Radish and spinach is an extraordinary combination and unexpected enough for most. If radishes are at all cooked with a leaf, it would be most likely the one that is their own. At least that’s what strikes our mind first when we think of it. It is like swapping your partner of a lifetime for someone else! Yes. I mean you have your own leaves growing on top of you, on your crown. The leaves compliment your taste so beautifully and also matches yours. Then why on earth, would someone even go look out for other leafy greens to cook with you?
Why? Because the Lady Chef is fond of change. She loves to experiment. And she likes to step out of the norm and explore. She loves to see a Chinese woman in a Saree or an American making Sushi’s. Also, because when she was doing grocery the other day, all she could find at the store was a bag of cleaned and washed little smooth red European radishes sans their leaves. And when she got home, she discovered half a box of fresh baby spinach in her refrigerator, waiting to be consumed and finished.
I belong to a group of women who believe in the philosophy of “Combine and Save“. This mantra has applications in all walks of life and in all kinds of things. And sticking on to the subject here, I’d rather speak only about it. In culinary sense, “Combine and save” primarily refers to combining the ingredients, joining their flavors and saving time, effort and resources among others.
But cooking radish with spinach? I didn’t know. I’ve never worked with them together before. Although I’ve done the popular Bengali mixed vegetables called Chorchori, many times in the past……but that’s very different. Chorchori is a dish where you cook several vegetables together with minimal spices…sometimes with leaves and often with none. Again, very few versions of this dish have radish. A leaf or radish, if at all used in Chorchori, are used sparingly and are essentially minority vegetables in this preparation. Yes, I have used spinach once or twice in Chorchori that has radish, but then, there were 6 or 7 other major veggies in there too. You see, so you don’t feel like you were making the radish and spinach together — just the two.
Radishes are quite easy to grow in a Kitchen garden and my Ma always had enough in hers during my growing up years. So, we had a steady supply of them in Ma‘s kitchen. Papa was a diabetic. And that time we lived in Northern India where they see the coldest winters in the country. So, radishes were considered good for more than one reason in our household. One, because it’s a non-starchy, low calorie/carbohydrate veggie. Two, because the pungent warmth of radishes are thought to be good for us in the cold months. The winter radishes also have an enhanced flavor. Three, because it felt fabulous to eat the crunchy radish salad, wearing layers of clothing, sitting out on a chair in our backyard, soaking in whatever little comfort the soft winter sun had to offer us on a cold holiday afternoon. And four? ….Well, “we better use up, and eat all the produce (even it were bit surplus and we had leftovers after generously gifting them to neighbors), rather than wasting them”, was the dictum from Ma!
And in cooking when you don’t have a clue, you’d rather go with your instincts. I honestly don’t remember Ma ever making spinach with radishes, but being an Indian, I learnt my lesson on “what spices best go with what”. The sharp pungent flavor of a Radish has very few takers. Most can’t bring themselves to love this vegetable. Ma always said that Asafoetida (Hing) and Carrom Seeds (Ajjwain) beautifully compliments and tones down the pungency of a Radish. They also have carminative or anti-flatulence effects and eases digestion. I used her outline and added a couple spices sparingly. And what I came out with was an aromatic, fragrant, and witty preparation resulting from that remarkable combination of Spinach and Radish. I made this for dinner last night along with Lobia or black eyed bean curry . My kids and my man are no radish lovers, but they didn’t complain. They said it tasted good and I knew that was a huge compliment for my radishes! They ate well and ate full. Sweet peace to me!
- 450 gms (1 lb) washed red European Radish or white Indian Radish (Daikon) — chopped to small pieces
- 250 gms (0.5 lb or about 9 oz) of washed and cleaned baby spinach leaves — shredded/chopped
- 1 tbsp fresh grated Ginger root (or paste of 0.5 inch ginger).
- 1/2 tbsp grated or fine chopped Garlic (or paste of 2 large Garlic cloves)
- 1/2 of a large Onion (or 1 small-medium onion), sliced or chopped
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder or Haldi
- 2 Dry Red Chilies (less or more to adjust heat)
- 1/4 tsp ground Asafoetida or Hing powder
- 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds or Jeera
- 1 tsp Carrom Seeds or Ajjwain
- 1 tsp ground Cumin or Jeera powder
- 1/2 tbsp ground Coriander or Dhania powder
- Salt to taste
- 3 – 4 tbsp Light Olive oil or Vegetable oil
- Heat oil in a deep cooking pan over medium heat and add Jeera and Ajjwain seeds. Break the dry red chilies into halves and add to the oil. (Breaking the chilly provides more surface area, plus access to seeds, for the oil/dish to absorb more heat out of them.)
- As soon as they splutter, add chopped onions and Hing. I add hing at this time to avoid it from burning and to preserve it’s flavor. Saute the onions for a minute.
- Add the chopped radish and Haldi, and fry for about 1 minute to get rid of the pungent smell.
- Add shredded spinach, ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander powders. Saute for another minute or two.
- Add salt and cover cook over low-medium heat, till done. Open the lid every 3-4 minutes to give a quick stir and turn to avoid the vegetables from sticking to the pan bottom or burning.
- The salt releases enough juices from the radish, so they can cook easily. However, once done, if you see extra water that you didn’t want, remove the lid and turn your stove to medium-high heat to evaporate the excess watery content. During this time, keep stirring occasionally to prevent the veggies from burning.
- Once done, switch off the stove and serve immediately. This dish goes best with Indian Roti or Chapati. However, feel free to enjoy the subtle flavors of this incredible Subzi (Indian vegetable) with your favorite bread or steamed Basmati rice.