Literally “greens with potatoes” saag aloo, originated in the Punjab, the ancient region along the tributaries of the Indus River now divided between India and Pakistan. Traditionally it was made with mustard leaves but it can be made with spinach or other leafy greens. Since I found some beautiful rainbow chard at the farmers’ market I used that in my version. Some recipes call for the potatoes to be fried, others insist that they be boiled, while yet others just say “cooked.” Sometimes the greens are pureed and sometimes not. And sometimes the dish contains yoghurt, sometimes yoghurt and heavy cream, sometimes neither. I opted to boil my potatoes and, in order to highlight their lovely colors, not to puree the greens. Instead of adding yoghurt to the dish as I often do, I made raita—yoghurt with cucumbers and radish—as an accompaniment.
Note: you can use 1½ Tablespoons of Indian five spice, panch puran, in place of the individual seeds.
- 2 or 3 waxy potatoes, about 12 ounces, peeled or not, cut into ½-inch cubes
- 6 or more large, colorful chard stalks
- 1 Tablespoon oil or ghee
- ½ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
- ½ teaspoon kalonji (“black cumin seed”, optional)
- ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon Indian mirch powder or cayenne pepper (optional)
- ½ cup water
- Salt to taste
Boil the potato cubes for about 10 minutes or until nearly done. Drain and set aside.
Wash the chard well then trim any woody part off the bottom of the stems. Remove the stem and large central vein from the leaf. Slice the stems crosswise into ½-inch pieces. Tear the leaves into 2-inch pieces. Set the stem and leaves aside separately.
Heat the oil or ghee in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Add the seeds and fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add sliced onion and sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook, stirring, for another minute. Finally sauté the chard stems for a couple minutes. Sprinkle in the turmeric and mirch, if using.
Put the potatoes into the pan and toss to coat. Pour in the water, turn the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Add the chard leaves and re-cover for 2 or 3 minutes, until wilted. Uncover, check the salt, and turn the heat up a bit to evaporate any excess moisture.
Serve immediately over basmati rice accompanied with raita and Indian pickles.