Its amazing how experiences from childhood remain so intact in your memory. This is true especially for me and needless to say many of them are woven around food. At times my family members especially my husband is surprised by the things I remember back from childhood. He says that I have a `memory like that of an elephant`. But I believe it is quite natural and everyone has their set of memories.
Ever since I started this food blog, I find myself digging deep into such memories and I am pretty thrilled that I could recreate my moms spinach curry just by remembering how it tastes. I didn't even have to ask her for the recipe! The flavours were so fresh in my memory.
My mother mostly used the home-grown Malabar spinach (basale in Kannada, pasali in tamil ) for this curry. Back in childhod, my sister and I played with the lovely little red( rather dark pink) colored fruits. We crushed the fruits, used them for coloring drawings or pretended it was blood while we played `doctor`! Like most kids, we weren't so keen on the greens.
Its a different story now. Times have changed and I find myself looking for spinach when I go shopping. But I hardly find any Malabar spinach in the local supermarkets, all I have now is the usual spinach at hand and this curry tastes pretty darn good, Malabar or not.. home-grown or not.
If you do happen to have access to Malabar spinach, do use it.
Dal Palak – the south Indian way | Spinach and Lentils curry in freshly ground coconut and spices
100 gms or about 3 cups Spinach or Malabar Spinach leaves and tender stems, cleaned
2 cups Toor or moong dal, pressure cooked with 4-6 cups of water
2 medium tomatoes, chopped and pressure cooked along with the dal *
1 tbsp oil
salt as per taste
To be ground into a paste -
4 tbsp shredded coconut
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
half tsp pepper corns
3-4 dry red chillies
2-3 cloves of garlic
a few spoons of water
For the tempering -
1 tsp oil
a few, less than a handful curry leaves
half tsp mustard
half tsp urad dal
1. Blanch the spinach by pouring boiling water on the spinach and keep it covered for about 2 minutes. Then drain water and run the spinach under cold water. Drain again, chop coarsely and keep aside.
2. Dry roast all the ingredients except for the coconut in a pan on medium-low heat until you begin to smell the aroma of the spices. Grind them using a mixer or blender with the coconut into a smooth paste adding as lilltle water as possible and keep aside.
3. Heat oil in a vessel. Add the ground paste and cook for a minute or two on medium heat.
4. Now add the spinach, salt and stir for a minute.
5. Add the cooked dal and bring to boil. Switch off heat.
6. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil in a small pan. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. Once they start to splutter, reduce the heat and add the curry leaves and urad dal. Once the urad dal has turned brown, switch off heat and add the tempering to the spinach dal.
7. Serve hot with rice.
* Alternatively use a small ball of tamarind, soak it in water for 10-15 mins, extract the pulp and use it just after step 3.