A koottu-style preparation of a humble green fancifies it up so well that a meal of it with rice, ghee, pickle, raita and appalams makes an especially pleasing vegetarian Sunday lunch.
Throw in, as a side dish, fresh black-pepper-flavoured, ghee-fried prawns, like my seafood-loving husband did, and you have a meal fit for a king. Bon appetit.
The appealing feature of this recipe is that practically any type of green tastes lip-smackingly good made this way -- ideally a mix of greens would do the best job.
South Indian Greens or Keerai Koottu
- 1 bundle, about 200 gm any or mixed greens (please see the note below)
- 1½ cups water
- ½ cup yellow mung dal + 1 cup water
- 2 large onions, chopped
- 1-inch piece ginger, grated
- 1 tsp haldi or turmeric
- Dash sugar
- 1-2 tsp red chilly powder or to taste
- 2 tbsp sambar powder
- 1-2 tbsp imli or tamarind paste
- 3-4 tbsp grated fresh or frozen coconut
- 2 tbsp rice flour
- 2 tsp rai or mustard seeds
- ½ tsp hing or asafoetida
- 2 tsp split or whole urad dal or white gram
- 20 sambar onions, peeled, chopped in half
- 20 curry patta
- 1 tsp oil
- 1-2 tbsp ghee
- Chop the greens fine, remove the inedible stems and boil in a medium-sized saucepan in 1 ½ cups water with the haldi till cooked.
Don't drain, but keep the water.
- Boil the mung dal in a small saucepan with the 1 cup water till very mushy and mash to a paste with a masher.
- Heat the urad dal in the oil in a heavy-bottomed large saucepan or kadhai over high heat till pink.
Add the mustard seeds, hing and when it begins popping add the curry leaves and the chopped onions.
Saute 4-5 minutes over medium heat.
Add the greens plus water, the mung dal and ginger.
Bring it to boil.
Add the rice flour, and whisk till no lumps.
Add the imli, sugar, salt, sambar powder and lal mirchi powder.
- While the greens and dal are cooking, saute the sambar onion halves in a small frying pan in ghee for 5-8 minutes and keep aside.
- When the dal has thickened and is the right consistency -- little thicker than a regular dal -- add the coconut and sauteed sambar onions and the ghee.
Serve hot with rice, raita, fried appalams or rice papad.
Zelda's Note: You can choose a bundle, approximately 200 gm, of any kind of green.
Malabar spinach or poy (also called bassela) does particularly well. As does patra leaves or colocasia. Or khatta palak mixed with plain palak. Or try tender methi and spinach mixed.
Unable to get my first choice poy, I used lal math or red amaranthus, still a good choice, as is green amaranthus or cholee.
Vegans should opt for cashew butter instead of ghee. And those on a diabetic diet may substitute 2 tbsp rice flour with 2 tbsp brown rice flour, which can be purchased online.
The ghee-fried sambar onions is a special touch that should not be passed up.
Instead of yellow mung dal you could use toor dal or split yellow lentils.
A simple raita like a grated cucumber raita with ground mustard powder and a dot of rai-hing tadka is an excellent accompaniment. And, of course, several types of papad for a Sunday treat.
My husband fried medium-sized prawns in a tadka of hing, pinch rai, curry patta, few black peppercorns, sambar onions halved, few cloves, 1 tej patta, haldi, butter, ghee and then added dhania powder, lal mirchi powder, salt and black pepper powder.
Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com