Saag is mostly what we Westerners might call greens, though it appears to apply to a wider variety of leafy vegetables, especially mustard leaves. Palak is more specifically spinach, but the terms are often used interchangeably here in the UK. Where we don't like to eat too much mustard leaf.

There seem to be two approaches to your basic saag, a splash of cream or a few crushed tomatoes, with some useful supporting roles to be played by coriander and fenugreek leaves (methi).
And then there's the traditional pairings with paneer, or potato.
And the not-so traditional pairing with cashew nuts.

Creamy Saag Paneer
Puréed saag paneer with cream.
curry side veg
I may have used rather too much coriander stalk the first time I made it, and the flavour was very, well, green.
But strangely addictive.

Serves 4

First make your paneer. Three pints of milk and 4 teaspoons of lemon juice made me 200g.

Now wash the spinach and set it to drain.
Deseed and chop the chillies I had red ones, which looked nice. But really who cares? and cook with the spinach in a large pan using only the water still clinging to the leaves.

Purée the shallots (which are nice and juicy) or onion with a little oil if necessary. Set aside.
Purée the ginger and garlic with the coriander root (or stalks and a few leaves) well, add a little of the spinach water if necessary. Set aside.
I had about a cup of coriander stalks, and I figure that was a bit too much.
Purée the cooked spinach and chilli with as little cooking water as necessary and set aside.

Fry the cumin seeds in a puddle of ghee or oil.
Gently fry the shallots until the raw aroma has gone, but before they start to colour.
Add the dry powders and fry until the oil separates.
Add the coriander mixture and fry until the raw smell has gone and the oil begins to separate.
Add the spinach and cream, warm through and add a touch of lemon juice if you like, though don't boil the saag after or it will curdle and the paneer.
Strangely addictive. The coriander root gives a strong cholesterol flavour.
You could add some ground roast cashew nuts with the cream, and some ground methi leaves to the coriander if you fancied.

Saag Methi Aloo
Potato Spinach Curry
curry side veg
Something of an amalgamation of lots of different recipes. Plus some cucumber I found in the bottom of the fridge. It seems to work. I thought it would.

Serves 4

Mix the masala powders with enough water to make a thick paste.
Blanch the spinach in boiling water, drain it and then squeeze out excess water and chop it up.

Heat the ghee until it shimmers and fry the seeds until they start to pop.
Reduce the heat and throw in enough bite-sized potato chunks to take the edge off the temperature then add the masala paste and fry it until oil separates.
Now you can add the rest of the potatoes.
Add the minced fresh ginger, fry a little, then the sliced onions, fry until starting to soften, then add the garlic, then the cucumber and then the sliced peppers and sliced green chillies.
I used a green and a yellow pepper, but I'm sure any colour would do.
I also forgot to add the ginger until after the onions and peppers, which didn't seem to do any harm, but frying it first is traditional!
Cook it all through a little.

Add the chopped spinach and the dried fenugreek and stir through. You could probably just throw in the fresh spinach at this point rather than blanching it first.
Partially cover and cook gently until the potatoes are soft, and the liquid mostly evaporated.

Saag Kaju
Spinach with Cashew Nuts
curry side veg vegan
I loosely based this on Indira's recipe for palak (spinach) paneer. I thought the inclusion of the cashew nuts was inspirational, and I wanted a version without paneer for the lactose-intolerant.

Serves 4

Roast the cashew nuts at Gas Mark 5 for 10 minutes or so until golden, or fry them gently in a dry frying pan until lightly coloured all over.
Grind half of the them to a powder.

Grind the fenugreek leaves (methi) and mix the powders and salt together with enough water to make a thick paste.

Roughly chop the coriander root (with stalks and a few leaves too is fine), garlic, ginger and purée well, adding water as necessary. Set aside.

Peel the tomatoes by dipping in boiling water for a few minutes, quarter and remove the pithy core (you can leave the seeds), then roughly chop and simmer for a few minutes until reduced slightly.

Wash and drain the spinach.
Cut the chillies in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds, cut them in halve again.
Heat a teaspoon of peanut oil in a large pot until shimmering. Fry the chillies until their skin blisters, then throw in the spinach. Fry until the spinach collapses and much of the water has boiled away.

Finely chop the onion. Clean the pan, add a tablespoon or two of oil and fry the onion until translucent. Add the spice paste and fry until the oil separates.
Add the garlic-ginger-coriander paste and fry until the oil separates.
Add the spinach and tomato purées and the ground cashew nuts.
Serve decorated with the whole roasted cashews.
Pretty nice.
Possibly there is no need to powder the methi and it could be added to the spinach?

Mutton Curry with Spinach
Saag Gosht
curry meat main
Thanks to Julie Sahni by way of nom nom paleo for the overall idea - I've cooked variations on this theme that use yoghurt or coconut milk in place of the sour cream I used here. And I only used that because I had some that needed eating.
The result is pretty damn fine, if I say so myself, though I think I'd probably replace the fenugreek seeds with cassia and cardamoms if I was making it again.

Serves 4

Heat a dollop of ghee or dripping in a casserole dish over high heat until shimmering. Throw in the fenugreek seeds or some cassia bark and a few pierced cardamoms, then as soon as they pop start adding the mutton to brown, in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan, adding more fat as required. Remove the meat as it's done with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Into the same pan throw the onions and cook until glassy, then add the ginger, fry again, then add the powdered spices and salt. Cook until aromatic and the oil separates, then add the tomato purée and cook again until the oil separates.
Add the coriander roots or stalks and fry a little, then add the garlic and the tomato pieces and cook until pulpy.
Blend the onion mixture to a paste (a stick blender should do it), loosening with sour cream or milk as necessary. Return the paste to the pan and stir in the sour cream. Once its bubbling, add the meat and any of their juices.
It would probably be good to fry up some potato cubes and throw them in too.
Cover and put in a low oven (Gas Mark 1 or less) or a slow cooker for ~4 hours until the meat is tender. Stir occasionally, adding milk if the sauce dries out too much.

Wash the spinach and cook in a large pan with the water still clinging to it. Chop finely, or blend, and fold into the meat with the garam masala. Heat gently on the stove top until cooked through and the spinach is tender.

Serve sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves and a drizzle of lemon juice, if you like.
I blended my spinach, but actually I think it would have been better to retain some texture by chopping it. The lemon (or lime) juice definitely helps to lift the dish.

Yet Another Saag
curry side veg
Another saag made from stuff I had in the cupboard.

Serves 2-4

Process the garlic, ginger, coriander stalks with a stick blender. Add a little water if necessary.
Heat the oil or ghee and fry the onion seeds until they fizz an pop and release their aroma. Add the green chilli, then the ginger/garlic/coriander paste and fry until the oil separates and it no longer smells raw.
Add the turmeric, salt and garam masala and fry until the oil separates.
Add the spinach leaves and fry until they collapse and any excess water has boiled away. Stir in the ground almonds and chopped coriander leaves.
Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and then the lemon juice. Do Not Boil
Reasonably nice. Well, nice enough to write about I thought.