Sunday, September 9, 2012

Alu Palak - Perfectly delicious and friendly on the waistline

I started my Summer garden on a low key this time as I wanted to feel the soil and growing potential in our new home. But I am glad to see a perfectly green patch now as we are getting ready to bid a bye to the Summer. Squashes are growing longer and stronger, I have harvested fenugreek multiple times and the okra and beans are standing up as the bitter gourd plant continues to climb. I am just happy to see the green plants even if many of them do not have any veggies yet :-). The gardening gratification came with the greens - abundant spinach, chard, fenugreek and the lovely Dill. We are eating greens every day until everyone is blue in the face. I promised DD that I will give it a break for a while and BH has been strictly ordered to stay away from the Costco size Spinach bags he grabs on his occasional visit to the wholesaler. Yes, those occasional visits have the power to convert our home into an extension of Costco stores as he forgets that we still have loads of untouched bath tissues in the garage or big bags of baby bell peppers in the fridge or that we are growing a patch full of greens in our own backyard:-)

Back to my kitchen garden, my tomatoes flopped this time completely with a combination of bad location (read no sun light) and invasive roots underneath. I have learnt my lesson the hard way and will plan better next time, until then back to store bought, waxy tomatoes are my saviors. I have picked peppers(remember the Mirchi ka salan?) a few times and am watching the growing squashes like a hawk while also hoping to have a few other veggies before it is actually winter. All in all a satisfying gardening experience.

We are a greens loving family and I find ways to add green to the dishes. After a long time, I had the Spinach flavor while chopping the leaves and cooking it as it was REALLY FRESH. You won't believe the difference and the incredible flavor a fresh vegetable brings to a dish until you try it. It doesn't need any extra additives or spices to enhance the natural beauty. I made a quick Alu Palak which is a traditional Punjabi home recipe. Deep fried potato pieces are cooked in the mildly spiced, creamy palak sauce and enjoyed with hot rotis. I did my usual calorie counting on it and opted for the oven roasted way. The roasted potatoes were perfect in the sauce.

The first time I tried Alu Palak for an office pot luck a few years back, I had followed a friend's recipe to the T and deep fried the potato pieces, those were the days when there was no guilt associated with eating deep fried stuff every day, yeah they are called 'when I was younger' :-). One thing that was not instructed in the  recipe was that when you chop the potatoes, they should be patted dry to remove the moisture content before they got dropped into the hot oil. I am sure my friend's mom credited us with some common sense but given the fact that it was my early days of cooking and I didn't pay attention to the finer details, I dropped my fresh cut, juicy potato pieces into the hot oil and had a well burnt forehand to tell a story for a while. The Alu palak though turned out delicious with BH pitching in to both provide some TLC to the hurting wife and also take on the role of chef in the kitchen. Credit goes to aunty's well tested recipe. So if you do want to try the deep fried potatoes, make sure they are patted dry completely before dropping them in the oil.

Here is how I made oven roasted Alu Palak with the home grown spinach. As the green were very flavorful, I went low on the spices. It is a very forgiving recipe and you can play around with the spices to suit your taste. Use the below as a framework and experiment.
What do you need to make Alu Palak? 
4 cups tightly packed chopped spinach
2 medium sized potatoes
1 medium sized tomato
2 small green chilies
1X1 inch piece ginger root
1 small onion
1/2 Tsp crushed garlic (optional)
1/2 cup milk
1 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1 Tblsp oil
1/2 cup water

Dry Masala powders:
1/2 Tsp red chili powder
1/2 Tsp garam masala
1/2 Tsp amchoor powder

