The first of the winter greens have started appearing in the markets, here in Bangalore. It is a soothing sight to see those lush, fresh greens piled up at the vegetable vendor’s. I love playing with leafy greens any day, and winter provides me just the perfect opportunity to cook with a variety of them. Spinach or palak is one of the most commonly used greens in India, and I present to you today a beautiful way to use them. Say hello to a traditional Tamilnadu recipe – Mor Keerai or Keerai Mor Kootu, using spinach.
Here, spinach is cooked and mixed with a freshly ground spice paste (that includes coconut and a few other ingredients), to which whisked curd is added later. The addition of curd is what gives this dish the name of Mor Keerai or Keerai Mor Kootu (‘Mor‘ is Tamil for ‘buttermilk’, while ‘keerai‘ refers to any sort of leafy greens. ‘Kootu‘ refers to the South Indian style of preparing a curry, usually of the runny sort that can be mixed with rice and eaten.)
Mor Keerai or Keerai Mor Kootu can be made using any variety of greens, but I love making it with spinach the most. I adore the combination of spinach and curd, along with the ground coconut and other spices that goes into the making of this kootu. This Mor Keerai is traditionally used as an accompaniment with plain, steamed rice, but I love having it with rotis as well.
Different Tamilian families have their own minor variations to the Mor Keerai, while the basic proceedure to prepare it remains, more or less, the same. The recipe below is the way we prepare it, the way we have always done in our family. Do try out this kootu – a delight to make, considering that it can be put together in minutes, and a pleasure to savour!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 3 cups finely chopped spinach, tightly packed
- Salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 1 tablespoon rice flour
For the tempering:
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 dry red chillies
- 3/4 cup curd or to taste
- 2 pinches of asafoetida
- 3 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
- 2 tablespoons chana daal
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 4 dry red chillies
- 1 teaspoon oil
We will first cook the spinach and keep it ready.
- Take the finely chopped spinach in a large vessel, along with a little salt, the turmeric powder, and 1/2 cup water.
- Pressure cook for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally. Keep the cooked spinach aside.
Now, we will prepare the spice paste.
- Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan.
- Add in all the ingredients to be ground to a paste, except the coconut – dry red chillies, chana daal and cumin seeds. Fry on medium flame till they begin to turn brown, taking care to ensure that the ingredients do not burn.
- Now, add in the coconut, and fry on medium flame for a few seconds, again ensuring that the ingredients do not burn. Switch off gas.
- Transfer all the fried ingredients to a plate, and allow to cool down completely.
- When the fried ingredients have completely cooled down, grind them to a fine paste with a little water. Keep aside.
Now, we will temper the cooked spinach and add in the ground spice paste.
- Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to pop.
- Add the dry red chillies, cumin seeds and the asafoetida (for the tempering).
- Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.
- Add the cooked spinach to the pan, along with the spice paste we ground earlier and the rice flour. Mix well, ensuring that no lumps remain.
- Cook on medium flame for about 2 minutes, or till the mixture thickens.
- You may add in a bit of water, if you think the mixture is too thick. Taste and adjust salt if needed too. Switch off gas.
Lastly, we will mix in the curd.
- Whisk the curd till smooth, and add it to the pan, after the gas has been turned off.
- Mix well.
- You can use a tablespoon of fried gram (pottukadalai) or raw rice while grinding the spice paste, which will later help in thickening the Keerai Mor Kootu. If you are using any of these two ingredients, skip adding the rice flour to the kootu.
- Finely chopped garlic can be added to the tempering, if you so prefer, as can curry leaves. We usually don’t add either of these.
- Use curd that is fresh and not overly sour, for best results. I used home-made curd that was thick but runny. Adjust the quantity of curd you use, depending upon your personal taste preferences.
- Coconut oil or gingelly oil works best in the making of this Mor Kootu.
- Adjust the quantity of grated coconut as per personal taste preferences.
- Chop the spinach (palak) finely, for beautiful consistency of the Mor Kootu.
- You can use any other greens of your choice in a similar manner, to make Mor Kootu, instead of spinach.
- Adjust the quantity of dry red chillies you use in the spice paste, depending upon how spicy you want the kootu to be. I have used Salem Gundu chillies here, which are quite spicy.
- Add the curd at the very end, after the greens are cooked and the gas has been turned off. It is okay if the kootu is still hot while you add the curd.
- Don’t cook the kootu after the curd has been added to it. If you plan to serve it later, you may lightly heat up the Mor Kootu while serving, but don’t overdo it.
Do you like the recipe? Do let me know, in your comments!
This recipe is for the Foodie Monday Blog Hop. The theme for the week is ‘#SaagSaga‘, wherein members need to prepare a curry using any of the leafy greens of winter.