Keerai Mulagootal - Amaranth Leaves in a Coconut and Lentil Gravy (GF, V)
This is a dish that is truly Palakkad Iyer cooking. I have come across somewhat similar versions in Tamil Iyer homes but not the Palakkad version. A Mulagootal (some call it Milaikootal) can be prepared with a variety of one or a combination of usually two vegetables like raw plantain (vazhakkai), elephant yam (chenai), yard long beans (payaru/ achinga), ash gourd ( elavan/ kumbalanga), pumpkin (maththan) , etc. and “English” vegetables like beans, peas, cabbage, carrots, etc. Whatever the vegetables you use, the mulagootal can be prepeared the same way.
This is a bland dish as it has very little or no spice added to it in the form of chillies or pepper. Yet it is extremely tasty.
This mulagootal of mine is made with “Keerai” (Amaranth leaves). There are a whole variety of these leaves which we cook in different ways. For the purpose of this post, I will divide amaranth leaves by colour – green and red. Mulagootal can be made with both coloured leaves, but when it comes to taste, the green variety of amaranth (especially what we know in Tamil as “arkeerai”) scores over the red.
I usually microwave most of the vegetables I need for daily cooking as they retain their colour and firmness (except some which acquire the softness and required consistency for traditional cooking only if pressure-cooked). I prefer to use my pressure cooker for lentils as I don’t like cleaning up the mess caused by microwaving larger quantities of lentils. I also find the pressure cooker takes less time than the microwave to cook lentils to the consistency (whether just cooked and firm or mushier) that I need for most Indian dishes. So I tend to use a combination of cooking methods in my kitchen.
The morning I saw that this month’s event at Srivalli’s blog was centred around greens, I was planning to make Keerai Mulagootal. So I made it in the microwave (MW) this time. The procedure may look voluminous, but this actually very easy and doesn’t take time to cook.
For tempering/ tadka:
- Initial preparation : Clean the leaves wash and cut up the leaves and tender parts of the stem into big pieces using kitchen scissors or a knife. I have a pair of scissors I keep for this and cutting up herbs. I also advise immersing the leaves for about half an hour (if using fresh leaves) in water to which about 2 tsps of salt (or turmeric powder) has been added. This ensures that all those little germs/ bugs we can’t see (but are there) are taken care of!
- Now place the leaves in a MW-safe bowl, sprinkle a handful of water, cover the bowl loosely and MW at 100% for about 6 minutes. Stand for 5 minutes and allow to cool. Put the leaves and whatever liquid is with it into the blender and pulse once or twice to mash. Do not puree.
- I don’t cook tuvar dal in the MW. If you do, please cook it as you would such that you have a cooked dal that can be mashed well.
- In another dish put ½ tsp of oil. MW at 100% for 1 minute. Add 1 tsp of urad dal and MW at 100% for about 1 ½ minutes. By now the the dal should be light brown. Remove this dal and put it in a mixer blender. Now add the cumin seeds and the coconut and grind everything to a fine paste using water as required. Keep aside.
- Final Preparation : In a deep dish, put 1 tsp of oil. MW at 100% for a minute. Add the mustard seeds and the other 1 tsp of urad dal, cover loosely and MW at 100% for 1 ½ minutes. The mustard seeds would have spluttered and urda dal browned. Now add the mashed amaranth leaves and tuvar dal, turmeric and chilli powders, salt and 3 cups of water. Mix well. MW this at 100% for 6 minutes. Mix well and further MW at 60% for another 6 to 8minutes till the mulagootal is slightly thick but of pouring consistency (little thicker than a sambhar)
- Serve hot with rice and a spicy accompaniment like pachadi or thogayal (will do a post later).
- Stovetop Method : The ingredients and method are the same, just that the cooking is done on the stovetop.