Collard Green Saag Paneer with Stuffed Onion Parotta and Fried Okra
Well isn't that a mouthful? It sure was when people asked what I was cooking for my final exam in November, and I don't think that has changed. This meal is a love letter to my favorite foodways. One of my favorite Indian meals is saag paneer, and I chose to make it with collard greens to honor my own African American roots. In addition, I enjoy working with dough, so I made a stuffed onion parotta to compliment the saag paneer. As a crunchy treat, I fried okra and tossed it in with chaat masala - my favorite snack as we close off 2022.
Most of y'all probably think I just show up and cook whatever I want for my exams. While most of that is true, my food studies coursework is just as academic as it is immersive. I needed to submit a proposal before I dare step into the food lab. I underestimated how long this would take to complete and devoted an entire weekend to finish. I was texting my labmates and luckily we were all in a similar position. We walked into class wide-eyed, frantically asking how you calculate calories and cost per person.
My first time cooking this recipe was for my partner's birthday party. I spent all afternoon scouring Lower Manhattan for ingredients. Who knew it was so hard to find okra? I was mid mise en place when guests arrived, and cooked well into the night. My good friend, Srishti, saved my parottas from being stuffed with my tears instead of onions. By 11pm I was finally serving dinner, and despite my exhaustion, seeing my friends love the meal I created was a phenomenal feeling.
My second attempt was a little more intimate. My nerves subsized as I realized that if I could make this recipe for ten people in a hot, cramped West Village kitchen, I should have no problem in class. I cooked dinner for my partner and I, hyperfocused on the things I wanted to improve upon from last week. My okra was crispy and not one teardrop fell on my parottas. Everything was near perfect, and I still believe this was my best preparation of the dish.
My final exam was the Monday before Thanksgiving, and everyone was nervous entering lab that day. Luckily for me, there is nothing more soothing than cutting and rolling collard greens. To my surprise however, I was working with one of the smallest stations in the food lab. Sandwiched between my prep space and my burners and surrounded by everyone cooking for their lives, I got to work. I was one of the lucky ones that made it out of lab on time, shedding my chef whites and running to my next class. Enjoying my leftovers after my classes were done was my victory lap.
This recipe combines ingredients and techniques I love, such as collard greens and bread making, while also incorporating things I have not worked with before but have an ancestral connection to, like okra. Fusion dishes have been very popular in the food world, as we all seek to create something innovative, modern, and flavorful. Fusion to me, however, is all about honoring foodways that often go underrepresented and misunderstood. African American and Indian foodways are more than the amount of oil and spices that are used – they are all about building complex flavor profiles and packing love into every bite. This hearty collard green saag paneer served with soft, flaky stuffed onion parotta and addictive fried okra will activate all of your tastebuds. Cheers!
Collard Green Saag Paneer (4 servings)
1 tbsp Maggi powder
½ cup hot water
¼ cup ghee
1 tbsp cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 green cardamom pods, crushed with a mortal and pestle
¼ tsp asafetida
¼ tsp red chili powder
1 large shallot, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 lbs of collard greens, thoroughly washed, stems removes, and chiffonade
Juice of one medium lime
Salt to taste 8 oz paneer, cut into ½ inch cubes
Combine Maggi powder and hot water and stir. Set aside.
In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt the ghee over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, asafetida, and red chili powder. Stir for about 2 minutes, or until the seeds start to sputter.
Add the shallot and stir often. Cook for about 5 minutes or until translucent.
Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant.
Add the collard greens and water combined with Maggi powder. Cook until tender, roughly 20 minutes
Remove from heat and stir in lime juice, and salt to taste.
Add the mixture to a blender and blend into a chunky paste
Pour the mixture back into the pan and fold in the paneer. Cook for 5-7 minutes on medium-low heat or until warmed through.
Stuffed Onion Parotta (4 servings)
2 tbsp oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, finely chopped
¼ tsp salt
1 cup atta flour
1 cup maida flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
2 tsp oil, with extra for covering
Lukewarm Water as needed to knead
Shallow fry onions, garlic, green chilis, and salt in oil over medium heat. Fry until golden brown. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Combine atta flour, maida, salt, and sugar. Add oil and mix. Gradually add water and knead for at least 10 minutes or until soft and smooth – not sticky.
Grease the dough with 1 tsp of oil and cover with a moist cloth for 15-20 minutes.
Pinch a medium-sized ball of dough, it should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. Oil a work surface and roll it in a circle of about 6 inches in diameter
Place the 1-2 tbsp prepared onion stuffing in the center, and spread it out evenly. Roll inwards, then roll into a spiral.
Gently flatten and stretch with your hands. Do not use too much pressure, the parothas should be roughly 5 inches in diameter
Heat a griddle on medium-high heat. Place the parotta onto the griddle and cook on both sides until golden brown
Brush ghee onto both sides of the parotta, flip, and serve while hot.
Fried Okra (4 servings)
1 pound okra
2 eggs, beaten
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups cornmeal
¾ cup maida
2 tbsp dried mango powder
Vegetable oil for frying, roughly 2 cups
2 tsp chaat masala
Wash and dry okra thoroughly, and cut into ½ inch slices
Beat two eggs in a bowl with ½ tsp salt. Add the okra and mix well. Let soak for 10 minutes.
Mix cornmeal, maida, and dried mango powder in a large bowl and stir until well blended. Set aside.
Remove the okra from the egg mixture with a slotted spoon and place in the large bowl with the breading. Toss well.
Heat ¾ inch of vegetable oil in a large cast iron skillet until heated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit
Add the okra to the skillet in two batches and fry for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown on all sides.
Use a slotted spoon to move the okra to a paper towel-lined plate to soak up excess oil. Finish with 2 tsp chaat masala