Haak – Kashmiri greens recipe

There’s so much comfort food that winter brings in, that one is spoilt for choice. Soups, stews, noodles, rice, rustled up with lots of fresh veggies. The sabji mandis (vegetable markets) are filled to the brim with fresh produce. One would get every shade of green and every year I discover some or the other vegetable that has not yet seen the light of my kitchen. While I enjoy what is left of Delhi winters, I’d like to share this simple recipe of Kashmiri staple Haak saag, cooked using a few basic rules but not any Kashmiri recipe in particular. Haak goes best with steamed rice and believe me you, this would be the best kind of saag you’d have ever tasted. 

Recipe:
For 1 medium bunch of Haak: Wash the leaves well. Look out for worms. I put them in salted water for 30 mins, rinse and then use. Snip off the ends and use the leaves as well as the tender stem. Heat mustard oil in a wok. Add 1 or 2 whole red chillies, depending on the quantity of your haak. Chop a fat garlic clove and add. Immediately thereafter, add 1.5 cups of water and let it simmer. Now add the whole Haak leaves and salt to taste. Let it boil for 7 to 10 minutes or till the leaves wilt a little. Enjoy Haak hot off the wok with steamed rice. Bliss!

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As mentioned earlier, I don’t follow any typical Kashmiri recipe mentioned in recipe books and sites, but do follow some basic rules: 
Use whole leaves and some stem.
Keep spices minimal to bring out the flavour of the haak well.
Do not overcook.
Ideally, do not reheat and make it 15 mins prior to serving.
Serve hot with steamed rice.

Mustard Sting…ting ding

It is sarson season in Dilli, and I savoured the first offering of the season only a few days ago. Give me Mustard Greens any time and you won’t hear a ‘no’. I absolutely relish the mix. And I take pride in being mommy’s veggie supplier. She instructs me, and I go out to the market/mandi/Big Apple/Reliance Fresh, wherever time permits, to find her the best and freshest possible produce. For this season’s ‘first buy’, I walked to a rickshaw vendor. He combined bathua, soya, palak and of course sarson and chopped it for me (they do it on request) in his hand-driven chopping machine.


And since I am talking Mustard here, I might as well add about my obsession of using Mustard oil in my cooking. When cooking with Mustard oil, you have to be a little patient else you get that bitter taste in your food which all (barring some nerds) dislike. The Mustard oil, unlike clarified butter and vegetable oil, takes a lot of time to heat up. But, as I have a penchant for elaborate cooking procedures, waiting for it to heat up is no issue for me. The simple ‘stir and serve’ does no good to my creativity as far as the kitchen is concerned. That perhaps ‘may’ explain my prolonged absence from my place near the cooking stove (yes it remains that for me, no matter what fancy names you may want to call it).
Anyway, back to Mustard oil: Many consider it unhealthy, some call it outdated compared to the much celebrated Extra Virgin Olive Oil, yet others make the weirdest face expressions to display their hatred for it. I confess I was one of them too. But then that was ‘Once upon a time’. Now, I propagate its use in the same manner as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar promotes The Art of Living. It does wonders to your hair (heat it and add 4-5 small cubes of camphor after crushing them), to your digestive system and what not. And then, the ones who create a lot of noise over their dislike for Mustard Oil should not forget that ages ago, when there was no Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Vegetable oil and blah, Mustard oil was the sole medium of cooking.
I do the simple stir fry aloo with Mustard oil, which is a personal favourite. It takes about 45-60 minutes to prepare. Then there is the ‘On Special Request’ gobhi aloo dish that is relished by all in the house; of course it is done by me in Mustard oil.
And then to add some zing to the mustard sting is this silly little boy called Brother Bear. He hates the smell of Mustard oil. Every time I cook in it, he comes out of his room shouting curses at me. He even goes to the extent of making some hilariously outrageous statements that the ‘smell’ of Mustard oil causes ‘rashes’ on his body. Now, how absurd and silly can it possibly get?