Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Mmm...Mustard Greens!

Alanna is challenging us to try some new vegetables all this month with her Vegetable Contest, so here are my attempts to try some vegetables that are new to my kitchen.

A whole category of vegetables that I have hardly gotten to know are the green leafy vegetables. Apart from spinach (which I love and buy every week) and arugula (which I have just started using in pasta dishes in recent months), I barely use any greens.

It is a real shame, because there is an amazing delicious world out there: from collard greens to kale to Swiss chard. What keeps me from buying more greens? Well, greens are much more fragile than other vegetables like, say, carrots and cauliflower. While our everyday staples can sit in the vegetable crisper for a few days while we get around to cooking them, greens bruise and wilt easily and need to be cooked within a day or two of buying them. Tender greens are sometimes too delicate for the produce sellers too, and in many supermarkets, the greens will look too torn and ragged and I'm just not tempted to buy them. To make a long story short: when you see a bunch of bright, crisp, tender, perfect-looking greens being sold in your supermarket/store/Farmer's market, grab it with both hands and RUN! Well, this weekend, I managed to find just such a perfect bunch of mustard greens, the very first time I got a chance to cook them.

How should I cook them? I had a few options. One highly popular way to cook mustard greens in India is to blend them with spinach and make a delicious Punjabi dish called saag. I also had a recipe jotted down from Vegetarian Times for some yummy-looking garlicky green dumplings, dim-sum style.

But I decided to go with a recipe that was simple and would let me taste the goodness of the greens themselves, and I turned to my favorite resource for such recipes:
Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian.

Jaffrey has a beautifully simple recipe for Sri Lankan Greens. It calls for very simple ingredients: greens, curry leaves, onion, hot chilies, turmeric, salt and some grated coconut. No other spices, no tempering, nothing. The best part is, this recipe works well for any greens at all, so it is a good one to have in the repertoire for emergency moments when you find a great bunch of greens but don't have too much else in the pantry, or are short on time.

Sri Lankan Mustard Greens
(adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey)

1. Take 1 bunch mustard greens.

2. Wash the leaves. Chop them into very thin, long strands (discard any tough stems). You can do this by cutting out stems from a few leaves, then stacking them into a pile and cutting the pile into thin shreds. Jaffrey stresses that no matter what greens you choose to use in this recipe, they should be shredded thinly.

3. Cut 1 medium onion into half, then into strips. In a large skillet, heat a couple of teaspoons of oil on medium heat. Add onion, 8-10 curry leaves and 2-3 fresh chilies (cut into thirds). Use more or less chilies depending on how your preferred level of hotness. Saute for 4-5 minutes or until the edges of the onion start to brown.

4. Now add the shredded greens, 1/2 tsp turmeric and salt to taste. Stir around and mix well until the greens start to wilt.

5. Now lower the heat, cover the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the greens are cooked and tender. In my case, the leaves were tender and the water clinging to the washed greens was enough to cook the leaves in their own steam. If one uses greens that are a bit tougher, a couple of tablespoons of water may be added to the pan. At the end of cooking, stir 2 tbsp of grated fresh or dried unsweetened coconut into the greens.

The resulting greens were absolutely flavorful without being bitter or harsh in the least. I served the Sri Lankan mustard greens with an egg curry: Eggs cooked in a Sri Lankan Coconut Milk Sauce (recipe from the same book) and some steamed rice, for a wonderful Sri-Lankan themed Sunday night dinner. I love World Vegetarian more and more every day!

This is one side dish that is going to be very versatile: it would go well with any Indian meal (it would be amazing with some simple dal and rice) and could be used creatively in wraps and sandwiches too. I'm so glad I tried mustard greens, and can't wait to eat some again.


  1. Yay! Another convert! Greens can be some daunting (as those beyond-help beet greens in my frig will attest this very moment) so hooray for you for figuring it out and loving it.

    And the Indian flavor profile seems perfect to stand up to heartier greens, like mustard!

    Thanks for trying something new - is there a cookbook in your future??? : -)

  2. yummy! I have made Sarson ka saag in the past. I will definately try this one,can you post the curry recipe too?

  3. You're absolutely right about the shelf life of the greens affecting our decision to buy them at the store, as I type this, I know I have a head of lettuce in the fridge wilting away :(.
    This recipe looks simple and delicious and actually works great with cabbage and green beans as well!

