I took a hiatus from this column to do what the Italians call “dolce far niente” (the sweet art of doing nothing), and in that time, without having to write new recipes, I was able to eat and cook selfishly, following my own desires. These took me to a little Pakistani curry shop, where I found a potato and spinach curry I could easily eat every day for the rest of my life. The potatoes were salty and fudgy, much like in a Spanish tortilla, and the spinach was an oily emerald tangle, having given up all hope of freshness. It wasn’t innovative (or even very pretty), but it hit the spot so perfectly, I nearly shouted, “Bingo!”
Pakistani-style potato and spinach curry
Frozen spinach is roughly a quarter of the cost of fresh, and it works brilliantly in curries. If you don’t have the spices to hand, buy small quantities (to reduce overall cost and waste) of respected brands such as Fudco or Jalpur Millers from an Asian grocery or online. You’ll need a large saucepan (or deep-sided frying pan) with a lid to make this. Best eaten with basmati rice.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
120ml rapeseed oil – I like Mr Organic
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 brown onions, peeled and finely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
200g tomatoes, chopped (or 200g tinned chopped tomatoes – ie, half a tin)
1½ tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground kashmiri chilli
2 tsp fine sea salt
450g maris piper potatoes (ie, 2 medium ones), peeled, halved and cut into 1½cm-thick slices
1kg frozen whole leaf spinach, defrosted
1 lemon, squeezed, to get 2-3 tsp juice
Basmati rice, to serve
Put the oil in a large, deep pan over a medium heat until very hot, then tip in the mustard and cumin seeds, and leave to fizz and crackle for up to a minute. Add the onion, cook for eight minutes, until soft and golden, then add the garlic, ginger and fresh chillies and cook, stirring, for about three minutes, until the raw garlic smell disappears.
Stir in the tomatoes, ground spices and salt, and cook for about five minutes, until you can see the oil separate from the tomato mixture. Add the potatoes, spinach and 200ml just-boiled water, pop the lid on the pan and leave to cook for about 15 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so. Take off the lid and cook for a final 15-20 minutes, until the liquid has been driven off and you are left with a lovely, thick curry with tender potatoes that don’t resist a knife.
Stir through the lemon juice and taste: add more lemon juice to balance out the sweetness with the spicy spinach and potato mixture, if need be, and serve hot with basmati rice.