Thursday, January 22, 2009

Keerai Molagootal – the birthright of every Palakkad Iyer

What is it that you would call comfort food? It is the mashed potatoes or macaroni and cheese for Americans. It’s perhaps the simple Thakkali Rasam for Iyers and Iyengars. For S and me, it’s not just one dish. It ranges from Vatha Kozhambu to Vengaya Sambar to Urulakezhangu curry to the simple and ever popular Thayir Sadam and Vadu Manga.

S has been raised on a plethora of Palakkad dishes like the Mambazham Pulisseri, Vendekkai Pachadi, and of course, the most comforting Keerai Molagootal. For the Tanjavore Iyers like my pre-marital home, Keerai Poricha Kootu is their version of Molagootal. The Aviyals are made the same way in both homes.

The Palakkad cuisine is very easy to dish up, effortless, and healthy. You might think the coconut is bad for you, but recent studies prove otherwise. Besides, if that is true, Keralites wouldn’t be living long lives – do we see that happening? And the best part is, it’s so much like the Tanjavore cuisine. And Mum and Mum-in-law cook everything alike, everything from Rasam to Paruppu Usili to More Kozhambu.

However, Mum never made many Kerala dishes at home, perhaps because not everyone at home ate it. So there never was Erissery or Pulisseri. I learned how to make Molagootal from Mum-in-law. The first time I ate that was from a friend ‘G’ who’s also from Palakkad. Then when S and I were courting, I used to visit Mum-in-law and she’d have this yummy spinach dish ready for me. The Molagootal is a bit more watery in consistency – somewhat like a ‘Spinach Lentil and Coconut Soup’. There is no way I am raising my kids without this being one of their many comfort foods … It is the birthright of all Palakkad Iyers! And spinach is our favourite greens.

The traditional combination for Keerai Molagootal is Thengai Thogayal. This is also very easy to make, and requires mostly the same base ingredients. My Mum-in-law makes the Vendekkai Pachadi with Molagootal, but I’ve run out of Lady Fingers, so it’s going to be Keerai Molagootal, Thengai Thogayal, and Beans Pattani Potato curry for us.

Here’s what you’ll need for the Molagootal:
1.Spinach – any kind – 1 bag. I use packaged baby spinach. I’ve also tried it with fresh spinach.

2.Red Chillis – 5

3.Urad Dal (Ulutham Paruppu) – 3 Teaspoons

4.Jeeragam – Now I usually bump this up a bit, not just because this is great for your health, but also because this along with coconut is the lifeline of all Palakkad cuisine. Jeeragam simply adds wonderful flavour. Normally, 2 teaspoons would do.

5.Toor Dal (Tuvaram Paruppu) – ¾ cup

6.Freshly grated coconut, or frozen coconut, or coconut powder – the flavour will still be the same – 1 cup

7.Salt, Turmeric, Hing, Curry Leaves, Mustard Seeds, Split Urad Dal, Dry Red Chilli, Coconut Oil

Here’s how you dish it up:
1.Pressure cook the toor dal with turmeric and mash it up nicely when done. It’s easier to get well cooked dal if you soak it prior to cooking for about 30 minutes.

2.Boil the spinach in very little water. When you empty the spinach into a vessel, it will fill it up, but spinach wilts under heat and reduces to a tiny pulp completely contrary to the original packaging size. You don’t want to use too much water and drain it all, because that’s where all the nutrients of the spinach are going to be. If you use very little water, you can use it for grinding the spinach and your rich nutrients are still within the dish. The water you see in the picture is all that I used to boil the spinach.

3.When the spinach wilts well, allow it to cool and blend it into a fine paste.

4.In very little oil, about half a teaspoon, roast the urad dal and dry red chillis till the dal turns pink and aromatic.

5.When it cools, grind it to a fine paste along with Jeeragam, coconut and a little water. Jeeragam is usually not roasted in any Palakkad dish. It tends to get a little bitter if it is roasted even slightly on the higher side.

6.Cook the spinach paste with a little bit of water and turmeric, and when it boils well add the paste from Step 5. I add this before the toor dal because sometimes, if there are lumps, they mash well while cooking. Spinach will need stirring now and then.

7.When this mixture cooks well in about 5 minutes, add some salt, the cooked toor dal and cook for 5 more minutes. Make sure the consistency is as you want it. It is usually made free-flowing.

8.Temper with mustard seeds, split urad dal, curry leaves and hing fried in coconut oil. And continue to cook for a minute or two. You will surely want the flavours of the tadka to mix with your delicious molagootal.

For the Thengai Thogayal -
You’ll need
1.2 teaspoons urad dal

2.4 dry red chillis

3.Marble sized ball of tamarind

4.1 cup grated coconut

Here’s how you do it:
1.Roast the urad dal and red chillis in very little oil till the dal turns pink and aromatic.

2.When it cools down, blend it with the tamarind, coconut and salt, adding very little water.

We make sure to include spinach in our diet twice or thrice a week. Whenever I make Molagootal or Keerai Poricha Kootu, S cribs when it’s about to get over. The Tanjavore version is the exact same, except for the Spinach being blended. And that’s called Keerai Poricha Kootu. S loves that too.


  1. Amazing work on this one dee. This is A's fav dish whatsoever and mine too :). I shall try it your way once.

  2. I'm sure he does. It's delicious, isn't it. S also loves it if we make it our style, keerai poricha kootu madiri.

  3. Subbu wiped his plate clean in seconds! And the thogayal is over, lol... Molagootal sure rocks.

  4. Ohh babes.. i love this.. Def gonna try it out now !! Thank u Thank u for the Thengai Thogayal. You know i've always asked how you make this in office during our lunch hours :P

  5. From mum - she couldn't post this comment so asked me to...
    Actually we dont make keerai poricha kootu as often as we do ''keerai masiyal'' which is a very famous dish of our side. This also is simple and without thoor dal but we dont blend it usually BUt i used to blend it since raja and ramya liked it that way since thier childhood and they wl relish it and finish off the plate so soon:).Lets post that traditional keerai masiyal reciepe too here

  6. Vini, you should! This comes out bland, so you can throw in a couple of more red chillis if you want it spicy. Try it out... and hey, you can share your recipes too, we'll post it under your name as guest writer :)

  7. Rums I make Keera Masiyal most of the times for Akshara. So I will post that recipe next week.

  8. Great dee... S is working on the categorization with his friends who're specialists in Java and Html. Adu kaprom we can modify the arrangements. Good that Akshu has nice eating habits like her chitti, aka, me :D

  9. WOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW.... sob sob... i just love kerai moorkolamby with togayal or manga peraku... sob... my mom not in town now n m missin it badly... dam... nice post... hail kerai molagutal... :).... thanks this really is a boost for me to east something exotic (yeh this is) today...


  10. good luck to u Abhishek. And do keep checking our blog for more authentic recipes.