Friday 18 July 2014

Black Nightshade or Manathakkali Kootu (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை கூட்டு)

Black nightshade or manathakkali (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை) is a commonly available green in India and it is rich in vitamins and minerals. In native medicine, it is used for treating digestive problems and chronic skin diseases. My grandmother used to say that black nightshade is effective for stomach upset and mouth ulcers. Black nightshade (purple black) berries are salted, Sun dried and used to make kuzhambu. The leaves have a slight bitter taste, which gets masked by cooking.

Black nightshade leaves (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை)
Ingredients: (Serves four)
Black nightshade leaves – 3 liters measure* 
Moong dhal – ¾ tumbler or 150 ml measure
Turmeric powder – ¼ teaspoon
Asafoetida – a pinch
Salt – to taste
Jaggery – ½ teaspoon (optional)
Mustard seeds – ½ teaspoon
Split urad dhal – ½ teaspoon
Coconut oil – 1 tablespoon 

To be ground into a paste:
Coconut – 2 tablespoons
Jeera – ½ teaspoon
Green chilli – 3 to 4 (adjust to taste)

* Choose a vessel that would hold 3 liters of water to measure the greens quantity. You may use a standard fridge water bottle of 1 liter capacity and fill a large vessel with three bottles of water. Use the water level as an indicator for the 3 liter measure. Usually 1 bunch of greens would be equivalent to this quantity.

Black Nightshade or Manathakkali Kootu (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை கூட்டு)
Method: Separate the leaves of black nightshade (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை). The stalks usually have ripe purple black berries, which may also be used. Wash the greens in water 2-3 times, drain and keep aside.

Place greens and dhal with 2 tumblers (400ml) of water in a kadai. Add turmeric powder and salt. Cover and cook on a low flame. Keep a ladle in the kadai, to prevent dhal from boiling over. Alternatively, you may mix dhal, greens, turmeric powder and salt in a container and pressure cook for 4 minutes (4 whistles). Once the pressure subsides, remove the container and transfer the cooked items to a kadai.

Grind coconut, jeera and green chillies into a fine paste. Once the vegetables and dhal are cooked well, add the ground paste and jaggery, mix well and bring it to boil. Add asafoetida and mix well. Switch off the fire. Heat coconut oil in a tadka pan or spice heating pan (தாளிக்கிற கரண்டி), add mustard seeds, when they start to sputter, add urad dhal and fry till the dhal turns golden brown. Remove from fire. Add the seasonings to the kootu. Serve hot with rice and rasam/ kuzhambu.

Note: Spleen amaranth (அரைக்கீரை) or tender amaranth (தண்டு கீரை) may be used for this recipe instead of black nightshade (மணத்தக்காளி கீரை). If you like, you may add garlic, which gives a twist to the taste of the preparation. Peel and finely chop 1-2 pods of garlic. Fry garlic in half a teaspoon of oil, till it starts to brown. Add fried garlic to the kootu and mix well. 

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