Spinach and Dry Dates Raita (Yoghurt)
Palak aur Chuaare ka Raita
Dorin (Rinu) Gupta
This traditional dish belongs particularly to the Kangra district of Himanchal Pradesh in India. It is mainly served at Dham, a traditional wedding lunch served to all family members. Himanchal Pradesh has 12 districts and all of them have different, traditional dishes for Dham. This dish is very popular in our region and it is one of my favourites Serves 4.
20 dry dates or chu-ara. These dates are very hard and are different from the ripe dates that are soft and can be eaten as they are.
500 ml. or 1 1/2cups yoghurt/dahi/curd
2 tsp. ground mustard or rai seeds or mustard powder
4 tsp. cooking oil
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 cup spinach/ palak purée. Boil/microwave leaves and grind.
3 tsp. fennel/saunf powder
2 small cardamoms/choti illaichi, powdered or use half tsp. ready powdered cardamoms
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. coriander powder
1 tsp. red chilli powder, adjust to taste
2 tsp. of grated jaggery or use 2 tsp. brown/moscovado sugar
1/3 cup tamarind purée* or pulp, adjust to taste
Salt to taste
* Tamarind purée can be bought in jars from Asian grocers. It is much better than the dark coloured tamarind concentrate, it is just tamarind pulp with fibrous bits removed.
Boil dry dates in a pressure cooker, until they are soft. It takes around 6-8 minutes on full pressure. Without a pressure cooker, boil briskly for 20 minutes. Remove stones and then cut dates into halves. Keep aside.
Take 100 ml. of the yoghurt/dahi, add mustard powder and mix well. Keep aside. It will be used in the end, when the dish is ready to serve.
Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds and let them ‘crackle’. Now add spinach purée and cook it on high flame, until the raw smell of spinach goes and it’s colour changes to dark green.
Add remaining 400 ml. of yoghurt, fennel powder, cardamom power, turmeric powder, coriander powder and chilli powder to the spinach and continue to cook for ten minutes on medium flame.
Add jaggery, tamarind pulp and water to the cooked spinach and yoghurt mixture and make a thick, custard/ gravy like consistency.
Add boiled dates. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Adjust seasoning to taste. It should be sweet and sour in taste. Modify/adjust according to your own taste. Allow to cool.
Half an hour before serving, add the yoghurt and ground mustard seed mix from step 2 to the spinach mix. Do not heat after this.
Also see Raita Selection.