Bachelor-friendly, Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Everyday Simple Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Keerai Mashiyal – Mashed Greens with Lentils

It is recommended that we use greens daily in our diet. Indians have various recipes to use locally available greens. One of the local recipe around the regions in Tamil Nadu and parts of Kerala mainly dominated by the Tamil community is a preparation called mashiyal, which literally means mashed. Keerai mashiyal is nothing but mashed greens. You may puree the greens or decide to just cook them, add lentils along with them mashed greens, and choose your own favorite kind of seasoning for the mashed greens. The mashiyals that traditional Tamil Iyer community makes does not use shallots/onions. You may use your discretion to add or skip shallots. Lentils is a good way to add volume as well as protein in your mashiyal but this is optional too.

Ingredients:
Spinach/amaranth leaves/cheera/keerai/palak – 3 tightly packed cups
Tur dal/split yellow mung dal – 1/2 cup
Water – 2 cups
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Green chilies – 1 or 2
Pearl onions/Shallots – 7-8
Dried red chilies – 2
Urad Dal – 1 tsp (optional)

Preparation Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins (20 mins pressure cooking time)
Makes 4 cups

Method:
If you are adding lentils, rinse the dal thoroughly, add a cup of water, and cook it well. Mash and keep aside.

Wash, clean, and chop the spinach. Keep aside.
Peel the pearl onions/shallots and chop them finely. Chop green chilies finely. Keep aside.

In a wok, add oil and mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the urad dal. Roast the dal until they turn red and add the dry red chilies.
Add the finely chopped shallots and green chilies. Saute until shallots turn pink.
Add the finely chopped spinach, along with quarter cup of water, and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover and let this cook until the greens get cooked, stirring occasionally. Add the required amount of salt.
When the greens are cooked well, add the mashed dal. Taste and adjust the salt.
Turn off the fire.
Serve with rice or roti.

Notes: If you do not have shallots, you may use red onions but the taste does vary slightly. Red onions are slightly sweet whereas shallots are spicy.
You may avoid onions/shallots and choose to add just a seasoning of oil, mustard seeds, urad dal, and dry red chilies.

Bachelor-friendly, Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Everyday Simple Recipes, Indian, Vegan

Simple Spinach Curry

Spinach/Palak leaves are healthy, rich in iron and nutrition. This super simple palak recipe is made with limited ingredients and goes well with rice as well as roti. In this recipe, I have steamed and pureed the spinach leaves. You may choose to just use chopped spinach leaves. I prefer the pureed spinach. You may also add cooked tur dal/split pigeon peas or split mung dal to this curry to increase volume and nutrition.

Ingredients:
Spinach leaves – 1 bunch
Green chilies – 1-2
Garlic – 1 clove
Onion – 1/2
Tomato – 1
Jeera – 1/2 tsp
Oil – 1/2 tsp
Lemon – 1/4
Salt as needed

Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 10 mins to steam and 7 mins to cook

Method:
Clean and wash the spinach leaves well in water.
Drain and place in a double boiler or pressure cooker to steam the leaves. You will notice that the leaves have wilted, turned dark green, and reduced significantly.
Peel the garlic and onion. Chop finely and keep aside.
When the steamed spinach leaves cool down a bit, puree it using a mixer. Keep aside.
In a wok, add oil and jeera, slit green chilies and garlic. Saute.
Add finely chopped onion and tomato. Saute for 2-3 mins.
Add the pureed spinach into this. Bring to boil. Add salt.
Add lime juice just before serving.

Bachelor-friendly, Everyday Simple Recipes, Salads, Vegan

Simple Spinach Salad (Korean Style)

I had the pleasure of befriending a Korean couple who were visiting a friend. In return to the Indian lunch that we prepared for them, they cooked a Korean style lunch for us. Rice and sweet potato cooked together, mushroom cooked with bell peppers, spinach salad, and shallow-fried potatoes. Out of all, I liked the spinach salad the best. Sigeumchi-Namul is the Korean name for this salad. A simple and easy to make salad, nutritious, and deliciously flavorful. Delicate flavors are the best to relish and perhaps more nutritious too.

