When I think of this dish, and how the words ‘chana saag’ are now familiar to so many British people, it makes me thankful for all the Bangladeshis who first came here from Kolkata at the end of the British Raj. Many of them jumped into the restaurant trade, keen to bring Indian dishes, popular with Brits in India, to our high streets. It’s thanks to them that chana saag is (almost) as popular here as it is in India.
This is my take on the classic. It’s a bit perkier than your average curry-house chana saag, and uses just-wilted spinach.
- Yield: 4 Servings as a main course
- 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 large onions, diced
- 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 2 cm ginger, peeled and grated
- 400 g tin of plum tomatoes
- 400 g tin of chickpeas, drained
- 1½ teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 500 g baby spinach, washed
- Put the oil into a large lidded pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Stir for a minute, or until they pop, then throw in the onions.
- Fry for 10 to 12 minutes, until they turn translucent and start to caramelize, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir-fry for around 3 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes, pouring them in with one hand and crushing them with the other. Fill the empty tin a third of the way up with water and add that to the pan too.
- Cook for 10 minutes, until quite dry and paste-like, then add the chickpeas. Warm them for a couple of minutes, then add the coriander, chilli powder, turmeric and salt. Toss the chickpeas around in the paste, and add the spinach – trying to fold it all in will be like pushing a duvet into a magical handbag, but it will wilt and shrink fairly quickly.
- Cook for around 5 minutes, until the spinach is soft and tender, and serve with chapattis or basmati rice, and a dollop of yoghurt.