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The Food of Warriors: Gatte Ka Saag

Updated: Jun 13

Gatte Ka Saag
Gatte Ka Saag

Today’s post takes us deep into the hinterland of Rajasthan – a region that was ruled for hundreds of years by Rajput kings who were not just brave and fearsome warriors, they were also ardent lovers of music, art, architecture – and food.

Traditional Rajasthani food is predominantly vegetarian – probably because in the arid and unforgiving Thar Desert during ancient times livestock was far more useful for transportation and dairy products than for meat. The vegetables too are largely desert-grown ones along with locally available berries and fruits. The choices may be frugal but Rajasthani cuisine uses a wide range of exciting spices that create a veritable rainbow of rich and enticing flavours.

The dish we will be making today is called Gatte Ka Saag or Gatte Ki Sabzi but don’t get misled by the name – it has neither spinach (Saag) nor vegetables (Sabzi) in it barring a few tomatoes that are used for making the gravy. The fascinating flavour of this dish comes from the varied palette of spices that are used and the golden, smoky taste and aroma of cold-pressed Mustard Oil.

Let’s begin by gathering the ingredients that you will require.

Ingredients for Gatte Ka Saag

  1. Gram Flour (Besan): 150 grams

  2. P Mark Mustard Oil: 5 tablespoons

  3. Fennel (Saunf) Seeds: Half a teaspoon

  4. Cumin (Jeera) Seeds: 1 teaspoon

  5. Coriander (Dhania) Seeds: 1 teaspoon

  6. Coriander (Dhania) Powder: 2 teaspoons

  7. Carom (Ajwain) Seeds: Just a pinch

  8. Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds: 1 teaspoon

  9. Turmeric (Haldi) Powder: 1 teaspoon

  10. Asafoetida (Heeng): Half a teaspoon

  11. Red Chilli Powder: 1 teaspoon

  12. Tomatoes: 3, medium-sized

  13. Green Chillies: 2

  14. Ginger (Adrak), grated: 1 teaspoon

  15. Curd (Dahi): 30 grams

  16. Curry Leaves: 6

  17. Coriander (Dhania) Leaves: 1 tablespoon

  18. Salt: to taste

The quantities mentioned above are for serving four persons. Adjust the quantities proportionately to suit the number of servings that you require.

Preparation for Gatte Ka Saag

In a mixing bowl, add the gram flour along with two tablespoons of Mustard Oil; fennel; half a teaspoon of cumin; half a teaspoon of coriander seeds; one teaspoon of coriander powder; carom; fenugreek; half a teaspoon of turmeric powder; a pinch of asafoetida; half a teaspoon of red chilli powder; and salt to taste. Mix the gram flour and the spices well. Add a little water to make the dough for your Gatte. Knead the dough adding a little more Mustard Oil, if required.

Divide the dough into three equal portions. Use the palms of your hands to roll each portion into an elongated, stick-like shape.

Heat water in a pan on a Medium flame and bring the water to a boil. To the boiling water add the sticks of dough, and keep them in the boiling water for around 15 minutes. Then turn the flame off and drain the water carefully.

Next, cut the three dough sticks into small cylindrical slices, a couple of centimetres in thickness. Your Gatte are now ready to be cooked. Keep them aside for now.

Coarsely chop the tomatoes.

Finely chop the green chillies.

Coarsely chop the coriander leaves.

Put the chopped tomatoes and green chillies along with the grated ginger in a blender and blend them into a smooth puree.

Cooking Method of Gatte Ka Saag

Heat the remaining three tablespoons of Mustard Oil in a pan on a High flame. After a while, the oil will reach its smoking point and begin to emit streams of aromatic white smoke. This signals that your Mustard Oil is now ready for you to start cooking. Turn the flame down to Medium.

To the hot oil add half a teaspoon of coriander seeds; half a teaspoon of cumin seeds; a pinch of asafoetida; and the curry leaves.

When the seeds begin to splutter, add the tomato-green chilli-ginger puree and cook till the gravy becomes thick.

Next, add half a teaspoon of red chilli powder; one teaspoon of coriander powder; and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Stir to mix well.

Then add the curd slowly. Keep stirring gently as you do so.

Now add the Gatte pieces along with salt to taste. Stir well to mix all the contents and then turn the flame off.

Transfer the contents of the pan to a serving dish and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. 

Your traditional Rajasthani Gatte Ka Saag is now ready. Serve it hot. In Rajasthan this is traditionally eaten with Bajre Ki Roti but you can have with Chapatti or even rice when you make it at home. It tastes awesome with pretty much any accompaniment that you may choose.

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