So much of Pakistani food is hot and spicy and as discussed before we are not big on salads per se, so what do we use then for a fresh counterpunch to our food? Raita. Raita is essentially plain yogurt whipped smoothed and seasoned a myriad of ways with varying veggies or none at all.
This version of raita which is dip like in it’s consistency is new to me. A few years ago, we were visiting friends in London and our friend, who was almost 9 months pregnant then, had a biryani dinner ready for us when we got in. The biryani was very good, but this raita, now this raita blew my mind. Spinach, yogurt, garlic? sold, sold, sold.
So here I present to you a simple, humble side dish, that you can put together in minutes for a lovely side to a desi meal or dunk some crispy pita chips into for a little snack. My girls had it over rice for dinner, I would say the same for me, but an Aunt of mine once pointed out that I have rice with my raita not raita with my rice 😉
6 cups or so baby spinach (1 bag)
2 cloves garlic
1/4-1/2 tsp salt
2 cups yogurt
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 whole dried red chillies
1 + 1.5 tbsp of neutral oil such as canola
Use a fork or small whisk to beat the yogurt till smooth, add 1/4 tsp salt and set aside. Put a large saucepan over medium heat and heat a scant tablespoon of oil. While the oil is heating wash your spinach in a colander and set aside. Crush a clove of garlic into the warm oil and as soon as it starts to turn golden add your spinach and cook until wilted. I like to (using clean hands) squeeze some of the green liquid out of the spinach before adding it to the yogurt.
Combine your yogurt and spinach and taste. Add 1/4 tsp more salt if needed and then pour your mixture into whatever you will serve it in.
Now it’s time to make the garlic-chilli-cumin oil or ‘baghaar’ or ‘tadka’ that we will use to finish the raita. Wipe the spinach pan clean and then warm another tbsp and a half of oil. Thinly slice a clove of garlic and add it to the oil along with 1/4 tsp cumin seeds and 3-4 dried red chillies. When the garlic turns golden brown drizzle or pour your baghaar over the raita.