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.For the Thengai Thogayal -
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.
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.