BIR Chicken Saag Curry Recipe:
Spinach (Hindi: Palak) features heavily in this fresh and satisfying chicken curry, and is well known in the sphere of South Asian cooking. My recipe has a few twists of it’s own, with the inclusion of panch phoran (a mixture of five different spice seeds), a hint of mint, and amchoor (dried unripe mango powder).
As with most vegetable, spinach is best cooked with when fresh. Be warned though you’ll need more of it than you might think – it’s mostly water. For that reason I suggest a using about 500g of fresh spinach leaves in this recipe. A very convenient and cost-effective alternative is to use spinach blocks which are in the freezer section of many larger supermarkets. Most of the excess water has already been removed prior to freezing and you get a good ‘bang for your buck’. Lastly, if needs must, a tin of spinach will suffice.
Don’t feel restricted to using chicken – lamb or mutton also pair superbly with spinach. Please see my recipes for pre-cooking chicken, and lamb/beef. For convenience you can use raw chicken in this saag curry if you prefer – if so you may want to put in a bit of extra salt.
As with most of my curry recipes, about 175-200g of the main protein ingredient may be sufficient to feed 1-2 people. You can easily add more to bulk it out. Feel free to add extra base gravy if you like more sauce. For making larger amounts please refer to my ‘Upscaling Curry’ chapter in Curry Compendium or Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 2.
This is a new recipe not in any of my books, although you will find an excellent lamb chickpea and spinach curry recipe in Curry Compendium and Indian Restaurant Curry at Home Volume 2. Both are available in physical and Kindle formats.
For Preparing the Spinach
- 1½ TBSP Oil
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1 tsp Panch Phoran (see Notes)
- 60g Onion, very finely chopped (a bit less than half an average-sized onion).
- ¼ tsp Salt
- 2-3 Garlic cloves, chopped widthwise
- 1 tsp Mix Powder
- Spinach, chopped. Approximately 500g of fresh, 150g of frozen blocks (defrosted), or about half of a 400g tin
For the Curry
- 2½ TBSP Oil
- 1½ tsp Ginger/Garlic Paste
- 1 tsp Mix Powder
- ¼ tsp Salt
- ¼-½ tsp Chilli Powder
- 1 tsp Kasuri Methi
- 330ml+ Base Gravy
- 3-4 TBSP Tomato Paste
- 1 TBSP Coriander Stalks, finely chopped (if available)
- 175-200g Chicken (Raw or Pre-cooked), or any main ingredient of your choice (pre-cook if necessary)
- ¾ tsp Amchoor (dried unripe mango powder) or 1½ tsp Lemon Juice
- 1-1½ tsp Dried Mint or Mint Sauce
- 2-3 fresh Tomato Segments
- 1-2 TBSP fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
- 1-2 tsp Butter Ghee (optional)
Preparing the Spinach
- Add the oil to a frying pan or wok on medium high heat.
- When the oil is hot throw in the cumin seeds and panch phoran, and stir until the mustard seeds within the mixture start to crackle.
- Add the salt and the onion. Continue frying for a few minutes, stirring occasionaly, until the onions have softened and have started to brown around the edges.
- Next put in the chopped garlic clovesand continue frying for a minute longer.
- Then add the mix powder and fry for 20 seconds, stirring continually.
- Add the spinach. Fresh spinach leaves will take longer to reduce down than the frozen or tinned versions. Mix it all together and cook until all the excess water has evaporated and you’re left with a nice thick reduction. It shouldn’t take very long. Stir frequently.
- Set aside.
- Add the oil to a frying pan on medium-high heat.
- Then add the ginger/garlic paste and fry for 20 seconds or so until it starts to change colour and the sizzling sound turns into a crackle. Stir continually.
- Add the mix powder, salt, chilli powder, and the kasuri methi plus a splash of base gravy to help the spices cook through without sticking and burning. Fry for 20-30 seconds, stirring continually.
- Next mix in the tomato paste and the coriander stalks (if using them). Turn the heat up to high and fry for a further 20 seconds, stirring often.
- Now add the chicken or other main ingredient and 75ml of base gravy. Mix and coat well.
- Next add 75ml of base gravy, stir once, then leave to fry until the sauce has reduced a little, the oil surfaces, and the small craters appear again.
- Add a second 75ml of base gravy, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan once when first added, allowing the sauce to reduce once again.
- Add the prepared spinach (see above), and mix everything together.
- Now add 150ml of base gravy, the lemon juice or amchoor, and the mint. Mix everything together well, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan, then leave to cook on high heat for 4-5 minutes. During this time resist fiddling with the curry so that the sauce can catch on the bottom and sides of the pan to thicken and caramelise. You will need to stir and scrape it all together a few times to avoid the curry burning. Be brave though! The best curries are often left to cook longer than intended. Feel free to add extra base gravy in the later stages to get the consistency you want.
- Add the tomato segments a short while before you intent to serve. The butter ghee (if your are using it) will add attractive sheen as well as rich taste.
- Taste the curry and add extra salt, lemon juice, and/or mint sauce if desired.
- Serve, sprinkling the fresh coriander leaves on top.
- All spoon measurements are level (1 tsp = 5ml, 1 TBSP = 15ml).
- Panch phoran (often spelled differently) is a mixture of five different spice seeds usually in equal proportion – cumin, fennel, fenugreek, black mustard, and kalonjee (nigella). It’s available to buy ready assembled.
- Any surplus undersired oil can be removed near to or at the end of cooking by tilting the frying pan and spooning the oil off, or by using kitchen paper.
- Enjoy this Saag curry recipe, and please visit the Misty Ricardo’s Curry Kitchen YouTube Channel for lots of Indian recipes.