This is a saag aloo in the proper sense as it isn’t just spinach but slow cooked spiced potatoes with kohlrabi leaves, beetroot tops and kale. Or basically ‘the perfect dish for this time of year’. Fresh from all those greens, but warming with the spices and just the right side of stodge with the spuds, it’s early autumn in a dish.
I am not very good with what we think of as Indian food in this country (although I know we combine Bangladeshi and Pakistani food under that umbrella term as well.) We rarely ate much Indian food as when we were growing up and I’ve always found the taste of the generic curry powder or paste rather cloying. I also don’t like cumin, fenugreek or turmeric. And to top it all off, the only time I’ve ever been to a curry house was when I’d just started at university and it was a crash course in chilli oneupmanship, 19 year old boys drinking beer and girls worrying about calories. We only left to go to the Bonfire Night parade in Lewes and the naked anti Catholic sentiment there really didn’t make my korma sit well.
Unfair associations from that night mean I’ve been neglecting the food of the sub continent for over a decade and now I don’t really know where to start with it. I’ve been dipping my toe in by trying to get acquainted with the spices. I’ve learned that cumin is a spice that needs care to prevent it overwhelming the whole dish. Fresh turmeric has bowled me over with its beautiful aroma and flavour and I’m learning to like the taste of curry powder through eating Caribbean dishes.
I’ve decided to start expanding my repertoire by dipping into the vegetarian dishes Indian cuisine does so well. And anything that allows me to eat more leafy greens is a good thing. My recent health related vegetable embargo felt endless as I watched people gorge on broccoli and kale. But aside from putting everything with potatoes what dishes do you recommend to start me off?
Three Leaf Saag Aloo (serves 2)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
- 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 2 large potatoes, skin on
- 1 bunch beetroot tops, stalks removed
- 1 head of kohlrabi leaves
- 1/2 bunch kale, stalks removed
- 200ml water
- flaked almonds to serve (optional)
Soak your beetroot tops in cold water for 20 minutes. The silt and dirt will sink to the bottom. Repeat for 5 minutes each time until the water is clear. Remove the stalks and reserve to make pesto. Wash the kale and kohlrabi leaves too and set on a tea towel til needed.
Heat the coconut oil and then fry the cumin and mustard seeds for a minute. Add the potatoes which you have cut into 1/2 inch chunks. Sprinkle the garam masala over them. Just cover with the water. If 200ml looks like too much or too little depending how big your spuds are, adjust it. Put a lid on the pan and cook for about 10 minutes.
Chop the beetroot tops and kale roughly so that they are easier to get into the pan. The tops will wilt but the kale stays roughly the same size. Toss the kale in and put the lid on for 2 minutes. Add the tops and the kohlrabi, stir well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Stir to combine again and serve with a few flaked almonds if you’re fancy (or wanted the picture to look nice like me) and then tuck in. This was amazing. The beetroot is sweet and earthy, the kale fresh and the kohlrabi a little bit oniony and I loved it. I also felt so pleased to able to make vegetables go even further with the costs as they are at the moment. Kale and I are friends again!