Sunday, April 11, 2010

(Not quite) patla palag

This is, almost, the Patla palag (spinach with sorrel) from Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian. It's a creamy coarse spinach puree seasoned with hot green pepper, onion, and garlic, and, if you make it properly, sorrel, and thickened with a little cornmeal. There is sorrel in my garden, valiantly trying to grow, but not succeeding due to recent bad weather.

However, even without sorrel you can still make the dish. My version of the recipe goes like this:

Patla palag (spinach with sorrel, without sorrel - skip the lemon juice and add 4 oz sorrel if you have it)
adapted from World Vegetarian
Serves 2

1 pound fresh spinach, washed and trimmed
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno or other hot green pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cornmeal
juice of half a lemon
1 1/2 tbsp canola or olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed but left whole

In a large skillet or medium saucepan, combine the spinach, onion, chile, salt, and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about 15 minutes. By this time the spinach should be very soft and wilted. Move the lid so it sits slightly ajar, turn up the heat to medium-low, and cook another 15 minutes.

Uncover the pan and sprinkle in the cornmeal. Stir and mash the greens with a potato masher as you do this to create a coarse puree. Stir in the lemon juice.

Now put the oil in a small frying pan and set it over medium high heat. When hot, put in the garlic. When the garlic is golden on all sides, empty the contents of the frying pan into the pan with the spinach. Stir to mix.

You'll get…what the--? Who put a fried egg in there? But wait! It's a vegan fried egg!

There are some foods I tend to consider impossible to veganize, and soft-cooked eggs were definitely on that list. And reading, for instance, the recent post on shakshuka on Smitten Kitchen made me a little sad thinking of similar dishes I used to make. As a vegetarian I was always pretty conflicted about eggs, especially soft-cooked ones. On the one hand, they're slimy and disgusting. On the other, they taste great…sometimes. On the one hand, they have horrible membrane-things in them. On the other hand, you could pick those things out with a little effort…not even to start into the ethics of egg production, and so it goes. But lo, others don't give up so easily! Imagine my surprise when, surfing for egg-substitutes, I came across this strangely compelling recipe for vegan fried eggs.

In my opinion, it needs a little work. It was very hard (for me at least) to get the ingredients for the yoke to mix together into a relatively emulsified mass—and stay mixed, and from the look of the original poster's illustration, he was having the same problem. I tried it twice, once in the microwave as recommended, and once in a little pot over the stove. However, the taste and texture are weirdly yolk-like, and soft fresh tofu, lightly pressed, makes a nice substitute for egg white.

Here is the same mixture, coddled and cute:

I'd love to see this recipe perfected. If the requirement for carrot juice is discouraging you (it is an essential ingredient), all you need to do is finely grate half a carrot and squeeze out some juice, which is what I did.

Any cooking science types reading who might be willing to try, or even give advice?


  1. Wow, this is great; I have two containers full of sorrel that overwintered and I've been trying to work it into our meals.

    The fried egg is intriguing...looks pretty realistic...I'm trying to imagine how the yolk part would taste.

  2. Rose, it's amazing. It literally tastes like (and has almost exactly the texture of) a real egg yolk. You have to try it to believe it...

  3. I thought the egg looked very egg-like. I can't see any separation of the ingredients from the picture. The "coddled eggs" are very appealing!