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Friday, July 3, 2015

A Tempting Tart with Note Saag-A New Emotional Bite

Amaranth Leaves/Note Saag Tart with Coconut, Almonds n Parmesan

This dish existed in my head long before it came into being finally this June and it tasted better than what I imagined it to be for all the good reasons in life. I remember the moment the tart formed in my head, the inspiration was a dry-fry saag preparation by Mom, Amaranth  leaves  known as ‘Note Saag’  fried with onion n green chilies in pungent mustard oil and that tastes simply gorgeous, the combination of that saag n white rice makes up happy moments of eating at home. Now exactly at that point of time I decided to extend that love to a tart, I wanted to translate all that beautiful flavor of Note Saag into the tart. This is how she is born.

Amaranth is a whole family of perennial plants, some of the plants are used as leafy vegetables, some cultivated for cereals while some as decorating plants. So when ill be referring to ‘Note Saag’ it will specify one particular species of the plant family that we use in India for saag preparations, more specifically in the eastern part of India. The pictures will guide you to identify the one I used.

Its monsoon in India now, it rains almost once in a day for an hour roughly, the air becomes saturated with moisture n heavy until the wind blows n it feels fantastic! After a period of tremendous summer as the monsoon comes, it touches the soil n inspires, the soil soon comes up with fresh leafy greens. So right now the amaranth leaves/note saag is that fresh leafy green available in the local market, a gift of the monsoon. The note saag is prepared in many different ways across the home kitchens, some are dry-fried with minimum spices to lift up their flavor while some are combined with a paste of poppy seeds or other vegetables to prepare a medley of vegetables often known as ‘Chorchori’, while some are combined with fresh shrimps n sautéed together.

In this creation I combined the flavor of the note saag with fresh coconut, the parmesan, almonds together. The crispy outer layer of the tart crumbles as we bite into it n mingles with the soft deep flavor of the saag, the parmesan, the coconut-it almost becomes like a song.

When I first bite into the tart while it was still hot simply because I just couldn’t wait anymore, it made me emotional, in the next day I felt the same energy as I took my bite into the tart. So I had to share this recipe with you, so you can make it n feel that.

So now I think we should go to the recipe.

For The Recipe: We will need

For The Saag Preparation
Note Saag/ Amaranth leaves n tender stems- about 500 gm, washed, chopped into 1 inch pieces
Red onion- 1big or 2 medium, halved n sliced
Fresh coconut – 2 tbsp, cut into strips then chopped into little pieces
Green chilies- 2, sliced along the length but still in 1 piece/partly sliced
Mustard oil- 4-5 tbsp
Sugar- ½ tsp
Pink rock salt – a pinch
Red chili powder – a pinch

For the Short crust Pastry
Plain flour- 250 gm
Butter- 50 gm at room temp.
Olive oil/vegetable oil-3 tbsp (I used onion flavored vegetable oil)
Water-3 tbsp approximately
Salt – a pinch

For the Filling
The prepared saag
Egg yolks- 2
Thick cream- 150 ml
Parmesan cheese- 100 gm (you can use Gruyere cheese, its cool)
Freshly ground black pepper
Fresh coconut – 2 tbsp, cut into strips then chopped into little pieces
Almonds- 50 gm, sliced along the length

Pre-heat oven to 160 Celsius/325 Fahrenheit

1. Begin by preparing the pastry, for that in a flat vessel mix the flour with salt, then drop the oil n the butter n with a blunt knife cut the fat into the flour until it resembles  breadcrumbs, you can use your hand too, just rub the flour with the butter n oil between your fingertips, always work with a light hand, when the fat is well distributed n resembles coarse breadcrumbs add the water one tablespoon at a time and incorporating it with the knife into the mixture, then add one more n do the same. After 3 tbsp of water the dough should leave the bowl fairly clearly and should come together, try to make it come together with your hands, if this doesn’t happen nothing to worry, add one more tablespoon of water and try to do the same, if not add some more drops of water and try. Just as the dough comes together tip it on a wooden board and press down on the dough with your hands to make the whole thing come together, this is not kneading but bringing the dough together. With you both hands press on the dough and make it come together, then shape it into a flat round, cover in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

2. In a frying pan heat the mustard oil on a high flame, when the oil is hot reduce the flame to medium, add a pinch of sugar, let the sugar melt n go brown then add the onion n green chili, toss them around for about 2 minutes, reduce the flame to low n give them 2 more minutes, then add the coconut pieces and stir them, give them 2 minutes, then add the washed n chopped amaranth leaves, put the flame on high n mix everything well, stir fry them for 5 minutes on high heat, they will start to get a little brown, keep stirring, then reduce the flame to minimum n give 10 minutes like this, stirring often so they don’t burn, if the pan gets very dry at the end of the time add a splash of water. After that add the sugar n chili powder, mix well, then add pink rock salt, salt n taste. If there are brown bits sticking to the pan, sprinkle little water and incorporate all of that. Take them out of a plate and let them cool.

3. Roll out the pastry thinly between two cling films n line a tart tin, prick the base with a fork and bake blind in a moderate oven which is 160 Celsius/325 Fahrenheit  for 15 minutes. It should not brown. Now in a bowl mix 2 egg yolks, the thick cream, the grated parmesan with a pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper until well mixed. You can reduce the amount of parmesan if you wish; instead of 100gm you can use 70 gm.

4. Take the pastry out of the oven, arrange the note saag in the pastry case until the base is well covered, then pour the cream mixture over them. Sprinkle with the chopped almonds and the coconut pieces, then back in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top slightly starts to get color, for this often at the last 3 minutes I put the top grill on. Take it out of the oven and leave it for 5 minutes then place it carefully on a glass and let the tart tin drop down.

Here you are standing in front of the warm tart with a knife in your hands and anticipation in your heart. Go on, make one slice and bite into it. It is as good slightly warm or hot or room temperature. Bon Appétit.

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