Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sindhi Sai Bhaji (Spinach,lentil and vegetable gravy)

Spinach is one of my favourite greens and I love the ease which it lends itself to most dishes. The greens dishes we used to eat while growing up were either Masiyals or Kootus made out of molai Keerai/arai keerai/siru keerai(all amaranth),murunga keerai(drumstick leaves),agathi keerai,poonaganni keerai,pulichai keerai,manathakali keerai. "Keerai" being the generic term for all greens which can be cooked, so spinach would be called "Paalak Keerai"!!

Masiyal (Mash) was just the greens by themselves, cooked and mashed with garlic and tempered with red chillies,urad dal and mustard.Kootus were made with dal. Paalak Paneer and Alu Methi made a rare appearance sometimes.

And then there were some other mysterious greens which I still don’t know the names of, since my mother loves greens so much she would just pick them up and ask the vegetable vendor what it was and they would reply with some Marathi name she wouldn’t remember. She would sometimes even ask them how it is prepared….and then at dinner Dad would mutter under his breath that he didn’t know whether he was eating plain grass at times! Mom would then launch into a spiel about the nutritional value of greens and how fibre is so good for the body etc etc. Now that she has her own little backyard garden, she is very happy growing her own greens.

Spinach is indeed nutritious and a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, magnesium, and several antioxidants as well as folic acid and calcium. However, when I was advised to cut down on my fiber intake due to the difficulty in digesting it, I did some research on what nutrients I might be losing out and found that spinach does not contain as much iron as we are normally led to believe and even what iron it contains may not be fully absorbed into the body. Vitamin C helps in better absorption of iron from spinach, however on the whole because of containing high levels of oxalate which binds itself to iron and calcium, it decreases the level of absorption of both calcium and iron contained in the spinach.

What it does have though is anti oxidants, which go a long way in protecting us from cancers of the colon, prostate, ovary and also against heart disease. Read more here

So I still indulge my love for spinach but just in smaller quantities than before and in my efforts to find different recipes which use paalak so that we don’t have the same dish every time, I came across this dish which is a Sindhi specialty and it has become a staple in our home. Spinach leaves cooked with mixed veggies and chana dal till they are well blended – this dish is rarely seen in restaurants and I think is home cooking at its best. It goes well with rotis but I often have it with rice, papad and pickle. Some recipes also include a handful of methi or dill in this dish so feel free to add any other greens you like.

Spinach (like most vegetables) retains its nutrients best if it is not overcooked. So, I usually dunk it into boiling water for about 5 minutes, then in cold water for another 5 minutes to retain its colour and freshness and then either chop, mash or puree it.

I adjust the below recipe then, by cooking the chana dal separately till soft; I then fry the spices and vegetables in the same order as below and cook till done, adding the mashed cooked spinach and cooked chana dal at the end and cooking for another 5 minutes till well blended.

The recipe below I use when I am short on time and can’t cook everything separately. This time I made this dish in the cooker for a quick dinner and I thought it was a good match for sra’s Grindless Gravies event over at her blog when my soup came alive .

Sindhi Sai Bhaji


Spinach – 1 large bunch
Chana Dal – ¼ cup (soaked for 1 hour in warm water)
Potato – 1 diced
Eggplant/Brinjal – 2-3 (small) diced
Bottle Gourd – ½ cup diced (can substitute with ash gourd)
Tomatoes – 2 chopped
Onion – 1 chopped
Green chillies – 2 chopped
Ginger Garlic paste – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp

1. Wash the spinach leaves in several changes of water till clean, chop and keep aside.
2. Take a pressure pan or a cooker in which you can cook directly and heat oil.
3. Add cumin seeds and when it changes colour, add onions and sauté.
4. When the onions are sautéed, add green chillies and ginger garlic paste and fry 3 minutes, then add the chana dal and fry another 3-4 minutes.
5. Add the vegetables, chopped tomatoes, coriander powder and fry for 4-5 minutes,
6. Add salt and 1 cup of water, pressure cook for 10 minutes (two –three whistles).
7. When the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash well. Serve hot with rotis or rice.


sra said...

Hi Miri! Mashing greens is an art that eludes me - I always have to resort to the blender. Thanks for your entry - I've eaten Sai Bhaji only once!

Mansi Desai said...

Hi!! that was a pretty informative post! I am into health and nutrition too and try making my food as healthy as possible...

thanks for the recipe! I've had sai bhaji bhajiyas before!

sagari said...

spinach ,lentils and veggies wowwww healtyyyy recipeee thanks for sharing

Miri said...

Sagari,you're most welcome!

Mansi - I have never heard of sai bhaji bhajiyas! sounds interesting!

Sra, this doesn't need any blending, the ingredients mash up beautifully.

Cynthia said...

Miri, this is a nice combo you have here.

Miri said...

Lael, not sure where your comment went! It was right there and then it disappeared!
Thanks so much for stopping by and would love to see you here!


Lael said...

Hey, I am still there under 'About'!

I think when I get home from Thanksgiving, I am going to try this. Spinach and lentils....yummm!

Super said...

Hi!! I always thought Sai Bhaji had Dill which is not one of my favourites. But will certainly try this recipe since it has spinach. I am always experimenting with spinach myself. Thanks!

Meera said...

Hi Miri,
Came here from your comment on my blog to check your version of Sai Bhaji. It looks great. Nice post!

Miri said...

hey meera! I came to your blog after you commented on the veg kurma post! :)
Thanks for stopping by!

Meera said...

I have added your link in my sai bhaji post. Hope it's ok!

Miri said...

Hey thanks Meera!

Alka said...

I knew Sindhi saibhaji was a popular spinach dish,but it is this popular ...i never knew :-)

I love to see the various versions of cooking the food that we make so very often at our homes
The next time you make it,try it with some dil leaves,green sorrel leaves(just few) and some fresh fenugreek leaves too....thts wht authentic saibhaji will taste and i am damn sure you will love it
Btw u have a nice blog out here :-)

Anonymous said...

interesting post. I would love to follow you on twitter. By the way, did anyone learn that some chinese hacker had hacked twitter yesterday again.