A bunch of beautiful spinach leaves from the garden – what can be better than cooking them with toor dal and coconut with a pepper hit? This recipe is a Palakkad recipe – from that region in Kerala on the border of Tamil Nadu. The area is a melting pot of influences especially Tamil and Malayalam. This dish is quite traditional. Some recipes include pepper and others do not. As it’s name indicates with pepper, that is how we cooked it.
A Molagootal is a combination of vegetables and lentils with coconut. It is quite similar to a kootu, but subtly different. It is much like the Poritha Kuzhambu of Tamil Nadu.
In Kerala, many different greens are used for this dish, even cabbage. It can be made with many vegetables including chowchow, long beans, snake gourd and yellow pumpkin. Mixtures of vegetables such as plantain, carrot, yam, potato and chowchow, are also excellent. Indian greens include mulai keerai, paruppu keerai, thandu keerai, palak keerai, murunga keerai and ara keerai – oh to have the same range of greens here.
Similar dishes include Plantain Moar Kootu, Thani Kootu, Okra Tamarind Kootu, Chilli Leaves with Peas, Mango Kootu, Ridge Gourd Dal, Cluster Bean Kootu, Moringa Leaf Dal, Poritha Kootu, and Ridged Gourd Masiyal.
Keerai Molagootal | Spinach with a Peppery Coconut Gravy
3 – 4 cups spinach leaves or other leafy greens, washed well and chopped finely
0.5 cups toor dal
0.25 tspn turmeric powder
sea salt to taste
1 tspn ghee
2 Tblspn urad dal
1 tspn cumin seeds
0.5 – 1.5 tspn black peppercorns, or to taste
1 red chilli, or to taste
0.25 cup grated coconut
1.5 tspn ghee
1 tspn black mustard seeds
2 tspn urad dal
1 red chilli
Cook the toor dal until soft and mushy – the time taken will depend on the dal. It is likely to take 60 – 90 mins. The dal should not be too thin nor too thick. Mash it a little when cooked – an immersion blender is ideal for this.
In a small pan, toast the urad dal, cumin seeds and red chilli in a little ghee (do not burn) and grind in a spice grinder with the coconut until a paste is formed. Add a little warm water if required.
Cook the chopped spinach in a cup of water, turmeric powder until the spinach is very soft. Add the dal and spice paste, mix well and bring back to the boil. Simmer for a moment or two, then remove from the heat.
In a tadka pan, heat the ghee and pop the mustard seeds. When they stop spluttering, add the urad dal and chilli and saute until the dal turns golden. Pour the ghee and spices onto the spinach and dal.
Cover the pot and allow to sit for 5 mins for flavours to develop.