  4. I love mustrad greens! Thanks for this recipe Nupur, I just know I'll love it! And serving it with a spicy egg curry sounds delish. :)

  5. Nupur, you really do inspire people to get out and try something new. Wonderful!

  6. Sounds new to me...But prepared in an Indian way..I prepare using spinach..Mustard greens are not available in India...:(.
    Great recipe and pics.Thatnx for sharing the recipe,Nupur.

  7. Alanna, true, greens are not the easiest to work with, but they taste soooo good! This dish was positively addictive. Would *love* to have a new cookbook to play with :) but I never win these kinds of contests, so not too much hope there :) Just playing along and trying new veggies is good enough for me!

    Supriya, I sorry but I can't post the curry recipe :( The reason is...I have already posted 2-3 recipes from this book, so I really have to stop now. But the book is *totally* worth seeking out, either in your local library, or by buying a copy.

    Monisha, ooh, I have to try it with cabbage and green beans (two of my favorite veggies)! Sometimes, like in this recipe, less is more :)

    Meena, the combination was surprisingly good...hope you get a chance to try it!

    Meeta, Alanna's the one who inspired me to try this :) !!

    Bharathy, mustard greens are available at least in some parts of India. I think they are called "sarson" (Punjabi word, I think). But there are dozens of different types of delicious greens available in all parts of India, and this recipe would work with any of them.

  8. Hey Nupur,

    Thats indeed another gr8 post.I'm gonna try this out sometime definetely.

  9. hi Nupur,
    You are sending a lot of inspiration my way to try out veggies that i have never eaten before. I have a recipe request. Could you please post the recipe for "kadai Vegetable" It is a very common dish in north indian restaurants in india and has brown gravy with mixed vegetables. keep up the good work

  10. I also am a relative newcomer to most greens. I can't recall my mom ever cooking anything in the way of greens except cabbage (if that counts). I now consider greens among my favorite foods. Can't wait to try this!

  11. Looks really good. Yeah, they need to create some more packaging and fridge technology to keep greens in better shape.

  12. hey nupur
    This looks so reaaly and fresh.Would also love to participate in this .Soon will come up with few thgts from my kitchen .

  13. Sowjanya, let me know if you try it! :)

    Roshni, sure, I'll try! I do make Kadai paneer with lots of vegetables and I'll post it soon. Thanks for your kind words!

    Cathy, maybe we can cook some greens together!

    Michelle, I personally think that we don't need any more packaging for veggies! The amount of trash we generate is quite enough already. In my mind, a good solution would be to have little farm-stands in neighborhoods where people can buy produce on a day-to-day basis. We have such vegetable stands all over Indian towns and cities and they are awesome.

    Deepa, hope you get a chance to try some new veggies soon!

  14. Wow, that sounds a like a great recipe-i love mustard greens, so will try this one for sure. Thanks for sharing, Nupur.

  15. nupur, i love bitter veggies. incl. mustard greens. i have madhur jaffrey's book, but i learn of the recipes in them only through your blog. i ought to read my books more.

    thanks for this recipe.

  16. Nupur, u are a creative cook aren't u!!!
    Great recipe!!!

  17. Nupur, never tried making mustard greens, is it the one with which they make sarson ka saag?? I was not sure it is the same so did not buy it till now. but ur pics give me some idea. nice simple recipe.

  18. Nupur, I love mustard greens and sri lankan cuisine, so this is a must try for me... thanks for sharing!

  19. Sounds yummy Nupur! Very typically south Indian or Srilankan. I make my spinach this way and soemtimes I throw in some cooked moong dal to give it more volume and texture. Never tried it with mustard greens. Will try it sometime!

  20. Musical, are there any Punjabi ways of making mustard greens? I mean, other than the awesome saag?

    Bee, I know the feeling! I only just started using my books in the last few months, after having them for years.

    Paddukoti, glad you like it :)

    Sharmi, yes, that is the same veggie used for sarson for saag. Do give it a shot! They are peppery and delicious :)

    Sig, hope you try it :) It is almost addictive!

    Latha, moong dal would be a great addition...I'm going to try that next time.

  21. Nupur, can we make this with Kale? I don't know what to do with Kale most times... One can't eat kale chips all the time...


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