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Okay, so today I’ve got a classic Indian recipe that is my answer to both never having to throw out another bag of forgotten spinach from the fridge vegetable drawer again, and to deal with a glut of home grown spinach when you’ve forgotten the plants and perhaps left them to run a bit: Saag Aloo.
Asafoetida is a gum that comes from a type of fennel plant, used dried, which is very pungent with a garlic allium flavour, which is why it is often used in cooking if people need to avoid garlic and onions, for example if they follow a low FODMAP diet, or the principles of ayurveda. In Indian cooking, it is commonly used to enhance savoury flavours, even alongside onions and garlic, as I have used it here.
If you need to follow a gluten-free diet watch out as a lot of asafoetida you buy in the supermarket yes has turmeric added for colour, but also flour to help it keep it’s texture. The Sainsbury’s version I use contains rice flour for example, but do check as brands vary.
This easy Saag Aloo recipe makes a classic spinach and potato Indian vegetable side dish that is delicious served as part of a spread, or as an easy vegan meal served alongside cooked rice and a selection of chutneys.
300g (10 oz) potatoes
1 tbsp light oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves
1 green chilli
1 banana shallot
1/2 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional)
200g (7 oz) fresh spinach
thumb size piece fresh ginger
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
Peel the potatoes and cut them into slightly large bite sized chunks. Cook in a pan of boiling, salted water for about 10 minutes until just tender. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large, lidded frying pan or shallow casserole over a medium high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook for a minute until just aromatic.
Peel and slice the garlic cloves, deseed and finely chop the chilli, and peel and finely chop the shallot. Add them all to the hot oil along with a good pinch of sea salt and cook for 3-4 minutes until they’re soft and the garlic is just starting to colour.
Stir in the coriander, turmeric and asafoetida, and cook for a further minute.
Finely shred the spinach with a large knife (there will be a lot of it, I do this in batches transferring it to a large mixing bowl as I go) and stir it in batches into the spice mixture until it all fits in the pan. Clap on the lid, turn the heat down to low and cook for 5 minutes until the spinach is wilted and soft.
Peel and cut the ginger into very fine matchsticks. Stir the ginger and the cooked potatoes into the spinach along with another pinch of salt. Return the lid and cook for a further 5 minutes; the potatoes should absorb any excess moisture from the spinach.
Season to taste with fresh lemon juice and more sea salt, if needed, before serving.
Serves 2 as a side dish or up to 4 as part of a larger spread.
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