Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Keerai (greens) Thandu (stem) Kootu

There are so many varieties of keerais or greens available in India - especially in southern India - mulai keerai (type of amaranth), siru keerai (another type of amaranth), ponanganni keeri (dwarf copper leaf), pasala keerai (spinach), vendhiya keerai (fenugreek), murungai keeri (drumstick leaves), manathakali keerai, vallarai keerai (pennywort) – to name a few.  My mom would either buy these at a wholesale vegetable market where farmers send fresh produce, or from the vendor who would bring these to the door.  She would make these in different ways – keerai masial, keerai kootu, more kootu, keerai vadai, keerai kuzhambu etc. 

Keerai Thandu Kootu

We had a drumstick tree in our backyard – so we got murungai keerai from that.  My mom would add this to adais.  We also had a manathakalikai (European black nightshade) bush, and got the purple berries and greens from this plant.

Once I moved here, the only recognizable keerai I had access to was palak  - spinach.  Chopped spinach was available in the frozen vegetable section in the regular grocery store and that was the only keerai I made for the longest time.

A couple of summers ago, we became members of a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Due to weird summer weather that year, most of the harvest was greens – arugula, kale, chard, mustard greens, spinach, and numerous others I don’t know the names of.  So I started experimenting with these – some hits and some misses.

Of late, the big Asian market near my house, has been carrying amaranth (a variety of mulai keerai) and pennywort (brahmi/vallarai).  I buy these and make it the same way that I make spinach.  The last time I got Amaranth, I noticed that the stems were really thick, and remembered this kootu (vegetables cooked with moong dal and spices) my mom used to make with keerai thandu (stems) and decided to make it.

The amaranth I get here has red and green leaves (red around the veins and green on the edges) – like this one in the picture.

I trimmed the leaves and used it to make saag, and chopped the stems to make this kootu


Here is what you need:

  • ½ cup toor dal
  • ½ cup moong dal
  • 12 – 15 thick amaranth stems
  • 2 tsp. dhania (coriander seeds)
  • 2 tsp. jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 2 tsp. urad dal
  • 3 red chilies
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ cup grated coconut
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
For tempering:
  • 2 tsp. oil
  • ½ tsp. mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp. jeera
  • ½ tsp. urad dal
  • 2 red chilies
  • few curry leaves

Here is how I made it:

  1. Wash and rinse the dals, add water and cook in a pressure cooker till done.
  2. Wash the amaranth stems and dice them.  Place them in a pot with water, bring to boil and cook on medium-low heat till done (about 7 – 8 minutes).  Drain the water and set aside.
  3. While the stems are cooking, dry roast dhania, jeera, urad dal, red chilies, black pepper, and hing.  Let this cool a bit and grind to a coarse paste with coconut.
  4. Now, add the mashed dal to the cooked stems.  Add a little water and salt to taste along with turmeric powder.  Bring this to a boil.
  5. Add the ground paste and simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Heat oil for tempering in a small pan.  Add mustard seeds, jeera, urad dal, and red chilies. 
  7. When the mustard seeds sputter, turn off the stove, add the curry leaves (carefully, because it tends to splash oil), and pour this over the kootu.
Serve with rice, rasam, kuzhambu or sambar.

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