I despised Spinach (Palak) when I was a kid. And yes, Popeye’s histrionics did not encourage me either. In fact, I secretly rooted for Bluto (the big, bad guy) for obvious reasons – he was strong and muscular without eating as much Spinach. But, it was brought to my attention that it is not just physical strength that matters, Spinach helps improve eyesight (always a weakness) and the general functioning of our brain and body. Well, in my defence, I did perfectly well in school to the point of being a nerd and know-it-all.
I was a pretty obedient child as well. But. I was a nightmare for my mother when it came to lunches and dinners. You know, one of those kids who creates a fuss for every vegetable served and the doting but very irritated mother is always unsure about what to cook or them. However, I grew up just fine. Perhaps because of the generous inclusion of eggs, milk and curd in my diet. I replaced all the vegetables I hated with a glass of milk. It was my solace. My comfort.
What I really disliked about Spinach was the subtle bitter taste that is not so pleasant, as with veggies like Peas (Mattar), Fenugreek (Methi), Bitter Gourd (Karela) and even Raddish (Mooli). Let’s just say, I was more the Lady Finger (Bhindi) and Gourd (Lauki) types.
At the dinner table, I swiftly dumped the veggies on my mother’s plate, obviously hiding it from the stern eyes of my father. Or the veggies died a more undeserving end, lost in the garbage bin. That, was when the world was still a good place to be in. Although back then, “Where to dispose dinner tonight” or “How to skip lunch today” seemed like a fairly challenging task in my little hands, it is only now when I am faced with thoughts like “How to quickly dispose my never ending job list?” or “How not to murder someone today”. Between getting stuck in traffic everyday to swapping dinner for a quick midnight meal, I am often worried about my nutrition intake. Yes! It’s karma.
So one day, I went to market. And quite determinedly (I think it was more my mother than me) got back loads of Spinach. As if trying to make up for all the lost years of minerals, vitamins and all that is oh, so nice about Spinach. I was in my kitchen staring into space, when I saw the bunches of Spinach stare back at me. Mocking me, laughing at my helplessness. Well, I had learnt a lesson in life and was about to learn a few more very important ones.
That is when it struck me. What do you do when you are stuck with something you hate (like a boring job, isolation, a bad day)? You mix it with something you like (good music, books, friends)! And that’s exactly what I did with the heaps of Spinach. I went online and found ways to make this dreaded vegetable exciting. After a lot of (un)successful attempts, I now have a couple of very delicious Spinach recipes up my sleeve. Yes Mom, I know you’re proud of me!
Here’s the thing.
Spinach = Hate
Rice = Love
So, Spinach + Rice = Eureka (Basic Math 🙂 )
So in this n-part series, I will tell you what to do to make Spinach exciting! Here’s No. 1 on the list.
Spicy Lehsuni Palak Rice ~ Spicy Garlicky Spinach Rice
For the Gravy:
3 tablespoons Oil (I used Olive oil)
7-8 big cloves of Garlic, crushed
1 big onion, chopped
5-6 chilies, slit open
1 teaspoon of Cumin seeds (Jeera)
A small piece of Cinnamon (Dalchini)
1-2 Cloves (Laung)
1-2 Peppercorns (Kali mirchi)
3-4 cups of whole spinach leaves
5-6 medium tomatoes, puréed
a pinch of turmeric
1 teaspoon chilli powder
Salt to taste
For the rice:
2 cups of rice
Salt to taste
Purée the tomatoes and blanch the spinach. I feel blanching is the best way to cook spinach while retaining its nutrition. Heat a pot of water, when it boils turn off the heat and add the spinach leaves. Leave spinach in the water for about 15 seconds and then drain the water. Cool the spinach by washing it in cold water so that it does not overcook from the steam. Set both, the tomatoes and spinach aside.
In a thick-bottomed skillet, heat the oil and add cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon and cumin. Then add the chopped onion, chillies and roughly crushed garlic. Let the onions become translucent and the aroma of garlic fill your kitchen. I simply love frying the garlic in oil, gives off such an amazing whiff.
Next, add turmeric and cook. Add chilli powder and stir well. Once the masala is cooked, add the tomato purée and cook on high flame until it starts to boil. Add salt and simmer the tomato purée.
Cook until the oil separates and the tomato purée thickens. Next, add the spinach leaves. You can add whole spinach leaves or roughly chop them also. I blended the spinach leaves just enough to roughly chop them without making a purée of it.
Cook for about a minute until the Spinach is nicely mixed with the gravy. We don’t really have to cook the spinach at this stage as we had already blanched it earlier.
Next, add the rice and mix well with the gravy. Simmer for a minute and turn off heat.
Serve this lovely Lehsuni Palak Rice with curd, papad or as a side dish to a delicious lunch meal.
I feel the dish can also make it to one of those lunch menus when guests come home. It’s different and delicious, and will definitely catch their attention. As you can see, I barely managed to put the lehsuni palak rice on the plate, as it was a weekday dinner meal 🙂 there’s about as much time to click a few pictures and just cook the dish itself, until the hunger pangs are about to kill me. But really, this dish really doesn’t need anything with it. It’s quite wholesome by itself.
Until my next spinach treat, eat healthy, stay happy!