlotte and David Bailey if you don’t know what I’m talking about!) I haven’t tried frying these bhajis because they taste so great baked, and you could also use the recipe to make onion bhajis. I’ve been baking my onion bhajis for years. Yum.
As for the rice, I simply combined my favourite flavours of rice, coconut and cardamom, and it worked a treat. Cardamom is my favourite spice, there’s simply nothing else like it, and I always find that adding desiccated coconut to rice makes it extra fluffy. The saag aloo is delicious on its own and makes for a great easy weeknight meal, but if you have the time it really doesn’t take too much effort to pull the whole meal together and you could really impress a vegan-sceptic with it!
I hope you enjoy the recipe, let me know what you think! And don’t forget to check out my other recipes too!
See this and other great recipes over at Veggie Wednesdays with The Culinary Mama and Gluten Free Fridays with Vegetarian Mamma!
For the curry paste:
½ red onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 green chilli, sliced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp tomato puree
½ small bunch coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp chilli powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper (omit for a mild version)
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 tbsp water
For the rest:
1 tsp sesame oil
½ red onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, washed, trimmed and thinly sliced
600g potatoes, cut into approx. 1.5 cm chunks
240g baby spinach
200ml soya cream
Sea salt and black pepper
- Place all the curry paste ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor and blend until a thick paste is formed.
- Place a cast iron or other large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the sesame oil. When hot, add the curry paste and cook, stirring often, until darkened and thickened. This takes about 5-10 minutes.
- Add the red onion and leek with a splash of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes until softened, adding a little more water if needed.
- Add potatoes and stir to mix well. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, adding water as necessary to prevent sticking.
- Add 250ml water and stir. Cover partially, leaving room for steam to escape, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes until potatoes are just tender.
- Add the baby spinach, stir, cover partially and cook for about 2-3 minutes until wilted.
- Stir in soya cream and simmer over a low heat, uncovered, for 5-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.
150g chickpea flour (besan, gram flour)
1 heaped tsp ground cumin
1 heaped tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
½ tsp each salt and black pepper
¼ tsp ground cloves
400g white cabbage (about ½ head), thinly sliced
2 tbsp tomato puree
Olive oil spray
- In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients except cabbage, tomato puree and olive oil. Add the cabbage and mix well with your hands.
- In a jug or smaller bowl whisk 200ml water with the tomato puree. Pour onto the cabbage mixture and use your hands to mix everything together, making sure the wet and dry ingredients form a runny paste which coats all the cabbage slices.
- Preheat the oven to 200oC/gas 6/400o Line two large baking trays with baking paper. Spray lightly with olive oil. Pick up the cabbage mixture in clumps of about 2 heaped tbsp and place on the baking tray. You should have enough for 8 bhajis per tray, 16 in total. Flatten each one down a little so that they will cook evenly. Spray with a little olive oil.
- Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes until golden and crispy around the edges. Be sure to swap the trays to the opposite shelves halfway through cooking. Serve hot or cold.
Olive oil spray
½ onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 black cardamom pods (available in Indian stores)
6 green cardamom pods
300g basmati rice, washed and drained, soaked for 30 minutes if you have time
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
- Place a heavy-based non-stick saucepan over a medium-low heat and spray with olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 4-5 minutes until softened.
- Bruise the cardamom pods by laying them on your chopping board and pressing the side of a wide knife down on each pod, using the weight of your hands, until the pod splits. This allows the seeds inside the pod to flavour the rice. Add the pods to the onion and garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for about 1 minute.
- Add the basmati rice along with the desiccated coconut and stir for about a minute before adding 600ml water. Stir, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.
- Turn off the heat and leave undisturbed, with the lid on, for 10-15 minutes before quickly fluffing up with a fork. Keep warm until ready to serve.