How do you make Alu Palak? 
Prep work: 
  • Wash, clean and chop Spinach.
  • Peel and cut ginger into small pieces.
  • Chop onions & tomatoes into small chunks. 
  • Wash, scrub the potatoes and cut them into bite sized chunks. I used red potatoes and kept their thin skins intact for added nutrition. 
  • Cover the potato chunks in water and parboil them for 5 minutes. They should be semi cooked and hard still. 
Making of Alu palak:
  • Take the chopped spinach, green chilies and water in a sauce pan, and cook it until the water boils for a couple of minutes. Once the spinach is soft, switch off the stove and let it cool. 
  • Heat 1/2 Tblsp in a pan, add the crushed garlic and chopped ginger and fry for a minute. 
  • Add the chopped onions and saute until it starts to sweat. 
  • Add chopped tomatoes and continue to cook until tomatoes turn soft. 
  • Mix a Tsp oil and a pinch salt and coat it all over the potatoes, arrange them in a single layer on baking sheets and bake at pre-heated oven in a 350F for 45 minutes. Remove once after 30 minutes to turn them over. 
  • Drain the water from the spinach, reserve it for later use. Blend the spinach & green chilies coarsely and keep aside. 
  • Blend the fried onion, tomato mixture into a smooth puree.
  • Heat the remaining oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, let sizzle. Add the onion-tomato puree. Add salt, reserved spinach water and the dry masala powders and let it cook until the mixture changes color slightly in about 5-8 minutes. 
  • Add the spinach puree,  milk and continue to boil for another 5 minutes until the gravy thickens slightly. 
  • Add the roasted potatoes, give it a mix and switch off the stove.
  • Let the potatoes sit in the gravy for a 15-20 minutes to soak up before serving with rotis or ghee rice/fried rice. 
  • You can deep fry the potatoes but I honestly think there is no value add and overrated especially in this recipe since oven roasted potatoes serve the purpose and taste just as well. 
  • Par boiling the potatoes before baking them reduces the baking time in the oven and also gives that soft inside, crispy outside texture to the potatoes. 
  • I usually put the potatoes with water in a microwave safe dish and microwave it on high for 5 minutes. 
  • If you do not have an oven, par boil the potatoes (they should be semi cooked and firm) and saute with a couple spoons of oil in a pan to get the golden cover on the outside. 
  • You can use cream or half & half for a thicker, creamier texture of the gravy. 
  • We like a 'not-so-thick' gravy to eat with rotis, if you prefer you can make this thicker and drier by not adding the reserved water or cook the spinach with a little salt and no water.
  • Sometimes I skip the tomato in this recipe and increase the amount of amchoor powder for the tangyness. This retains the rich green color of the spinach.
Thanks to one of my readers Kaveri for her comment, my healthy Alu Palak is going to her Show me your HITS which she is hosting this month for Sangeetha's HITS event


kitchen queen said...

delicious and yummy lip smacking aloo palak gravy.

Prathibha said...

I love this..but I do not add tomatoes to this..

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Growing your own vegetables in a small garden and cooking with them must surely feel very satisfying...I feel like growing some veggies too after reading your post...
Delicious alo palak.
Do link it to the event happening at my space:

Priya said...

I'll happily have this alu palak for my lunch rite now, anything with alu is my fav.

tamilsasikitchen said...

Looks so yum dear..Perfect for rotis....

Daksha said...

What a healthy aloo palak!!! i like ur garden fresh palak......

Roshni said...

Nags, intersting read.. I never knew for aloo palak, the potatoes are fried/baked. I always used to just boil and add. will have to try your recipe. this is one of my husbands favourite when we go to restaurants.

Nagashree said...

Thanks everyone for stopping by.

Kaveri - Thank you for pointing me to the event, I have updated my post linking it. As I said, our family loves greens and I have some of my favorites already on the blog.

Roshni - thank you, my original recipe was from a Punjabi friend, her mom had deep fried potatoes in it. I do the boiled potatoes also sometimes just depends on what I want to taste on that specific day :-)

Kannada Cuisine said...

I love fresh vegetables..kinda of envy you as well..I still do not have a patch of my own.

LG said...

Aloo palak looks appetising..

NamsVeni Pothas said...

Alu Palak really a tasty dish goes with chapathies. nothing like a fresh greens from the garden. very nice dish.

Premalatha Aravindhan said...

Delicious recipe,luks yum...

Akila said...

wow these looks delicious...

Event: Dish Name Starts With O till October 15th