Punjabi cuisine is rich and robust; food that fits the lifestyle of the rural Punjabi way of life since most folk burn up loads of calories working in the fields. And it also justifies the liberal use of butter (home made), ghee (home made), cream besides buttermilk/ lassi (Home made), cottage cheese (home made) and yogurt/ curd (home made yoghurt) in their diet. (It is not the same anymore though coz machines have replaced physical labor and made the work easier. Physical labor is not that common but the food habits are hard to break!!)Makki ki Roti or Cornmeal Flat Bread, almost always paired with Sarson ka Saag, is a classic example of the robust Punjabi cuisine. This quintessentially winter lunch is made in almost every Punjabi household. I have memories of sitting in the courtyard on a charpoy, basking in the winter sun and enjoying this hearty comforting meal with my brother and dad. Mum would skilfully and expertly handle the cornmeal dough, roll the rotis in the palms of her hands and cook them over a hot skillet before dishing them out to us with a dollop of white butter. Ah! Woh beete din aur pal…kya khoob the!Makki ki roti is a little different from the regular whole wheat flour chapattis. They are essentially to be made using warm water and they do not roll easily. One can use dry flour to roll them out between parchment paper or butter paper but I make them the rustic way my Mum used to make, using my palms.
You will notice here that the Saag that I cooked is not the pureed type that one finds in the restaurants. Mustard greens or the Sarson ka Saag in most families is cooked and then puréed before being loaded with cream and butter. In my view cooked that way, the texture and the flavor as well of the saag, is totally lost. I still have not been able to develop a taste for this sort of puréed Sarson ka Saag or ‘Ghotma Saag’ as it is traditionally called. Besides, Sarson Ka Saag is a true manifestation of the robust Punjabi cuisine, it gives me another reason to cook and serve it in its rustic textural form. Feel free to puree it in the food processor but I would suggest you try enjoy it in its original textural form before that.For the Saag
750 grams Sarson Saag (Mustard Greens with stalks)250 grams Bathua or Bathu Saag (called Chenopodium in English...do not confuse it with amaranth) In case you can't find Bathu, use spinach leaves with stalksSalt to taste For Tempering
1 tbsp cooking oil½ tsp Cumin seeds½ tsp Red chili powder½ tsp Turmeric powder1 Green chili (finely chopped) ½ tsp ginger (finely chopped)1 tsp garlic (finely chopped)1 medium Red onion (finely chopped)½ tsp Garam Masala
Pick and clean the sarson before chopping it (chop the stalks as well)Pick and clean the bathu (discard the thick center stalk and use only the tender leaf stalks along with the leaves)Fill a large pot with water and in batches wash the sarson and bathu together. Repeat the process at least 3-4 times or depending how much grit is there in both.
Drain the water using a colander.
I pressure cook the saag and cook it for 7-15 minutes depending on how soft or hard the stalk is.
You can use a heavy bottom pot and cook it till the stalk is well cooked and easily mashes up when pressed between the fore finger and the thumb.
To prepare the tempering, heat the oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. When the seeds begin to crackle, add the onion, ginger, garlic and green chilies.As soon as the onion begins to turn golden, add the red chili powder, turmeric powder and garam masala. Cook for a few seconds and added the tomato. Cook till the oil begins to appear on the sides of the masala.
Mix in the tempering to the saag and cook the saag further on till all the water has evaporated and the saag is just moist.
Add butter and serve.
Note: Do not thrown the water that the saag releases upon cooking. Let it evaporate on cooking after the tempering is added to it.For the Corn meal Flat bread
2 cups Corn meal2 cups Warm water
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp carrom seedsButter to serveOil for fryingParchment paper or Butter paper
Using one cup of water to begin for one cup of corn meal, to make the dough. Gradually add the water to the dough and keep mixing the cornmeal with the other hand.Bring the cornmeal in your hand and make a fist...if the dough stays together, you are doing fine, if not, add more water. The dough should be medium soft. Keep kneading the dough for 2-3 minutes. If you do not have parchment paper or butter paper, take fist fulls and make balls of the dough. Now, using a little flour start rolling the dough. The flat bread should be of the thickness shown in the pic or less if you wish to. If you have parchment paper or butter paper, roll the dough using a little flour and do as above. You can even cut out the dough using cutter to have even edges. Using just a little oil, grease a hot skillet and gently place the flat bread over it. Let it cook for at least 1 minute on medium low flame. Grease the top of the flat bread with oil and flip to cook. Use more oil if required.Cook till both sides are golden brown. Serve hot with butter. Note: After I apply the butter on the cooked flat bread, I usually poke it with my finger so that the butter goes deep and is well absorbed by the flat bread.