Thursday, 28 May 2015

Sour Spinach Gravy or 'Puli Keerai' (புளிக்கீரை)

Traditionally, spinach is often used to make masiyal (மசியல்), kootu (கூட்டு) or poriyal (பொரியல்) in Tamil brahmin households . However, spinach is also prepared as thick gravy to be eaten with rice. This preparation is tamarind based and is called ‘puli keerai’ (புளிக்கீரை). Tender amaranth (தண்டு கீரை), a commonly used green in Tamilian cuisine, is rich in iron, calcium and vitamins. This spinach variety is best suited to make puli keerai, which makes an excellent accompaniment for curd rice. Sour spinach gravy has the gentle sour taste and is mildly spicy.

Tender amaranth (தண்டு கீரை)
Ingredients: (Serves four)
Tender amaranth – chopped, 3 liters measure*
Split red gram or toor dhal – cooked, 1 small hollow ladleful or 50ml measure
Tamarind – size of a wild gooseberry
Salt – to taste
Oil – 1 tablespoon
Asafoetida – 3 pinches
Mustard seeds – 1 teaspoon
Split urad dhal – 1 teaspoon
Dried red chili – 1 no
Green chilies – 4-5 no (Adjust to taste)

*Usually 1 big bunch of greens would be equivalent to this quantity.

Method: Mash the cooked toor dhal with a ladle and keep aside. Chop 2-3 green chilies finely. Split the remaining green chilies lengthwise. Soak tamarind in warm water for 20-30 minutes. Later, squeeze the tamarind and extract the juice.

Sour Spinach Gravy or 'Puli Keerai' (புளிக்கீரை)
Cut off the thick stem portion of tender amaranth (தண்டு கீரை) and chop the leafy portion finely.  Wash the chopped greens in water 2-3 times, drain and keep aside. Cover and cook the chopped greens with tamarind extract and asafoetida in a large kadai. Turn the contents once or twice. Once cooked, amaranth reduces to ⅓ of its original quantity. Switch off the fire and allow it to cool. Add required salt, to the cooked amaranth and mash it lightly with a hand blender or a ladle into a soft mass. Do not mash it into a fine paste. Traditionally, a wooden hand blender (கீரை மத்து) is used for mashing greens. Alternatively, you may mash the cooked amaranth in a mixer grinder. Use ‘Whip’ or ‘Pulse’ button just once. If you use ‘Grind’ button, the content will become pasty. Transfer the contents to the kadai. Add green chilies and cooked toor dhal to the spinach-tamarind mixture and blend well. Bring it to boil and then simmer for 2-3 minutes. Switch off the stove.

Heat the oil in a tadka pan (spice pan/தாளிக்கிற கரண்டி), add red chili and fry till they turn darker. Add in 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 puli keerai. Serve with rice and poriyal.

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