Many a time when I was growing up, my mum would tell my dad to stop the car alongside a mustard field in Lincolnshire while she ran in, gleefully bounced around, and stole some leaves for dinner. In her defense, back then no one but Indians really ate these leaves, so this was the only way of getting hold of them. Now, they’re available in a lot of big supermarkets, farmers’ markets, and Asian shops, so she’s stopped her naughty ways.
If you’ve never had mustard greens, you’re in for a treat. They’re more flavorful than spinach, and more comforting. They’re traditionally eaten with corn roti (see here), and butter made from freshly churned cream (here). Homemade butter isn’t essential, but boy, oh boy, is it good.
NOTE: You will need a blender for this recipe.
Serves 4 as a main course
2 pounds mustard leaves
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 large yellow onions, finely chopped
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 Indian green chiles, finely sliced
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1½ teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
First clean the mustard leaves of any sand or dirt. Put them into a large bowl of cold water and wash them a couple of times, then shake them under the water so all the grit falls to the bottom. Don’t drain, just pull the leaves out of the water a small bunch at a time (making sure they’re clean), then cut them into 2-inch strips. Put the cut greens into a large saucepan as you go.
Add around 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of cold water to the pan, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the leaves are completely tender. Then puree the greens in a blender, using only as much water as you need (around 4 tablespoons) to form a lovely thick consistency.
In the meantime, put the oil into a frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until they are translucent. Cut 1¾ inches of the ginger into tiny cubes, and the rest into matchsticks. Add the cubed ginger, crushed garlic, green chiles, and cornmeal to the pan and cook for 5 minutes.
Next, add the greens to the pan, along with the salt and butter, turn the heat to low, and cook for 8 minutes, adding water as you wish to adjust the consistency. It should be the consistency of hummus.
Serve hot, scattered with the remaining, matchsticked ginger, alongside corn roti and as much butter as your arteries will allow.