I went to the Indian market looking for fresh methi leaves, but was told they didn’t have any because it was summer. I had picked up something called “green leaf,” which I was told was very good. Although it looked familiar I didn’t recognize it. I am always one to try something I have not tried before.
Note: I am still not sure that this is water spinach. If anyone out there knows by what other name the Indians call “green leaf” I would appreciate knowing.
It took several hours of searching through Urdu vegetables lists and Google Images to find out that “green leaf” was kalmi saag, or water spinach in English. This is something you would usually find in a Chinese or Vietnamese market. I have used it before, but it had been a long time. It sounds like something to put into my Saag Paneer recipe, so I think I will.
Karl’s Kalmi Saag Paneer
1 lb. kalmi saag (a.k.a. water spinach or green leaf)
1 lb. frozen spinach
½ lb frozen mustard leaves
½ tsp. toasted cumin
½ tsp. toasted fennel seeds, slightly crushed
14 oz. of paneer
3 Tbs. clarified butter
1 med sized onion, chopped
1 tsp. ginger, minced
1 tsp. garlic, minced
2 jalapeño chilies, minced
½ tsp. turmeric powder
½ tsp. coriander powder
1½ tsp. garam masala
2 Tbs. fresh mint, chopped
2 Tbs. cilantro, chopped
2 tsp. lemon juice
salt to taste
1. Blanch the water spinach, the frozen greens, and the tomatoes and squeeze as much water out of the greens as possible and set aside.
2. Peel, seed and chop the tomatoes and set aside in a bowl.
3. Cut the paneer into 3/8 inch thick slabs. Butter a griddle and toast them on both sides until lightly brown. Dice the slabs and set aside.
4. In a large sauté pan toast the cumin and fennel seeds for one minute. Pulse the seeds in a spice grinder a few times to break them up slightly.
Tip: If you do not have a spice grinder, use a mortar and pestle to slightly crush the seeds.
5. Add the clarified butter to the pan and sauté the onions until golden brown.
6. Add the cumin and fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, chilies, turmeric, coriander, garam masala, and tomatoes to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes.
7. Add all the greens and continue to sauté till they are fully cooked (about 10 minutes).
8. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool slightly.
9. Stir in the mint and cilantro and use a blender or food processor puree the mixture, in batches, into a coarse paste.
10. Return the mixture to the pan and stir in most of the paneer cubes and lemon juice. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Let the mixture cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes to meld and bring it back up to temperature.
11. Remove to a serving bowl and garnish with the remaining paneer cubes and serve immediately.