This Saagwala (chicken and spinach curry) is a super delicious and mild North Indian chicken and spinach curry that requires a bit of effort but is well worth it. The chicken is marinated overnight and then roasted in the oven to give it extra flavour and a succulent texture.
I wanted to cook it as close to a tandoor style as possible but in the oven. The verdant curry sauce is peppered with garam masala and bay leaves and there is a lot of it. It’s how I like curry and reminds me of my London days and all the curries I ate while living there.
I have included an easy naan bread recipe that requires no yeast, proving or kneading which is essential to mop up the extra sauce. Along with my method to make perfect fluffy basmati rice, you are in for a feast. This recipe can easily be made vegan (see the bottom of the post for ideas on how to do that).
This recipe was developed to pair with Stellenbosch Hills premium wooded Kastanjeberg Chenin Blanc. Its rich, complex and displays effusive aromas of stone fruit, honey, dried apricots, violets and vanilla oak spice aromas. The palate is full with a well-weighted mid-palate, balanced by a creamy texture and crisp acidity. This spectacular white wine erupts with pear and peach flavours combined with hints of vanilla, almonds and a lingering finish that stands up perfectly against this curry. It’s the kind of Chenin you want to drink in winter too.
*Cooks Notes – the recipe list is long as is the case with any good curry and I found all the ingredients at Atlas Trading in Bo Kaap. The fenugreek is optional and included in the marinade only so it’s not essential. I like Kashmiri chilli powder which is sweeter and milder.
How to make perfectly fluffy basmati rice
This is my tried and tested recipe but does vary slightly from brand to brand
1 1/4 cup basmati rice which you soak in water for 15 – 30 minutes. Then rinse until the water runs clear.
Bring 500ml water 1 tsp salt to a boil with the lid on. As soon as it starts boiling, added the drained and rinsed rice. Put the lid back on and set a timer for 5 minutes. Do not open the lid. Boil over medium heat for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Do not open the lid.
Allow the rice to absorb for 20 – 25 minutes then open the lid, add butter (as much as you dare) and fluff up with a fork.
*If for some reason there is still some water in the pot that hasn’t been absorbed, then fluff up over low heat to allow this to steam off.
Easy Naan bread recipe
1 ¾ cup self-raising flour
½ tsp salt
2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
1 cup full-fat Greek-style yoghurt
Butter for brushing
Mix the salt with the flour and then add the yoghurt. Mix briefly until it forms a dough.
Tip out onto a floured surface and divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll these out fairly thinly into a rectangular naan bread shape.
Heat a nonstick pan or seasoned cast iron skillet to very hot and then fry the dough on each side for about 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Once the bread starts to bubble it is ready to flip over.
Brush each naan bread with butter.
How to make this recipe vegan
To make the curry vegan, simply replace the chicken with 400gms firm tofu (that has been drained and cut into large pieces) and 600 – 700gms of mixed vegetables (such as aubergine, zucchini and mushrooms). You could also skip the tofu and use a mix of roasted vegetables and lightly fried mushrooms. The tofu would not need to be marinated.
To cook the tofu, heat the oil (4 Tbsp as per the chicken recipe) in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat until starting to shimmer. Add the tofu and cook (taking care as the oil could splatter), turning it occasionally until it’s golden brown on a few sides (about 10 to 12 minutes). Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and season well with salt.
Roast the vegetables of your choice and fry the mushrooms if using. Set aside.
Make the sauce as per the recipe using coconut cream instead of yoghurt. When the sauce is ready, stir through the vegetables and tofu.
Recipe – serves 6
Saagwala – (chicken and spinach curry)Print Recipe
- 900 gms skinless & boneless chicken thighs
- 800 gms spinach washed
- 3 Tbsp melted butter
- Marinade: make in in advance – at least 4 hours but preferably overnight
- 2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp dried fenugreek optional
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp mustard oil or neutral vegetable oil
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ cup full-fat yoghurt
Saag Wala curry sauce:
- 4 Tbsp vegetable oil sunflower or canola
- 2 onions peeled
- 4 - 5 large cloves of garlic
- 2 medium ripe tomatoes
- ½ - 1 green or red chilli finely chopped as hot as you would like
- 1 Tbs grated ginger
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt + more to taste
- ¾ cup yoghurt or cream plus a little extra to serve.
Make in advance:
- Cut the chicken thigh meat into half or thirds depending on their size and add to a bowl with all the marinade ingredients. Stir well to coat and ensure the marinade and spices are well mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- Remove the chicken in marinade at least an hour before roasting to bring it to room temperature.
- To make the spinach, blanch the washed leaves in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander and rinse under a cold tap. Once cool & drained, puree in a blender until smooth. There should be enough residual water in the spinach to get it to process. If not add a little water. This can also be made in advance.
- Preheat the oven to 200C. Line a baking tray with tin foil and spray with cooking spray. Place the chicken pieces spread out on the tray and roast for 30 minutes. Remove halfway (after 15 minutes) and drain off any liquid that may have been released in the pan. Turn the chicken pieces over and brush with the melted butter. Continue to roast for the remaining 15 minutes and until lightly golden. This chicken should still be very succulent. Season it well with salt when it is out of the oven.
- While the chicken is roasting make the sauce. It’s advisable to get all the spices measured out and ready. Blend the onion and garlic in a food processor until puréed but still holding some texture i.e. it should not be too smooth. Heat a large nonstick frying pan or skillet and add the vegetable oil. Once hot fry the onion & garlic mixture over high heat for about 8 – 10 minutes stirring regularly until starting to brown.
- Add the tomatoes to the same bowl of the food processor and puree until smooth.
- When the onions are browned, add the chopped chilli, grated ginger, coriander, cumin, chilli powder, turmeric and garam masala and cook with the onion mix for a minute or two until starting to smell fragrant. Add the pureed tomato and bay leaves and cook for about 5 – 6 minutes. You want to ensure the tomatoes are cooked.
- Add the pureed spinach to the pan and cook the sauce for a further 6 – 8 minutes. Adding additional salt as needed. Add the yoghurt and lemon juice after a few minutes.
- Add the roast chicken to the curry sauce and heat through. Check the seasoning (I found this curry needed quite a lot of salt).
- Serve with basmati rice and naan bread.
*This post is proudly sponsored by Stellenbosch Hills
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