Food Talk

Splendid spinach

Everyone knows how good it is for us but few have the skill to prepare it in a tempting manner, writes Pushpesh Pant

Popeye pops a mouthful of spinach to regain his strength and vanquish sundry villains to rescue his beloved Sweet Pea. All mothers rely on the comic book hero to persuade their darling children to do likewise but not with much success.

Spinach, it is believed, originated in Persia, is low in calories, about 25-30 in a 100 gm, and exceptionally rich in minerals and vitamins. Remember though that these healthy ingredients are lost very soon in cooking, so it is perhaps best to boil the greens lightly or better still, just steam them.

The growing infant is prescribed a diet fortified with it and so is the convalescent. (Only those with a high BP and uric acid are advised to go slow).

Chef’s Special


Spinach (washed very well and cleaned) 1 kg
Cornflour/rice flour 2 tbsp
Ginger paste 1 tbsp
Onions (medium, sliced fine, optional) two
Ginger (cut into thin strips)
2 inch piece
Oil 1 tbsp
A pich of hing (asafetida)
Garlic (optional) 6 cloves
Whole green chilllies 3-4
Whole red chillies 2-3
Ghee 1 tbsp
Salt to taste


Boil the spinach in one cup of water for a very short while. Then mash it well with a wooden churner. (The mixie is avoidable). Keep aside. Heat oil in a caste iron karahi or any thick- bottomed pan. Put hing and when it dissolves add the onions stir-fry till translucent, then the ginger paste, continue stir-frying for about a minute then the palak puree and the green chillies — add 2 cups of hot water. Slowly pour the corn or rice flour stirring continuously to ensure no lumps are formed. Bring to boil, sprinkle salt, reduce heat to low-medium and cook uncovered for about 20 minutes. Heat the ghee and add the whole red chillies and/or garlic cloves to it. When these change colour, pour over the gaba to temper it. Garnish with ginger strips and serve with rice or roti.

Everyone knows how good it is for us but few have the skill to prepare it in a tempting manner.

True, in continental cuisine it is used in soups, quiches, pasta and myriad other delicacies. In Chinese cooking, too, it makes frequent appearance. We have greatly enjoyed a translucent fried spinach leaf presented whole whenever the chef has honoured our request.

The ‘standby’ veg option alu palak hardly gives the diner an idea of the splendour of spinach. Palak, to call it by its Indian name, is one of the oldest greens known to us. Saag meat owes its flavour and colour to palak and this emerald drape is what lends palak paneer such distinction. Palak mashed in dough provides puris that are as good to look at as these are to eat.

In Kashmir they have a particularly delicious variety, the haq, and none can convince the other hill-folk that the spinach grown in the plains comes anywhere near the divine leaves that nourish those who dwell in the mountains. It is quite common both in North and South India to add a bunch of spinach leaves to enrich the daal.

During the monsoon, palak pakora are particularly valued — perhaps because they are rarely made nowadays. In Uttaranchala it is cooked dry and called a tinariya but the more common avatar is gaba, a well-mashed vegetable with porridge-like consistency. This slow-cooked dish is what we would like to share with our readers before we return to a carnivorous menu soon!