Cookbook Challenge: Slow-Cooker Channa Saag

Today on my way out of work, someone stopped me and said “I heard you like to cook Indian food, and you have a blog …” Well, yes — both of these things are true, but for the past several months they haven’t necessarily been related. I can fix that …

You may (or may not) remember the cookbook challenge — my wife challenged me to make one recipe out of each cookbook in my library before the end of 2014, or forfeit the cookbook. The challenge is done and I have not been as diligently recording it as I should have. However, I have this old post that I had meant to make back in July when I cooked it last.

indian-slow-cookerChanna Saag is the dish I credit with getting me to eat spinach. I don’t like spinach. The smell, the bitter taste, it’s just not something I enjoy. However, when it’s pureed with spices and garlic and ginger and cream, it’s delicious. Perhaps it’s not so important that it’s spinach at that point. It could be any dark leafy green. Heck, it could be cardboard (well, maybe not). Indeed, while most Indian restaurants will have you believe that “saag” = “spinach”, this isn’t strictly true. Saag is a method of preparing greens, and a dish made that way. As a matter of fact, the saag I like to make in my slow-cooker is half spinach, half mustard greens. Also, you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s a healthy dish, so loaded with greens and garlic and ginger. But most of the time, it’s sauteed in ghee and finished with cream. It’s a fairly decadent dish, really. Which is why the prospect of making it in a 6-quart slow cooker is kind of terrifying.

Oh, and channa? Those are chickpeas, garbanzo beans, whatever you call them. In India, they use a slightly different species that’s smaller and darker — but it’s easier to get the canned ones for this purpose.

As much as I like decadent food, I also know that I can’t afford to eat too much of it at one time. Which is why I love The Indian Slow Cooker by Anupy Singla. See, here’s the thing about slow-cooking. Sure, it takes longer — but you can get the effects of frying things in butter and oil without the butter or oil. The saag recipe I used is vegan, for heaven’s sake. Not that I care about that, but it does make it easier to take to potlucks.

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Sad to say, I don’t have any photos of it after it’s done. But you can imagine a mottled deep green paste with little flesh-colored balls floating around in it. Not the most appetizing image in the world — but so tasty!

Channa Sarson ka Saag

  • 1 lb mustard greens
  • 1 lb spinach
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2″ piece of ginger, chopped
  • 15 cloves of garlic (or 2.5 Tbsp minced garlic)
  • 7 Thai or Indian green chilis
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander seed
  • 2 Tbsp cornmeal
  • 1.5 Tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 29-oz can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Put all the ingredients except the garam masala and chickpeas in a 5 or 6-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours. Puree the resulting “mush” with an immersion blender (or dump it in a heat-tolerant blender with a little extra water if necessary, puree and return to the pot). Add the garam masala and the chickpeas and cook on low for 1 more hour.

That’s all! Add salt to taste (I’ve never found it needs any more than this) and enjoy over rice, cornbread or with fresh-made rotis. If you give this a shot and love it, I highly recommend you grab the book and try some others!

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