Spoon-tender pieces of lamb or your favorite meat simmered in a rich, spiced sauce. A good saag is a fantastic way to cook with fresh greens I come back to again and again.
What is Lamb Saag?
Lamb saag (goat and other meats can be used too) is a curry made with pieces of slow cooked lamb in a spiced sauce of pureed greens, onions and spices. Like most curries, it can be served with flatbread, naan, roti or rice. The dish is very popular all over India, but especially in North India.
Lamb Saag Ingredients
While spinach is usually used in Indian restaurant style saag, red spinach (an amaranth pictured below) and mustard greens are also traditional. In the north in high altitudes, cold weather greens like collards are used.
In Kashmir nettles are known as soi and appreciated as a food and medicine. I don't know of them as a traditional saag green, but they make a great substitute for spinach with their deep green color and flavor.
The other ingredients are onion, garlic, tomato, green chili (serrano) and spices like garum masala, cumin seed, coriander and optional fenugreek leaves. I also add a small amount of homemade yogurt when I puree the sauce.
How to Make Lamb Saag
In this recipe for lamb saag, the meat is dry-brined overnight to encourage browning. The next day the meat is browned in batches, then stock or water is added and the meat is cooked until tender.
Next you sweat onions, garlic, ginger chili and spices together, add steamed or blanched greens and puree the sauce in a blender. Finally the meat is added back to the pot and simmered for a few minutes with the sauce and served.
- If you have time, salt the meat the night before and allow it to sit in the refrigerator uncovered to dry out for the best browning.
- If you can swing it, lamb shank meat makes one of the most tender curries.
- Look for an Indian grocer to find fenugreek leaves (Kasoor Methi). If you're in the Twin Cities Little India carries them. You can also buy fenugreek leaves online.
- For a more traditional cut of meat, use bone-in lamb or goat meat from a Middle Eastern market, or meaty beef soup bones.
- Serve it with a dollop of yogurt, toasted nuts, fresh chopped cilantro and steamed rice or flatbreads.
- Dutch oven
- 1 lb lamb diced shoulder lamb shank, or stew meat
- 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons ghee I like to use coconut oil
- 5 g ginger
- 10 g garlic
- 1 serrano chili seeds removed
- 4 oz yellow onion (1 small) diced
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon garum masala
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed or ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander seed or ground coriander
- 1 cup reserved lamb cooking liquid
- ½ tablespoon dried fenugrek leaves (kasoor methi) optional
- 2 teaspoon tomato paste
- ¼ cup yogurt
- 6 oz spinach, red spinach/amaranth or nettles
- Kosher salt to taste
Dry-brine the lamb
- Season the lamb with the salt and allow to rest overnight.
- Steam the greens until just wilted-about 2 minutes. Spread the greens out on a tray to cool naturally.
Brown the lamb and braise until tender
- Brown the lamb in the dutch oven. Add the stock or water and cook, covered at a gentle simmer until the lamb is tender. Pour the lamb and its liquid into a bowl and cover with cling film.
Build the Saag
- Wipe out the dutch oven, then add the oil, cumin, coriander, onion, garlic, ginger and serrano chili. Sweat for a minute, then add the spices, and tomato paste, stir, and cook a few minutes more.
- Add the greens and heat just to warm through, then add ¾ cup of the reserved lamb stock and heat until hot, but not simmering.
- Transfer the mixture to a blender along with the yogurt and puree on low speed, moving slowly up to high to make a smooth puree. Add a little extra stock if you need to get it smooth.
- Pour the puree back into the cooking pot with the lamb, heat through until hot, double check the seasoning for salt and adjust until it tastes good to you, then
- Serve with hot rice, naan or flatbreads. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro, mint, or a combination, dollops of yogurt and a sprinkle of toasted nuts.
- You can add one black cardamom pod for a special flavor.
- While not traditional, pomegranate seeds make a nice garnish.
- Use your favorite green or a combination of different ones.