I bet you didn’t know that spinach had a special day? Well it does, and it’s called National Spinach Day and it’s on the 26th March. Spinach is my favourite leafy green. It’s a nutrional power house that has lots of health benefits and can be used in loads of dishes. In Indian cooking, spinach is often the star of the show, with a bunch of recipes and dishes that put this humble green leaf at the heart of the meal.
Why We Love Spinach
- Native to central and southwestern Asia, it’s thought to have originated in ancient Persia. Arab traders carried spinach into India, and then it was introduced into China where it was known as “Persian vegetable.”
- Catherine de Medici loved spinach so much that it was served at every meal. To this day, dishes made with spinach are known as “Florentine” reflecting Catherine’s birth in Florence.
- Spinach is a true superfood. It’s packed with nutrients but low in calories. Dark, leafy greens like spinach are important for skin, hair, and bone health and they also provide protein, iron, vitamins, and minerals.
- Eating spinach can improve blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering the risk of cancer, improve bone health.
- Spinach has been used by various cultures throughout history, notably in Mediterranean, Middle-Eastern, and South-East-Asian cuisines. It can be incorporated quite easily into any diet, as it is cheap and easy to prepare.
- Spinach contains an antioxident known as alpha-lipoic acid, which has been shown to lower glucose levels, increase sensitivity, and prevent oxidative, stress-induced changes in patients with diabetes.
One of my favourite ways to eat spinach is saag aloo. Here’s my recipe…
Saag Aloo Recipe
3 tbs of olive oil ( Please note – if you are being extra healthy- you can replace the oil with water- this will just help the masala to cook down)
4 large floury potatoes (peeled and cubed) OR 1 Sweet Potato
2 bags of freshly prepared spinach
2 tomatoes washed and roughly chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped (optional)
1 heaped tsp fresh garlic purée,
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1-2 green chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a large pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp kashmiri chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp coriander cumin powder
1 tbs finely chopped fenugreek leave or kasuri methi
2 tbs fresh coriander
2 tsp lemon juice
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a large pan. When it is hot enough, add the mustard seeds and let them pop and crackle.
When they have popped, add the cumin seeds and the asafoetida, fry for a second before adding the onions if you are using. If you are not using onions then you can increase the amount of asafoetida.
Stir-fry until the onions turn translucent and then add the ginger, garlic and green chilli and saute for a minute or two without without colouring the garlic.
Add the fresh coriander and methi (fenugreek) leaves and saute until the leaves have wilted.
Add the tomatoes and cook until all nice and pulpy and some of the moisture has evaporated. Add salt and sugar.
Add the powdered spices and a splash of water and stir in the cubed potato. Stir everything through and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.
In the mean time, prepare the spinach by chopping it very finely.
When the potatoes are just over half-way cooked, add the chopped spinach and give it a stir. Cook until the potatoes are tender.
Taste the dish and adjust the seasoning (salt) and then add the lemon juice.
To serve, sprinkle with fresh coriander and serve with dal or kadhi, rice and chapati.