A spicy spinach gravy base and three yummy curries...
With black chickpeas and lotus stem , with paneer and with black eyed peas. All of them super yummy and spicy and yet tasting very different from each other. The spinach gravy freezes well so it becomes a very convenient way to whip up a rich spicy curry any time you wish. I love using spinach in any possible way , as a thickener of a spicy gravy it works like magic. A nice green color and the taste blends so well with north Indian curry spices.
Use any firm vegetables of cooked beans with it and revel in your art . A large batch of this gravy makes a great sense as spinach involves a lot of cleaning and chopping time. Do it in bulk and enjoy the fruit of labor 4-5 times....
spinach leaves including stems 1 kg
tomatoes 250 gm
onions 200 gm
turmeric powder 2 tsp
salt to taste
mustard oil 3-4 tbsp
whole cumin seeds 1 tsp
bay leaves 2-3 nos.
to be made into a paste...
garlic cloves 20 nos.
ginger chopped roughly 3-4 tbsp
green chillies 5-6 or more
red chilly powder 1 tsp or more if you like
coriander seeds 2 tbsp
cumin seeds 1 tbsp
black peppercorns 1 tbsp
black cardamom 1 large
cloves 5-6 nos.
cinnamon stick 1 inch piece
Blanch the cleaned and chopped spinach leaves , cool and make a paste. A coarse paste is fine as the inclusion of stems makes it tough to make a smooth paste. You would like it this way.
Chop the onions finely , i did it in my processor.
Make a puree of the tomatoes and keep aside. Coarse puree is fine.
Make the paste of the ingredients listed for it and keep aside...the paste and puree can be made while frying the onions if you can manage multitasking on the kitchen counter. This masala paste should be fine in consistency, add some water if required.
Heat oil in a large kadai or pan , throw in the cumin seeds and wait till they splutter. Tip in the chopped onions
and fry till translucent. Toss the bay leaves in and sprinkle turmeric powder and salt to taste , stir and mix and then pour in the spice paste you made . Keep stir frying ( bhuno) this paste till it gets aromatic on medium flame. It takes about 10-12 minutes or a bit more ....the paste starts sticking to the kadai and you need to scrape it off several times...this procedure makes the spices blend well and get aromatic while getting bhunoed (roasted)..... tip in the chopped tomatoes , keep stirring and cooking till the tomatoes get pulped.
Add the spinach puree, mix well and cook till everything bubbles together.
The gravy base is ready and can be frozen in small containers for quick curries to be assembled later as i did.
About a cup of this thick gravy base was used for 2 servings every time . One and a half cup of boiled black eyed peas (lobia) make a nice curry...boiled together till everything bubbles together , finished with a sprinkling of chopped coriander leaves...served on a bed of plain boiled rice.
Boiled black chickpeas (after soaking them overnight of course) and lightly sauteed sliced lotus stem make an iron rich curry with this spinach gravy. I microwaved 3/4 cup of soaked chickpeas for 8 minutes with just a tbsp of water and sauteed the sliced lotus stem in a cast iron kadai in the meantime. Added a cup of this spinach gravy from the freezer and let it simmer for about 20 minutes on low flame....
With paneer it is even more simple .Just add cubed paneer and microwave for 3-5 minutes depending on the quantity (if using thawed spinach gravy)...Mushrooms will be a nice choice too for a jiffy curry as they do not require peeling and detailed chopping.
All three curries taste very different from each other though the base gravy is the same. Black eyes peas with a fresh sprinkling of coriander leaves and that taste of boiled beans is very different from the black chickpeas cooked in it.
The black chickpea and lotus stem curry with this spinach gravy has dominant flavors of lotus stem as when those floral looking slices are simmered in this gravy for a longer period , they lend their own flavors to it....black chickpeas compliment in a subtle way...
The paneer version is on another level , a dash of fresh cream and kasoori methi gives it another twist....the aroma is very very refreshing in this case ....and this one goes really well with chapatis or naan breads.