To all you wonderful people celebrating these festivals throughout the world, I wish you all a very Happy Lohri and Makar-Sankranti!
I talked about Makar Sankranti in my last post and today, let me enlighten you about Lohri!
India is the land of festivals and one of the first festivals of the new year is Lohri. Called as the festival of harvest, on this day the farmers thank the Gods by lighting a bonfire and seeking His blessings for a successful harvest. It is a rich Punjabi festival (belonging to the state on Northern India- Punjab!) consisting of festivities such as traditional dances, songs and delicious food!
The people of Punjab, the most fertile land of India, primarily celebrate the harvesting of sugar-cane on this day. Other crops like Sesame seeds, jaggery, mustard and spinach are also harvested, and they are the primary attractions of the day. People make sesame and jaggery based sweets like Gajak and Revadi, and staple meals such as Punjabi Sarso ka Saag with Makki ki roti.
My husband is half-Punjabi and I have learnt all of my Punjabi cooking from my mother-in-law. Some of the most prized recipes of that lot would be Punjabi Kadhi, Baingan ka Bharta and yes, all the winter special meals like scrumptious stuffed-parathas and of course, Sarson ka Saag.
Sarson ka saag te Makke di roti is a classic Punjabi dish made of a variety of leafy vegetables, but primarily of Mustard greens! ‘Saag’ means ‘Green’ and ‘Sarson’ means ‘Mustard’. Along with a steaming hot flat-breads made of Maize flour and lots of butter, this meal is lip-smackingly delicious in winters.
My mum-in-law makes the most delicious Sarson ka saag and as she is currently in India, in the past month I spent a lot of time constantly whining to her over phone, about missing her saag on the chilly Winter evenings. She suggested that I try making the saag with whatever leafy vegetables I can get my hand on in Dublin.
Now, we don’t get authentic green vegetables required for making Sarson ka saag here in Ireland. No mustard greens, no methi (fenugreek leaves), no bathua.. nothing.
“All I would have is Spinach!” I said to her on the phone, gloomily.
Then something amazing happened. A couple of weeks ago, we went to the Indian store and miraculously, I got fresh bunches of Methi leaves as well as the maize flour which is required to make the breads along with the Saag. I mean, for me to get these two things in our little village of Ireland is truly nothing short of a miracle! Now, I could make my saag with spinach and methi and also makke ki rotis to go along with it.
Then something else amazing happened guys! It was almost like I complained so much about not having Saag, that heavens granted me with all the best elements to make it happen and for my incessant whining to be stopped! 😉 We were at the super-market when I saw little bunches of green leaves that said- “Pak choi- the Chinese mustard greens” MUSTARD! I had a hunch that this leafy thing would be very similar to the mustard greens authentically needed in the Sarson ka saag recipe back home. I happily bought two bundles of pak choi, lots of Spinach and with my Methi at home, I was ready to cook my saag!
Folks, BELIEVE ME…… it you are living outside India, this particular combination of leafy vegetable will give you the best Saag that you have eaten in ages. Spinach, Pak choi and a a small amount of fenugreek leaves aka Methi. Hubby is a very strict critic of my food and even he was baffled on our dinner last night because we had never dreamt that one day, we will be enjoying hot Sarson ka saag and Makke ki rotis sitting at home in Ireland. You have to try this!
Spinach and Pak choi are easily available in all the countries abroad and I am sure that if we can get Fenugreek leaves in our village, then you should be able to get them at your nearest Indian store for sure during the winters, anywhere!! I am attaching the pics of both so that you may recognize them easily.
It was my first time making Makke ki roti and rest assured, it is tricky! Since the maize flour is gluten-free, it is extremely crumbly. You have to bind it strongly using your palms and then roll them even more carefully so that the dough does not break apart. Work slowly, carefully and in a relaxed way…..you will be just fine! It’s not rocket-science!
