Mor Keerai (Spinach Greens in a Yoghurt and Coconut Sauce / Gravy)
Vishu (New Year) is closer and so is the death anniversary of my MIL in the coming week. I have never met that lady but can visualize her from the stories of what my husband shares with me about her. Like my Mom, she too has raised her kids pretty much on her own, has really worked hard to fight many battles in life and passed away just a year before we got married due to prolonged health issues. I was not lucky to meet her but as a sign of respect, I celebrate all the festivals / important days, use all her steel vessels for cooking and wear her podavais / sarees too during functions like a good DIL.
From earlier posts, if you have been reading, you might know that my MIL belongs from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu whereas my FIL belonged to Nagercoil or NagerKovil. It was a difficult transition for her since the language itself undergoes changes. Keralites (Palakkad Iyers and in fact my FIL’s family from Nagercoil) have a lot of Malayalam dialect while speaking Tamil. In fact her MIL used to communicate much in Malayalam which she had no idea about. My MIL’s Mother in Law (FIL’s Mom) stayed with them post their marriage and it was she who taught her to cook in pure coconut oil, in fact fry papadam too in coconut oil. For Keralites, it is Sambar, Rasam, Aviyal, Mor Kootan whereas for the Thanjavur community it was Kozhumbu, Kootu, Paruppu Usili, Mor Kozhumbu etc. It was a tough transition for her to make as my FIL’s side didn’t add much tamarind to their meals whereas my MIL loved her Rasams tangy and spicy. However, they both (my in laws) loved each other a lot and hence, the small issues like adjusting to food was a futile matter.
Years later .. Same story repeats – this time the other way around. I belong to Kerala and since he has been raised by his mother for a large part of his life, keeps saying Kozhumbu instead of Sambar and hence, post marriage, I learnt the Thanjavur style of cooking – Primariliy cooking in sesame / gingelley oil. We Keralites use a lot of coconut oil in our cooking, I still do, but the curries and stir fries are generally done in a veg oil and sesame oil is used for idlis and dosais and podis that are mixed with rice and eaten. That too, we prefer ghee / nei over oil. I make everything from both sides, mine and MIL’s for all occasions, I try and include her recipes and mine as well. In short – I want both my MIL and my Ma to know that they are both deeply missed by their kids.
Narayan was unfortunately leaving on Sunday for a week long trip and since lunch was at home, I thought of going the full length and serving the spread which he loves the most, the combination of Mor Keerai (Spinach or any leafy greens cooked in a yoghurt and coconut sauce / gravy) that his mother made along with some Organic Hand Pounded Rice and Baby Potato Roast. The happiness with which food was gorged gave me enough strength to cope up with the absence of Narayan for a few more days. If he is around, I cook more, eat more and smile more!
Mor Keerai is ideal for summers too as it is not a very spicy sauce, can be eaten with Rasam or just mixed with plain steamed rice (short grain variety preferably) along with some veggies on the side like Potatoes, Chembu or Arbi, Cabbage Paruppu Usili etc. A good spoonful of Manga Kari or Instant Mango Pickle seals the deal. Any Keerai can be used, I had a bunch of spinach so went ahead and used that.
Consumption of leafy greens are restricted or rather completely avoided during the monsoons at our home and hence summers would be the best time to make use of the leafy greens and get the maximum health benefit. Also, Spinach has a good amount of water content, which helps us remain hydrated too during summers.
While photographing the picture, I thought of adding an element of my MIL as it would be a perfect ode to her so went ahead and picked a silk saree from the cupboard that belongs to her. Narayan was busy working while I was clicking the pictures and he was glad to see the final cut once I downloaded the photos on my laptop.
Check out the detailed recipe and instructions to make this lipsmacking Mor Keerai below
Recipe for Mor Keerai (Spinach Greens in a Yoghurt and Coconut Sauce / Gravy)
For the Spinach gravy
- 1 bunch of Spinach / Palak
- ¾ cup of thick curd
- 2 cups Water + 3 tblsps for gravy mixture
- Salt as per taste
For the coconut gravy mixture –
- ½ cup of grated coconut
- 1 tblsp Chana Dal or Bengal gram dal
- ½ tsp of Methi seeds or Fenugreek seeds
- 3-4 nos. of Whole Red chillies
- 2 tsps of coconut oil
For the tempering
- ½ tsp Mustard seeds
- 1-2 nos. of Whole Red chillies
- 1 tsp Coconut Oil
- Curry leaves
- First lets prepare the gravy mixture by heating a kadhai, adding some oil and then the Bengal gram or chana dal.
- Once it turns slightly brown, add the whole red chillies and the methi seeds. Saute and then quickly add the grated coconut, give it a quick stir and switch off the flame.
- Cool this completely and then transfer the contents to a mixer grinder jar, add few tblsps of water and grind into a smooth but thick paste. The Gravy Mixture is ready.
- Now, in a kadhai or vessel, add 2 cups of water to one bunch of roughly chopped spinach. Let it boil for a minute or so and then quickly switch off the flame and drain the water (not completely), reserve the spinach leaves and quickly add some ice to it to ensure the cooking stops and the green colour is retained.
- Grind the wilted spinach to a smooth paste. Don’t use any water for grinding.
- Heat a pan on a low flame, add the spinach puree, the gravy mixture of coconut and add some salt. Mix everything together. Adjust the thickness by adding some reserved spinach water.
- Once it reaches a boil, add the whisked curd and give it one good stir. Wait for another boil and immediately switch off the flame and prepare the tempering.
- Heat a tadka pan and add some oil, mustard seeds and once it crackles, add the whole red chillies and curry leaves. Pour this over the spinach gravy and serve immediately.
- For Point No. 4 in method of preparation section, you may choose to pressure cook your spinach for 1 whistle too but since I don’t prefer overcooking leafy veggies, I choose to follow the quick process of wilting the leaves and then shocking them in ice cold water, similar to what is done in case of cooking Palak Paneer to retain that gorgeous green colour.
- Unlike Sambar, this doesn’t have a dal or lentils mixture so the thickening is provided by the combination of chana dal and the grated coconut mixture. Hence do not add too much water while grinding the gravy mixture. Some choose to add a tblsp of rice powder to thicken the gravy but I avoid the same.
- The yoghurt / curd should not be very tangy. However, few people do prefer tangy / sour curd to be added but we don’t use the same. Thick curd to be beaten well for a few seconds to be added only at the final stage as it leads to splitting if overcooked.
- Also avoid heating this gravy too many times as it contains curd. If you are expecting guests, just wait until they arrive and then add the curd to the mixture, bring it to a single boil and switch off the flame and then add the tempering etc.
- If you don’t like the flavor of methi seeds, reduce the quantity but don’t skip the same. It adds a great aroma to the gravy.
- I have mentioned water as 2 cups for 1 bunch of spinach. The bunch I used was very small say 200 gms. Also, I have retained the water post cooking of the spinach to ensure no loss of nutrients and added the same to adjust the consistency of the gravy.
- My MIL gave tadkas or tempering in sesame oil but since I prefer Coconut oil, have used the same.
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