As a child, the more common greens used in Indian cooking today like spinach, mustard greens, fenugreek greens, etc., were exotic stuff because they were not used in South Indian cooking. We only got to eat those on the rare occasions when we visited family in the Northern parts of the country, who were a bit more adventurous in their cooking and cooked chappathis and parathas unlike the traditionalists.
I do not find thethe variety of greens available back home in the South, but spinach comes a very close second in taste when used to make this Mashiyal. Serve as a side dish with sambhar or have it the way I like best, with “Curd Rice” (South Indian rice and yogurt).
Keerai Mashiyal (South Indian Style Seasoned Mashed Spinach/ Amaranth Leaves)Ingredients:3 large bunches of spinach1/4 cup water1/4 tsp turmeric powderSalt to taste1 1/2 tsp sesame seed oil (or any oil of choice)1 tsp mustard seeds1 1/2 tsp black gram lentils (urad dal)2 or 3 dried red chillies, broken into 2 or 3 pieces1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
Method:Pick the leaves along with some part of the stem (tender part) and wash them well. Immerse the leaves, for half an hour, in water to which about a couple of tsps of salt has been added. This ensures that any micro-level critters are taken care of! Drain the water out and rinse the leaves a couple of times.Lightly steam cook or microwave the spinach leaves with very little water. Usually, turmeric is added to the spinach leaves while cooking. I prefer to add my turmeric much later as it keeps my Mashiyal a nice bright green colour rather than a slightly yellowish green. The taste is much the same and its just a matter of preference.Let the spinach cool and then mash them well. Alternately, break down the leaves using a hand blender. Traditionally, the leaves should not be puréed but have a bit of texture to them. I however do not like small bits in my Mashiyal, so tend to purée the spinach.Put the mashed spinach into a pan and place it on the stove top. Add salt to taste and turmeric and just bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 2 to 3 minutes. Take it off the heat. Transfer the Mashiyal into a serving dish.In a small pan, heat the sesame seed oil and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the black gram lentils. Stir till they start browning and then add the red chillies and the asafoetida powder. Do not let it burn. Stir once or twice and pour the tempering into the mashed spinach.Stir well and serve warm as a side dish with rice. This recipe serves 3 to 4 people.