So happy cooking foodies and once again, wishng you all a very happy Lohri and Makar Sankranti! xx
For the Saag-
– 500 grams Spinach leaves
– Leaves from 2 bundles of Pak choi
– 1 small bunch of methi leaves
– 2 green chillies
– 2 tbsn Maize flour
– 2-3 plump cloves of garlic, chopped
– 1 large onion, finely chopped
– 2 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
– 1tbsn ghee (clarified butter) + 2 tbsn oil
– 1 tsp turmeric powder
– 1 tbsn Red chilly powder
– 2 tbsn Butter
– Salt to taste
For the flat-breads/Makke ki roti-
– 2 cups Maize flour or makke ka aata
– 1/2 cup wheat-flour
– 1/2 tsp carom seeds
– 2 tbsn fresh, chopped coriander
– A pinch of salt
– Around 3/4 to 1 cup of warm water
– Ghee for cooking
– In a large, deep bowl, combine your spinach leaves, methi leaves and pak choi leaves. Wash thoroughly under a lot of running water. Drain and chop roughly.
– Transfer your chopped veggies to a pressure-cooker along with one cup of water.
– Chop your green chillies finely and add to the greens in the cooker.
– Put on the lid and steam on low for around 7-8 minutes, after the first whistle at High.
– Open the lid and let your steamed vegetables cool.
– Transfer the greens to a blender and preserve the water from the pressure cooker in a separate cup.
– Grind the greens until it is almost-smooth. There should still be a bit of choppiness to the paste. (In Hindi, my mum-in law says- Thoda darrdarra peesna hai... i.e don’t grind it too smooth!)
– In the same cooker, transfer the green paste back and add 2 table spoon from the preserved water to it.
– add 2 tbsn of maixe flour to the paste and put the mixture back on heat to cook.
– With a whisk, or spatula, mix the flour and paste together constantly until the flour get nicely combined with the mixture and no lumps can be seen.
– Stirring continuously, cook until the raw smell of the flour goes away. You can also taste it to make sure you don’t taste the raw flour like texture. Switch off the flame and set aside.
– Prepare the tempering for your saag now. In a pan, heat your ghee+oil.
– Once hot, add the chopped garlic and saute for a few seconds.
– Next, add the chopped onions, salt and turmeric. Mix and cook covered on medium-low flame for around 10 minutes, until the onions turn pink and translucent.
– Throw in the chopped tomatoes and cook until it completely dissolves in the tempering.
– Add the chilly powder and again saute for a few seconds.
– Finally, add your green paste to this tempering and mix everything well together.
– Cover and cook on low flame for around 10-15 minutes more, stirring every once in a while.
– Switch off the flame and pour your butter on top of your delicious saag. Fragrant and yummy Sarson ka saag is ready!
To make your Makke ki roti-
– In a large bowl, combine the maize flour, wheat flour, salt, carom seeds and chopped coriander leaves.
– Adding water little by little, make a dough of medium consistency- not too hard and not too soft! You will have to use your palms for mashing and getting the mixture together to combine well.
– Cover your dough with a damp kitchen-towel for around 10 minutes.
– Take some ghee in your hand and again, knead your dough for a couple of minutes.
– Take a small ball of dough and gently press it together between your palms to flatten it a bit.
– With a rolling-pin or your fingers, smoothen the dough-ball into a little circle of around 5-6 inches.
– Carefully place on a hot frying-pan.Turn when you see the surface bubbling.
– Take a spoonful of ghee and smear it on the cooked side. Turn and repeat with the other side.
– Cook on medium flame until your see dark-brown spots of the surface of your flat-breads. Transfer to a plate.
– Prepare all your Makke ki rotis this way!
– Serve piping hot Sarson ka saag with delicious Makke ki rotis and enjoy the gorgeous staple meal of Punjab, right in your living rooms. Happy eating!
– Fenugreek leaves or Methi leaves are bitter n taste. So make sure that you do not add more than a fistful in your saag.
– I even threw in a little kale in my saag as I had some in my refrigerator lying around. Taste good. Try it or skip it!
– You can skip adding maize flour in your saag but I would recommend that you to add it if you have it on hand.
– You can also enjoy the saag with normal, wheat rotis if you do not have maize flour or if you are not confident enough to try making makke ki rotis. Taste great either way!
– Do not skip using garlic in the tempering. As my mum-in-law says- ‘Swaad to ussi see aata hai!” (That’s what contributes maximum flavor!)