This recipe comes from A Taste of India by Madhur Jaffrey. Ms. Jaffrey is, along with Julie Sahni, one of the most prolific and accomplished chefs of food of the Indian subcontinent, IMO. Jaffrey was born in Dehli, then moved to London to study theater. She finally landed in New York. And, what an addition of chefs in America, I’d say! A Taste of India is out of print now; I snagged it on a remainder table. Amazon still has it and you should get it because it’s a wonderful cookbook that presents Indian food in all its regional deliciousness. Indian food suffers the same problem that Mexican food suffers: most of us have no idea of the breadth of its flavors because we are exposed to only one version of it. That is, whatever is the already known and popular. You know, tandoori chicken, lamb vindaloo, and saag paneer. Nothing wrong with any of those, mind you, but there is so, so much more to it.
This recipe is a lighter version of what we know as “saag.” Saag refers to any leafy green, not just spinach. My contribution is to use bagged frozen cut-leaf spinach. Yes, these days it’s simple to pick up a bag of perfect baby spinach. (I consider this one of the great advances in food processing/marketing of recent memory. I remember trying to clean fresh spinach – not fun.) You can stash a couple of bags of frozen spinach in the freezer just so you can make this delicious recipe any time you want. You say, but the dill? Oh, you buy a bunch and freeze that too and you’ll always have enough on hand.
Mysore, now called Mysuru, is in the state of Karnataka, in the southwest of India. It was the capital of a great empire from 1399-1947 and there is an opulent palace there. Vegetarian cooking rises of great heights here, according to Ms. Jaffrey. This spinach recipe is surely a delicious introduction to the cuisine.
Mysore Spinach with Dill (Soppu Pallya)
attributed to Rani Vijaya Devi
1 1/2 pounds cut-leaf frozen or fresh spinach, chopped
1/2 cup fresh dill leaves, chopped
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon butter, ghee, or vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/8 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1 whole dried hot red chili
Put the spinach and dill in a large saucepan (about 4 quarts). Cover and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes. Give it a stir to make sure everything gets cooked. Uncover. Add the salt and cream. Raise the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated.
Heat the butter/ghee/oil in a small skillet over medium heat. If you use butter, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn. Add the mustard seeds. Cook for a minute. Then add the cumin seeds and chili. Cook for another minute. Scrape it all into the pot with the spinach. Taste for salt and serve.