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Jagir Kaur’s Recipes

December 9, 2020
by the gentle author

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In the book, chapters of biography are alternated with Jagir Kaur’s traditional recipes from the Punjab, as cooked in Spitalfields over the last seventy years at 38 Princelet St.


Prashad is made using butter, semolina, sugar, and water – four simple ingredients. Dad used to make this ‘gracious gift’ and we still make it today. It is always given out at gurdwaras whenever Sikhs gather, served to everyone irrespective of rank or caste. The offering must be served with and accepted with hands only. At 38 Princelet St, Dad said we could use plates. Before anyone eats, five portions of prashad representing each of the five beloved gurus, are taken out of the bowl and laid aside. Dad used to make us put these into the fire.

Traditionally, the person receiving prashad must be seated or low on the ground to humbly accept the offering with two hands. Both the person giving and the one receiving the offering should try to cover their heads. (At home, we used to have to run off to find something to cover ours.)

Makes about twenty portions

1 cup ghee or unsalted butter
1 cup coarse semolina
1 cup sugar
3 cups water

Add the sugar to the water in a pot and bring to the boil.

In another pan, melt the ghee or unsalted butter.

When the butter is melted, add the semolina to the melted butter and stir the mixture continuously to lightly toast the flour.

Continue stirring the flour and butter mixture while the sugar and water mixture boils to make a light syrup. The butter will separate from the toasted flour, turning a deep golden colour and emanating a godly aroma.

Pour the boiling sugar syrup into the toasted flour and butter, mixing it with a wooden spoon. Stir rapidly until the water is absorbed. Keep stirring the prashad as it thickens into a firm mix.

The prashad is ready when it slides easily from the pan into a bowl. We like serving each portion with a few raisins and then the blessing is complete.

Sarson Da Saag is served in gurdwaras. Dad and all the family loved it because it is a distinctively Punjabi recipe and a glorious green colour. Yellow rotis are traditionally eaten with this dish.

Makes about twenty generous portions


4 bunches of saag (mustard leaves) 2 bunches of spinach
1 bunch of bathua (pigweed)
2 bunches of methi ( fenugreek)
1 leek
1 bunch of large spring onions, cleaned and chopped 1 bulb of garlic, (about 6–8 cloves) peeled, not chopped


mustard oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 bulb of garlic (about 6–8 cloves), finely chopped 8–10 green chillies, finely chopped
3 inch piece of ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 cup makki atta (corn flour)

Wash and finely chop the mustard and spinach leaves, piling them into a large pot. Add the chopped onions and the whole garlic cloves. Add one litre of hot water to the greens and bring to a boil. Simmer for about half an hour until tender.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, add the onions, then the mustard oil, butter/ghee, garlic, ginger, green chilli and cumin seeds. Cook until the onions are caramelised and the mixture turns a golden brown (when I was young, the National Front used to beat me up for smelling of caramelised onion).

Add the onion mixture to the large pot with the greens and mix well together. Add the makki atta gradually, mixing thoroughly.

When everything is combined, blend the whole mixture in a blender, being careful not to make it too mushy and leaving some of the texture intact. Once the mixture is blended, simmer for another fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with yellow rotis.

Kahdi – this Punjabi gurdwara yogurt fills you up. Turmeric gives it a beautiful yellow colour. When asked, I always say that this is our curry. The lovely thing about our yogurt is that you can add as many vegetables as you please to it.

Makes about twenty generous portions


400g full fat yogurt
3–3.5 litres of hot water
1 cup besan flour (gram/chickpea flour) 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
75g butter


butter/ghee or mustard oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 can of tomatoes
1 whole bulb of garlic, finely chopped
7 green chillies, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
1 pinch Hing-Asafoetida
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
3 inch piece of ginger, finely chopped
5 curry leaves, rinse them under water if you use dried ones
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder

First make the base. In a large bowl, mix the yogurt, turmeric, besan flour and butter. Gradually add the water – do this slowly and mix well to make sure there are no lumps.

Pour this mixture into a large pot on a medium heat and bring to a boil. You need to stir the mixture all the time (I used to love doing this job for my mum). If you do not stir the mixture continuously, it will become lumpy and stick to the bottom of the pot. Once the mixture has come to the boil, reduce the heat. The base mixture must simmer for about two hours, and you need keep stirring it regularly.

To make the caramelised onion mixture, cook all the ingredients in the butter/ghee or mustard oil until golden brown.

Once the base mixture has been simmering for about two hours, add the caramelised onion mixture and simmer, stirring occasionally, for another fifteen minutes.

For added flavour, you can sprinkle some Garam Masala on top. Jagir uses a teaspoon each of jeera (cumin), coriander seeds, cardamom seeds, green cardamon, sunth (dried ginger powder), and two whole cloves of garlic, one cinnamon stick and three black peppercorns. She mixes and grinds this all together.

Suresh Singh & Jagir Kaur at 38 Princelet St

Photographs copyright © Patricia Niven


Click here to order a copy of A MODEST LIVING




4 Responses leave one →
  1. Wendy Lowe permalink
    December 9, 2020

    I was given this book for my birthday a few days ago. It is a really lovely read. I’m trying to read it slowly as I don’t want to finish it too soon. I will be making the recipes as soon as I can gather all the ingredients.

    I love your Mr Pussy book too and the John Claridge.

  2. December 9, 2020

    Thank you for the recipes, I’m going to try them. They sound wonderful.

  3. Pamela Traves permalink
    December 10, 2020

    I’m going to try these recipes. They Look Great!! Thank You So Much!!!????????

  4. Cherub permalink
    December 18, 2020

    These recipes all look delicious, especially the Saag as I love all things green and fresh. I’ve been based in Switzerland for 5 years, one of my pleasures here is sourcing out spices and ingredients from an Indian supermarket in my city and I make a special trip there by bus or tram every few weeks to buy things.

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