Ingredients:
Spinach – 1 bunch
Water – approximately 4 cups
Garlic – 3-4 cloves (adjust as per individual taste)
Sesame oil – 1 tsp
Sesame seeds – 1-1/2 tsp
Lime juice – 2 tsps
Black salt to taste

Preparation Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 5 mins
Makes 3 servings

Method:
Clean the spinach really well. If the spinach is organically grown, one thorough wash would be enough. Otherwise, wash really well at least three times and soak in salted water for at least 10 minutes.
Bring a pot of water (approximately 4 cups) to boil.
Blanch the spinach in boiling water for less than 1 minute.
Drain the water out and collect the blanched spinach on a strainer.
Rinse the spinach in cold water. Squeeze out excess water.
Using your hands, untangle the spinach into a mixing bowl.
If the spinach is too long, use your hands to shred them into smaller size. Add crushed garlic, sesame oil, sesame seeds and toss well to mix and coat the spinach with these ingredients. Crushing (not chopping) the garlic works best and brings out the flavor very well.
The original recipe calls for soya bean sauce. But I replaced this with lime juice.
Sprinkle some black salt.
Taste and adjust the seasoning as you like.
Korean style spinach salad is ready to be served.

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Reviews

Growing Plants

Growing plants seem overwhelming to most people. They make up all sorts of excuses. “Oh, there is no space in the house. I don’t have time. I don’t have a green thumb.” But it is actually very simple. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow in a small scale. When you are tired and your eyes are aching, just observe your plants. Just watch them being there doing their thing in their own quiet way, makes you feel so good! I tell you it’s completely worthwhile.

I still remember each and every plant in our house in the village. During summer, my mother would draw water from the well and fill buckets and pots, and we would water all the plants. When my young cousins came to visit us on month-long summer vacation, they would also give a helping hand. The cool shade of the backyard was my favorite place to be. They knew my joys and sorrows. Every friend/relative who came home was proudly shown around. Even strangers who walked past our compound would stop and admire the rare fruits like Sitaphal, Anar, Bablimos (grapefruit), and of course Jackfruit. Some of them even rang the bell and requested for a fruit, and if it is ripe enough, we would gladly give it away.

My father has a good green thumb. He grows banana, lady’s-finger, chillies, amaranth, drumstick, and he takes care of them so well. Green thumb or not, I try to plant too in my own little way in the little space I have.

Coming back to my little garden here. Living in the city, you don’t have the luxury of planting on the ground. But even planting on pots can be joyful, like I discovered a few years back. Introducing plants from my tiny garden:

I started off with flowering plants.

This is a desert rose bonsai. Low maintenance and flowers throughout the year. My neighbor (a widower who had been living alone for many years) could see this plant from his window. He used to say that although the plant didn’t belong to him, he felt so happy whenever there was a new flower.

These are called Nityakalyani in my native. These are also low maintenance and flowers daily. These two plants could survive up to a week without water.

When I moved houses, the plants too moved with me. But when I moved out of the city, I had to give them away to a nursery to ensure that they are looked after well.

Now I don’t grow any flowering plants. I feel that it is better to grow plants that can be used in daily cooking. Even if it is just a sprig of curry leaf, it feels good to be self-reliant. Once after having pasta that had fresh basil on it, it occurred to me why not grow my own basil?

I bought basil seeds from the geekgardener’s store. Each seed I planted sprouted within 3-4 days. The leaves smell amazing. If you just touch the leaf, the smell lingers on your finger for a good five minutes.

See how healthy my spinach plant looks! Can you believe, it just came up from the leftover roots of the palak that I bought for cooking?

If the spinach that you bought from the market has its roots intact, instead of throwing it in the bin, just stick them into a pot of soil and water daily. You can grow coriander also in the same way using leftover roots.

Don’t tell me you don’t have space to keep a money plant in a corner! All you need is to immerse the plant in a jar of water. Once a week or so, check the water levels and add water as and when necessary. Seeing new tendrils sprout is sheer joy! Indoor plants have many benefits. Not only do they purify the air, they also reduce your fatigue and stress. Fill up small pockets of your house with indoor plants. Take them out to meet the sun over weekends.

These are jackfruit saplings. I am really proud of these! After consuming ripe jackfruit, I covered the seeds in a piece of cotton cloth, and put them away near the kitchen sink where moisture was guaranteed. In 8-10 days, most of them sprouted. Then I planted them in a pot. Very soon, I plan to plant them in the garden nearby. This is the second batch of jackfruit saplings. I have not had much luck with the tomato plant that you see (extreme left). That one has been in the same state for 3-4 months now. But I haven’t given up as yet. 🙂

It is simple to grow methi (uluva) also at home. Soak the methi seeds (that you use for cooking) in water overnight. Sow them in a pot and in 3-4 days you will notice sprouts.

I treat my plants like members living in my house. I give them their water soon after I wake up. I check how they are doing. Each new sign of life is newfound joy. I feel sad when a leaf turns yellow. Before I pluck a leaf (for cooking), I “take the plant’s permission” and pluck the leaf gently without hurting the plant. I am aware it does not “hurt” them. (Plants are not sentient. They do not have a central nervous system.) Yet this is my way of showing respect to the plant. They are our only source to anything that we consume.

I do not water my plants after sunset and never before sunrise as I feel plants sleep during this time should not be disturbed. If you have taken a walk at a park during sunset, you might have noticed that the leaves of some plants fold together in a touch-me-not leaf kind of fashion. Not all plants display a visible sign of “sleep” but some do. There is scientific proof that at night plants shut down their system by closing their stomata and stopping food production. If you have more information on this, please do share with me.

Growing plants is a beautiful experience. It enriches your person. Do give it a try.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Salads

Spinach Salad

Spinach is one of the healthiest vegetables and ranked number one in nutrient richness. It is full of minerals and vitamins and provides anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antioxidant properties. Spinach helps keep bones healthy. A lot of nutrients and vitamins are lost during cooking. Raw consumption provides you with all the benefits that this miracle leaf can offer you. I could go on endlessly about the benefits of spinach consumption, but before you frown, let me give you the recipe to this simple salad. It is as easy as tossing some lemon juice, olive oil, nuts, and some cheese into your cleaned spinach leaves – an amazing way of satisfying the body’s need for green leafy vegetables.

Ingredients:
Spinach – a bunch
Walnuts – 10-12
Cashewnuts – 10-12
Cheese – 1 Amul cheese cube (optional)
Lemon – 1
Olive oil – 2 tbsp

Preparation Time: 5 mins
Serves: 2

Method:

It is very important to wash the spinach thoroughly before consumption. Soak the leaves in clean water for at least 15 minutes and rinse. Wash the spinach leaves thoroughly, drain, and dry. Use your hands to tear the spinach leaves into smaller pieces as desired (I did not use a knife because chopping into smaller pieces would mean loss of nutrients).

Add walnuts, cashewnuts, lemon juice, and olive oil. I added pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds also.

Add grated cheese.

I did not add salt to this salad because I loved the as-is taste. Mix the ingredients to coat evenly. The cheese, nuts, and the lemon give this salad a tangy and nutty flavor. You could even try orange juice instead of lemon.

Eating your greens raw is an acquired taste. I developed the taste for this salad with time. Including this salad in your diet couple of times a week is immensely beneficial. If you are unable to eat your spinach raw, you could lightly cook the leaf and add it to your pasta or add the spinach puree to your chapathi dough.

Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Everyday Simple Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Cheera Moloshyam (Spinach Dal Curry)

A healthy and tasty spinach/amaranth leaves and dal combo that tastes good with rice. Does not have too many spices, a simple, no-frills curry. I make this often as it is easy. It is a dish you can cook when you are not in a mood to make side dishes. This serves as a sumptuous dish and goes well with rice and chappathi. Also called molagoottal in Tamil, this is a dish Palakkad Iyers make often.

Cheera moloshyam

chopped amaranth leavesIngredients:
Spinach/amaranth leaves/cheera/keerai/palak – 3 tightly packed cups
Tur dal/split yellow mung dal – 3/4 cup
Water – 2 cups
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

ingredientsTo grind:
Grated coconut – one cup
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Dry red chillies – 3 or 4
Shallots* – 1

Alternatives:
Shallots is an optional ingredient. You may use any green leafy vegetable available in the Indian market to make this dish.

Method:
Clean the dal, add water, and pressure cook. Mash and keep aside.

In a wok, add few drops of oil and add urad dal. Roast the dal and then add the dry red chillies. Turn off the fire and keep aside.

Wash, clean, and chop the spinach. In a wok, cook the spinach with water and some turmeric powder.

Close with a lid while cooking. This will ensure that the nutrients are not lost while cooking. Cook in medium fire for not more than 5 mins. When the spinach is cooked, add the mashed dal into the spinach, mix well, and cook for 2 mins.

In a mixer, grind the grated coconut, cumin seeds, shallots, and the roasted urad dal and red chillies.

Add this ground paste to the spinach and dal in the wok. Add salt, mix well, and cook for 2 mins and turn off.

Crackle mustard seeds in some oil and add that to the cooked spinach and dal. Cheera moloshyam is ready. Serve with rice.

Notes:
An alternative to adding the ground coconut, roasted dal, and red chilly paste is to add finely chopped onions sautéd in oil.

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