From my roots...to my heart..Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti
'' I believe people with forget what you said, people will forget what you did,but people will never forget how you made them feel"...Maya Angelou
She wanted to be called Bigmom or Badimom (bigmom in hindi) but not "Dadi "
(hindi for grandmom) because she thought she was way too cool!
It’s a year from this day since my grandmother left us …but her values, her ways, her cooking still live on.
As a very special tribute today, in her memory, I would like to share my favourite recipe of hers, a dish only she could prepare with perfection.
The dish is rural and earthy fare from Punjab, where my roots lie: Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti, i.e., creamy styled Mustard leaves and grilled Corn flat bread.
Winters in Delhi bring Mustard leaves to all the markets and I would usually be most excited because my grandmother would prepare this meal. Nothing is more quintessentially Punjabi than Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti- a legendary combination.
Topped with white butter that melts on the corn bread dipped in sarson ka saag, I think this could the most delicious experience you will have!
The fragrance of this dish reminds me of her love.
She held my tiny hands for a while but my heart forever
I was a spoiled child if you judge me by today’s parenting rules! In the cold Delhi winters with dense fog , we had to be awake by 5.30 a.m. so that we could catch our school bus at 6.15 a.m. The sun wouldn’t be up at this time. My grandmother would wake me up but I wouldn’t stir..she would gently make me sip my milk in bed with my eyes still closed (I was 6 and a half years old!!) and then wash me and get me ready…My eyes would just about open by 6 a.m. This continued every morning of my primary school life…tirelessly, she would do this for me everyday.
She would give us Rs. 10 as pocket money every month and this continued even after we got married! Of course it increased over the years! but after a lot of protest marches around the house and tough negotiations!
She taught us the value of prayer ..most of the sanskrit shlokas, mantras and prayer songs we know of, are because of her.
Sons were valued more than daughters in India but she would always tell us that we made her more proud than any one could, and that we should not consider ourselves less than anyone!
When I was little, I was the only one of her five granddaughters who relished her Sarson ka Saag and Makki ki Roti. My dad would love it too. She would proudly announce it while making it, that she loves preparing it for me. I would feel so good and happy by this simple gesture of hers and my love for this dish tripled!
The dough of the makki ki roti (corn bread) is difficult to roll into a flat bread and thus she would use her hands to flatten it, rather than a rolling pin.
She would do it with such ease… !
I haven’t been to Punjab, but even if you drive towards the Delhi border towards Haryana, one can see beautiful mustard fields in bloom in winter with dainty yellow flowers. The foothills of the Himalayas, on both sides of the border have been home to Sarson (Mustard ) for centuries.
The creamy spinach and bathua (pigweed, cultivated as a crop in Northern India) leaves mingled with hints of sweetness from the jaggery and a tingling sensation of asafoetida and ginger, simple flavours can bring about such unique dishes.
Grown organically, farm fresh in the villages in Punjab, what more do you need!?
After I got married, my trips to India in winters became less frequent. She had a home in the hills in Mussoorie and we would visit her there (also to get a taste of my favourite dish as a bonus). Though this is traditionally a winter dish, since Mussoorie can be a little chilly in summer, this dish could be savoured in summer too.
In the year 2013, I spent a few days in Delhi while she was there. I asked her to tell me her recipe and how I could make it in her style, but with modified ingredients (since a certain leafy vegetable used in her recipe is not easily available in Dubai). She immediately told me to write down the recipe.
Sarson ka saag (creamy styled Mustard greens)
Sarson means mustard and saag means greens
1 kg mustard leaves, sarson
¼ kg pigweed leaves, bathua
URBAN (if Bathua leaves are not available)
1 kg Spinach leaves
1 medium sized white raddish
1 medium sized turnip
For both :
1 sml pc of ginger
1 sml pc of jaggery
1 tsp asafoetida, hing
2 tblsp Ghee
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Salt, to taste
1. Cut the extra stalks from the mustard and bathua leaves (or spinach leaves, if using the Urban recipe) and boil the leaves in milk .
2. Add the jaggery and salt.
3. Put it in a blender and roughly grind only one turn.(Just 2-4 seconds)
4. If using spinach leaves, then roughly chop the raddish and turnip and add to it in the blender. Grind the mixture so that you can see the rough texture of all the ingredients , the mixture should not be very smooth. This will take about 2-3 turns.
5. In a pan, heat the ghee, and add sliced ginger and green chillies. Add the mixture from the blender and the asafoetida into the pan. Cook on a slow flame till the water evaporates.
Serve hot with Makki ki roti.
Tip: You may add a tblsp of Makki flour in the dish while its cooking and cook it a bit more. This makes it creamier.
Dollop of white butter on Makki ki Roti
A bite of heaven
Makki ki roti (Flattened Corn bread)
I cup Maize flour (makki )
1 potato, boiled and mashed
Hot water to make dough
Salt to taste
1. Place the maize flour in a kneading bowl and mix it with the mashed boiled potato.
2. Season and keep adding enough hot water to make dough.
3. Take a handful of dough and start to flatten it with your hands . The dough is very delicate, so a rolling pin will not work.
4. Heat oil on a griddle (tawa).
5. Place the flattened dough onto it and let it brown and become a bit crisp on one side.
6. Flip it till it cooks completely on the other side too.
7. Remove and serve hot.
Enjoy with a dollop of white butter and sarson ka saag.
Tip: You will get this flour in Al Adil Supermarkets in Dubai.It's gluten free!
Tonight as I sleep, I know I will dream of meeting my grandmother. We will walk through fields of mustard in the villages of Punjab, under clear blue skies..stopping at our ancestral village for some makkai ki roti and sarson ka saag..with a huge dollop of freshly churned white butter..this was a journey I always wished I had done with her..tonight I will fulfil my wishes in my dreams.
June 19th ,1924 ........May 15th ,2014
Its hard to forget someone who gave you so much to rememeber
Love you and miss you a lot Badi mom...