Slow-cooking spinach, though popular in Indian cooking, isn’t a technique that you see a whole lot of in America, where the vegetable is usually steamed or sauteed. (Or served raw in a salad, though that’s really like the worst way to serve spinach, both nutritionally and in terms of taste and texture.) But slow-cooking is a terrific way to prepare the spinach, and it takes on creaminess and richness that other ways of preparing spinach don’t approach, especially given how little oil is used. Let’s see how this Indian Slow Cooked Spinach is prepared.
This Indian Slow Cooked Spinach (adapted from Pushpesh Pant’s encyclopedic India: The Cookbook) is from the Uttarakhand region of northern India, and it’s simple, mild, and delicious. The spice level can easily be ramped up – increase the curry powder, add some cumin, coriander, paprika or chile powder, and a pinch of cayenne; use more jalapeños, or a hotter chile (like a serrano). And while rice flour’s a semi-obscure ingredient (though one that most supermarkets carry), you can substitute all-purpose flour if need be, though it’s worth using the rice flour if you have some available to you. (If you want to be really authentic about things, you can puree the spinach after its initial cooking in Step 1, though I like to have at least a little texture and chew to my vegetables. But if you feel like it, go for it.)
Though this Indian Slow Cooked Spinach is intended as more of a side dish (or, really, one dish among several that comprise an Indian meal), it can be a solid main course with the addition of a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas (added along with the spinach in Step 3). Served over rice, this is a delicious and different way of preparing spinach, and a technique worth knowing.
(Mark Bittman has a bunch of spinach recipes here, though the slow-cooked ones all seem a little overly rich and fatty to me. Still, good ideas, and some probably worth exploring.)
In a Dutch oven or large skillet, bring 1/3 cup of water to a boil over high heat. Add the spinach and cook until wilted, massively reduced in bulk, and just cooked through, around 2 minutes. Remove from heat, drain in a colander or strainer, and leave it in the colander to keep on draining while you continue.
Wipe out the pan or pot you used to cook the spinach and return to the stove over medium-high heat. Add 1 teaspoon of oil, and when the oil's hot, add the curry powder. Stir-fry the curry powder until fragrant, around 30 seconds. (Be careful, here - it's ridiculously easy to burn the curry powder if you're not paying attention.) Add the onions and a pinch of salt and stir-fry for around 2 minutes, until translucent. Add the ginger and cook for another minute.
Add the spinach and jalapeño (and chickpeas if you want to make this a more substantial main-course-type dish) to the onions and stir to combine. Pour in 1 cup of hot water and mix well. Slowly add the rice flour, stirring constantly to prevent any lumps from forming, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low (a very low simmer) and cook for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste, and transfer to a serving dish.
Right before serving, heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and dried red chile and stir-fry until the garlic is golden, around 1 minute. Pour over the spinach and serve over steamed rice (basmati if you have it), or on its own.