Sunday, May 23, 2010

It's Indian, and it's green: Saag Aloo Murghi

"Saag Aloo" means spinach and potato curry, and "Murghi" means chicken. Spinach is a great vehicle for curry, as it pairs well with the spices and has a great deal of antioxidants and Omega 3s. And as the final product turns out pea-soup green, it looks kind of gross, which adds greatly to its appeal, if you ask me. I pulled the idea for this one from a recent on-line interaction, and looked to a recipe in a book I picked up not long ago called 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking by Raghavan Iyer. I also found a saag recipe online, wound up averaging the two and made a few changes and additions of my own.


2 lbs. of chicken (1/2 lb. pictured)
1 large red onion
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbsp minced ginger
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp salt
8 oz. spinach, stems removed
1 bunch of watercress, stems removed
7 oz. coconut milk (about half a can)
7 oz. plain Greek style yogurt
3 oz. tomato paste
1 1/2 cups of water
3 small to medium potatoes, cubed (yellow, red or Yukon Gold)
8 oz. paneer,* cubed
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
Ghee, or canola oil and butter, for sauteeing

*or substitute any non-melting white cheese such as queso fresco

You probably want to see the mise on that... Here ya go:


Begin by cutting the chicken up into bite-sized chunks and sauteeing over medium-high heat in a large saute pan with a generous amount of ghee or oil and butter until it just begins to get some color (again, what you see here is a half pound of chicken, in a medium fry pan. When sauteeing two pounds, you'll want to do it in stages, as two pounds of chicken will be way too much for even the largest saute pan; the chicken will end up steaming instead of browning, which will compromise flavor development):

Set this aside, and clean out the pan. Saute the onion, with the spices, over medium heat until translucent, five to ten minutes. Add the garlic and ginger, turn the heat down to medium-low and continue to saute for another five minutes (here's that large saute pan I mentioned):

Add the salt, spinach and watercress to the pan, along with a half cup of water. Simmer for fifteen minutes. The spinach and watercress will fill the pan when you first add them, but as they simmer, they'll wilt and decrease greatly in volume:

Remove the pan from the heat, and allow to cool. Transfer the contents to a blender or food processor, add a half cup of water and puree. Set aside, and clean out the pan. Saute the potatoes over medium-high heat until they begin to get some color, about fifteen minutes. Add the paneer and let it get some color as well (stirring or shaking the pan occasionally), about another ten minutes:

Add the puree back to the pan, along with another half cup of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for another ten minutes:

Add the coconut milk, yogurt, tomato paste, carrots and broccoli and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for another fifteen minutes (if it starts to look like it's getting a little too thick, you can add another half cup of water):

Add the chicken back to the pan during the last five minutes of simmering to bring it back up to temperature. Serve with some naan, roti or similar flatbread. Or serve it over rice, as I did (I like long grain brown rice, cooked with a mixture of chicken stock, water, butter and salt). This will serve about six. It's also a good recipe to do in advance and freeze in individual containers. If you do this, cook the chicken separately when you thaw and re-heat the saag.