Sunday, February 18, 2007

Saag Mollee, with detours

Each marriage has stories about itself. Stories about its beginnings, sure, but also stories about its existence. Short plays, epic tales, extremely detailed cast lists.

One of our stories is that the husband is the experimental chef of the family, in contrast to my safe and dependable cooking. He's the one who'll look at a potato and an eggplant and decide to finely cube the potato and deep fry it to make potato croutons, which he uses to stuff the eggplant along with roasted wattleseed and the sauteed contents of the eggplant itself. I'm the one who never cooks without a cookbook propped up against the spice rack.

But then I promised to write a recipe down for someone the other week, and realised how many footnotes it took me to do so. I don't so much follow a recipe as I use it as a launching pad. My transcribed recipes say things like 'simmer for half hour or until masoor dhal is tender (which you'll find takes at least an hour and a half, and if you want that caramelly effect I recommend you simmer for three hours, then cool down overnight and simmer for another hour the next day), then add peeled and deseeded tomatoes (except, who can be bothered peeling and deseeding tomatoes? Just chuck 'em in chopped finely and simmer down)...etc'.

And this evening I was cooking a fish and spinach curry, using a recipe book. The husband wandered in and asked what I was cooking. It's a mash-up of a saag paneer and a matter paneer recipe, I answered, except that I'm using fish instead of paneer, and Greek yoghurt which I know sounds odd but makes the sauce thicker, and some lemon juice. So it's not, in fact, a recipe that resembles anything in that book, he asked. Well, no, not really.

So on the grounds that it therefore needs writing down somewhere, I give you saag mollee a la tanya. You'll see what I mean about the footnotes.

Saag Mollee

About a bunch of English spinach. My good friend the Future Proofer tells me that not all bunches of spinach are created equal, so basically you need enough that when you've chopped off all the nasty stemmy bits and picked out all the bits that have gone off in the few days between 'Ooh, I should buy some spinach' and 'What the hell am I going to use this spinach for' and then rinsed the leaves thoroughly under several changes of water, it still fills a colander.
1/2 kg white fish, chopped into chunks. Ling or basa or hake or anything will do.
1 tbsp ghee
A medium onion, chopped finely
Two cloves garlic, chopped finely.
2 tsp fresh grated ginger, or dug out of a jar of ginger like normal people do.
1 teaspoon panch phora. Panch phora? It's a mix: 2 tbsp black mustard seeds, 2 tbsp kalongji (nigella) seeds, 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds, 1 tbsp fennel seeds. Make it once, you can use it for ages. Hey, go crazy, increase the quantities.
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
one 400g can diced/crushed tomatoes
1 cup Greek yoghurt. European will do, but Greek is better for a thick sauce.
Some lemon juice
Some salt
1 tbsp Garam Masala
Some fresh coriander, torn up into little pieces

Rinse spinach leaves thoroughly. Steam in large pan using only the water that clings to the leaves for about 15 minutes. Stir occasionally, because if you get distracted and don't stir it occasionally, the bits on the bottom burn, and burnt spinach is a really odd smell. Just saying.
Drain spinach and leave to cool.
Use the same pan for the curry. Melt ghee in pan and add panch phora. Stir over highish heat until seeds start to pop. This is not a good time to be standing really close to the stove and peering at the pan. Without goggles, anyway.
Add onion and garlic and ginger, stir over heat until onions golden. Add ground spices except Garam Masala, stir to coat, cook2 minutes.
Add can of tomatoes, stir for five minutes or so. Sauce should be pretty thick.
Chop now-cooled spinach into...smaller bits. Add to sauce, stir through to heat.
Add yoghurt, fold through. Add a squirt or two of lemon juice. I don't know...a tbsp? And salt to taste.
Add white fish, simmer for ten minutes.
Add garam masala and coriander, stir through, take off heat.
Eat with rice or naan.
Write fan mail to Tanya. Preferably enclosing cheques.

Nutrition Information: Christ, I don't know. It's got spinach in it. What more do you want from me?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds wonderful. does continental do it in a packet, by any chance? some of us *are* bachelors.

19 February, 2007  

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