- Aside from being rich in vitamins A, B and C, these greens contain high amounts of betalain alkaloid pigments, which have proven antioxidant credentials.
It is the season these days of Kulfa, that ubiquitous edible, green which grows like a weed all over India, but is also cultivated in pockets in North America. The use of Kulfa as a food source is a sort of disappearing tradition today, but Kulfa has tremendous nutritional value and a taste profile. To me, Kulfa is a fitting answer to the question – name a food which is really good for you, but which also tastes amazing? In any dish where one can use spinach, you can substitute Kulfa for better taste and nutrition.
Aside from being rich in vitamins A, B, and C, these greens contain high amounts of betalain alkaloid pigments, which have proven antioxidant credentials. In addition, 100 grams of Kulfa leaves contain merely 16 calories, so for the people who are diet conscious, it provides a great volume to calories ratio. Kulfa is also rich in dietary fiber, lack of which causes a lot of colon troubles, especially for red meat lovers.
Growing up, I used to maintain a large kitchen garden in the back of my ancestral home in India and had gained a serious reputation as a grower of foods. Kulfa is an obnoxious weed (to those who don’t realize its value) that competes for food and nutrition with desirable vegetable plants being grown by the farmers. It grows widely in many parts of India and has been a part of the Indian dinner tables of many Indian states for decades. Mahatma Gandhi was known to be a fan of this tasty green. In my childhood days, it was a rare occasion where the local vegetable hawkers would bring Kulfa for sale, and the wonderful dishes my mom would whip up with them. No matter what you make of these, this green is sure to win your heart (and your palate).
In this recipe, my effort is to bring to you the taste of mutton Kulfa, which gets made rarely in today’s households. Kulfa gives an unforgettable dimension to bone-in mutton. It is something one has to experience to truly appreciate the wonder of this wild weed. As far as where to purchase Kulfa in the U.S., I have only seen it being sold in the farmer’s markets, especially Hmong farmer’s markets because Hmong people love this green.
If you are a vegetarian, you could substitute fresh or canned jackfruit chunks for mutton, hopefully with great results. This recipe suggests using freshly ground spices because that undoubtedly is a ticket to great-tasting foods.
Goat/Lamb bone- cut into medium-sized pieces 3 Lbs.
Cleaned up Kulfa, leaves only (discard the thick stems), thoroughly washed by soaking in water, then rinsing twice – 1 Lbs.
Spinach – 10 Oz
Red Onions – Cut into thick slices, 1.5 Lbs.
Garlic — 7-8 Cloves, sliced
Fresh Organic Ginger (skinned and minced) — 1-1/4 Tbsp
Coriander Powder (freshly ground) — 2 Tbsp
Cumin Powder (freshly ground) 1-3/4 Tbsp
Kashmiri Chili Powder – 3-4 Tbsp (I use Brahmin brand)
Whole dried red chilies – 3 (or per taste) – Use Cayenne or Guntur chilies
Salt – Per taste
Garam Masala — 1-1/4 Tsp
Asafetida – One small pinch
Ghee/Grapeseed/Other neutral oil – ¼ cup + ½ cup (or per your diet guidelines)
Mustard Oil – 2 Tbsp
Bay Leaves — If fresh, use 2, otherwise use 4
Turmeric paste – Grind 2 pieces of fresh yellow-orange turmeric root and use 1 Tbsp or make a 1 Tbsp paste of dry turmeric powder with a little water
Tomatoes — Chop three medium ripe tomatoes, preferably from the local farmer’s market
Black Peppers (whole) — 1Tsp
Black Cardamom — 2
Mace – one floret
Cilantro leaves (fresh) – ½ cup, chopped fine.
• Heat a pressure cooker.
• Add mustard Oil until it nears the smoking point. Pour the hot mustard oil in a ceramic bowl, and once it is slightly cooler, add the Kashmiri Chili powder to it, to make a thick paste. This sets the stage for great color in the finished dish. Set aside.
• Add ¼ Cup of ghee to the cooker, but don’t allow it to reach the smoking point.
• Add black cardamom, whole red chilies, mace, whole black peppers, and bay leaves to the ghee. Add Asafetida.
• Add sliced onions to the cooker right after.
• Sauté for a couple of minutes, then add ginger and garlic followed by the turmeric paste, mix well.
• Add washed and pat-dried bone-in mutton to the cooker and mix well. Let cook on low-medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
• Add Kashmiri chili and mustard oil paste to the cooker.
• Add tomatoes, salt.
• Add enough hot water to cover the cooker contents halfway, raise the heat until the contents are boiling.
• Put the lid and the pressure on, and once the pressure builds, cook for 14-16 minutes.
• Let the pressure release by itself and resist the urge to try to open the cooker lid or release its pressure prematurely.
• Open and remove the lid, and cook the mutton a little more to reduce the water contents in the gravy.
• Add the remaining ghee/oil to the cooker.
• Scoop out the cooked mutton pieces and keep these in a casserole. We will add them later, and this would prevent these pieces from falling apart.
• To the remaining contents, add the chopped Kulfa leaves a little at a time.
• Chop and add Spinach leaves.
• Cook under gentle heat for 15-20 minutes while stirring periodically until the greens turn into a part of the homogenous gravy.
• Add the mutton pieces which were set aside earlier
• Mix thoroughly and place a flat lid on the cooker, but don’t put the pressure back on, and cook on low heat for 8-10 minutes more. Taste the gravy and adjust for salt.
• Sprinkle the fresh cilantro leaves for the last 2 minutes of cooking
• Serve hot with steamed rice or with Naan or Chapati bread.
Ansh Sarkari has varied interests which range from gourmet cooking to foraging for wild mushrooms, photography to knife sharpening to politics. He researches foods from around the globe and using his nearly four decades of food-centric travels, he has amassed keen insights into food identities of various nations and cultures, and how some even may correlate. He is always tinkering with techniques, spices and uses his deep expertise in all things fire to try to elevate foods of all kinds. Ansh lives in the Midwest with his wife and two grown-up children. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram.