Green leaves, green chilies and 3 grandmothers

 
The story of thotakora pulusu
 
“Mummy, it’s just not fair to put green karepak (curry leaves) in thotakoora pulusu (greens sambar!). Such a low-down trick” – I can still hear my brother Anand’s voice grumbling as he picked out the pesky green leaves from the ‘pulusu’! