Spinach is best used on the same day or at max the following day. That's how Keerai Milagootal managed to feature on today's menu. The ideal partner to this would be a potato roast (always ideal for everything :) or a sliced plantain roast. Since I rarely find the slender plantains suited for this curry, cabbage seemed the next best option.
Milagoottal or Kootan is a Kerala derivative into Tamil cuisine and since my roots are in Tirunelveli which is almost close to the Kerala border, some of our dishes have the 'ubiquitous to Kerala' coconut ground in the gravy of the vegetables. Aviyal is as much our cuisine as much as it is a part of the Keralite sadya. So is the milagoottal, which we call Keerai Kootan at home. This goes well with a mangai pachidi, in which the tender mangoes that have been used to make the vadumangai pickle are removed from the spicy brine, washed and ground to a coarse paste, which is then mixed into yogurt.
For me, there is no better way to consume spinach. Mashed fresh spinach leaves mixed with mashed cooked paruppu (tur dal) and spiced with a mix of fried red chillies-udad dal - black pepper-rice grains is the perfect way to get my dose of iron, protein and comfort for the day!
Recipe for Keerai Kootan
Step I - Preparing the spinach
Take 2 bunches spinach. Pluck the leaves and tender stems. Washed thoroughly in bucket of sink full of water, several times. Chop finely. In a heavy pan, place the chopped spinach with a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup water. Boil the spinach till wilted and mash with back of a round ladle. Do not cover while cooking to retain green colour.
Step II- For spice paste
Fry the following in 1/2 tsp oil in a wok till dal turns golden-
1 tbsp udad dal
3 medium dried red chillies
1 tsp whole black pepper
1 tbsp rice (uncooked raw grains)
Grind the above with 1/4 cup of fresh grated coconut, using upto 1/4 cup water into a fine paste. Remove from blender and keep aside.
Step III - Paruppu (dal)
Take under 3/4 cup of tur dal, wash well, pressure cook till very soft with 2 cups water. (2 whistles and on sim for 5 minutes)
Mash this well with a ladle. Keep aside.
Step IV - Assembling all 3 parts and tempering the kootan
In a pan with the mashed spinach, add the mashed dal and the ground spice paste. Stir to mix well. Add salt to taste. Bring to a simmer. Remove from flame.
For tempering - heat 1 tsp oil, to this add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp udad dal, few curry leaves. Once seeds splutter and dal turns golden, transfer this tempering over the prepared kootan.
Serve hot with rice.
This is the simplest possible preparation of cabbage which my mom makes often and beautifully well. Readers will be aware that I keep ranting about how Tamil Brahmin cooking keeps things basic, utterly simple and yet superb to taste. No over cooking, no over spicing and not much oil either - all working towards bringing out the true flavour of vegetables. As I say, we are not afraid to taste the real vegetable in the dish :)
Recipe for Cabbage Curry
4-5 cups finely chopped cabbage
1 tsp oil
2 dried red chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp udad dal
1/2-1 tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
In a large wok, heat the oil. Splutter mustard seeds, fry the broken red chillies and udad dal for 30 seconds.
Add the finely chopped cabbage, salt and stir for a few seconds.
Sprinkle some water, cover and cook for a total for 8-10 minutes taking care to open, sprinkle water and stir every 2 minutes so that the cabbage does not burn.
Once cooked, remove from flame, garnish with fresh coconut and serve hot.
Lunch Series so far
Day 1 - Vengaya Sambar, Vendakkai curry, Potato Roast
Day 2 - Peerkangai thuvaiyal, Red Chauli
Day 3 - Keerai Milagoottal, Cabbage curry