March 31, 2014

Sindhi Greens

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Sindhis, an ethnic group native to Pakistan, express their love of leafy greens with this curry, called Sai Bhaji. Spinach and methi (fresh fenugreek) are cooked in a spicy vegetable paste, and fortified with channa dal (split chickpeas) and potato. Served steaming hot over brown rice, this makes a wonderful vegan meal.

3-1/4 cups (800 mL) water, divided
1/4 cup (60 mL) channa dal, rinsed
6 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed, seeded, cut in chunks
2-inch (5 cm) piece ginger, peeled, sliced
2 tbsp (30 mL) coconut or canola oil
1 tsp (5 mL) cumin seeds
1 each: large diced onion, shredded carrot
2 tsp (10 mL) or more kosher salt, divided
1 tsp (5 mL) each: chili flakes, ground coriander
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ground turmeric
2 small tomatoes, cored, grated
1 bunch methi (about 8 oz/250 g), stemmed
4 oz (125 g) chopped spinach leaves or baby spinach (about 4 cups/1L)
1 large yellow-flesh potato (about 8 oz/250 g), peeled, cut in 1/2-inch (1 cm) cubes
1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped cilantro

In small pan, bring 2 cups (500 mL) water and channa dal to boil on medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 40 to 45 minutes, or until falling apart.

Meanwhile, in small food processor, purée garlic, jalapeño and ginger with 1/4 cup (60 mL) water. Set aside.

In large pan, heat oil on medium until shimmery. Stir in cumin seeds 10 seconds, or until they pop. (Do not brown.) Add onion, carrot and 1 tsp (5 mL) salt. Cook, stirring often, 5 minutes, or until golden. Stir in chili flakes, coriander and turmeric. Stir in garlic purée. Cook, stirring, 1 to 2 minutes, until liquid evaporates. Add tomatoes. Cook, stirring often, 4 to 5 minutes, until mixture thickens and oil separates out at edges. Add channa dal and its liquid, potato, 1 tsp (5 mL) salt, methi and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes, until greens wilt. Add remaining 1 cup (500 mL) water. When liquid comes to boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes, or until potato is tender.

Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro. Adjust salt.

Makes 4 cups (1 L).

  • Split, skinned and dried chickpeas are called channa dal. They are often soaked before cooking, but I don’t bother doing so with this tiny amount. If using soaked dal, cut the cooking time in half.
  • Indians often grate tomatoes to obtain the proper texture for curries.
  • To prepare the methi, pluck the leaves (with their tiny stemlets and any white flower buds), then discard the tough main stems.
  • If you are not a vegan, add a cooling dollop of yogurt before serving.

Credit: Susan Sampson
Tested in Imperial