Last night I slept late in the night (close to dawn actually!) after watching bits of two movies. I was curious about the end of the horror movie but watching horror movies sometimes makes me queasy so I at all the important scenes I kept switching over a French comedy on ‘World movies’. In the end I did not understand head or tail of both movies but ended up going to bed late.
I was fast asleep at eight this morning when the phone rang and my BIL asked whether I would like some fresh greens from the farm nearby. He knows I love greens and generally picks up a bunch of amaranth leaves or spinach leaves on his morning walks near the field. I prefer making spinach on weekends as it takes time to pick, wash and clean the leaves. After some time the bell rang and he greeted me with a beautiful green bouquet of spinach leaves. My son has been complaining that I always ask Jr.H to hold cones while taking food pics but never him. The beauty of the leaves made me take this picture of him holding the bunch. Don’t they look fresh and inviting.
Now, when spinach looks this fresh I hate adding too many spices or masking the taste and flavour. There are only two ways to enjoy this – ‘parathas’ and ‘masiyal’. Parathas are oily while masiyal is healthy, low cal, and tasty, so it wins hands down. Besides it does not take much time to prepare.
How does one explain ‘masiyal’?
I do not know whether there is an appropriate equivalent term in Western cooking for this term, but it is a form of cooking that is very popular in Indian cuisine. It is an act that consists of pressing out the cooked vegetable to extrude its juices to a certain extent while retaining a rough texture. Traditionally we use a ‘kadchi’, ‘kadayal’ or ‘mathna’ for this act. Since the handle of mine broke long back, I have been using a ‘pav bhaji masher’ instead. I find that it is more convenient. If using a grinder, you have to be very careful giving the cooked spinach a half-turn so that it doesn’t blend into a pulp. Just remember that masiyal has to be as grainy as a ‘hand made’ pesto. The texture makes all the difference to the taste.
Traditionally amaranth leaves (chowli) are used for masiyal but spinach makes an equally tasty substitute.
Dish: Keerai Masiyal
Yield: Serves 4
Category: Vegan Side Dish from Palakkad Iyer cuisine
5 cups – Picked, washed and finely chopped amaranth leaves or spinach
1/2 cup – Water to cook the greens
Salt – To taste
1/4 tsp. – Turmeric powder
A tbsp. of coconut oil
Split black gram – 1.5 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp.
Dry red chillies (if long then break into small bits) – 2
Cut the spinach into thin strips and cook with salt and turmeric powder, without covering till well-done in a pan. Now use a masher to mash the spinach till the juices exude and the rough texture remains as for a basil pesto. Set aside.
Heat oil. Splutter mustard seeds, add gram dal and fry with the red chillies till the dal changes into a shade of pink.
Pour the seasoning over the cooked spinach. Stir well and serve as a side dish with rice and rasam. I like it just mixed with rice or even with pasta! I could have a bowl of this without anything to go with it.
Optionally you could also add a few garlic cloves or chopped garlic to the seasoning and let that brown before pouring into the greens. I prefer the non-garlicky version.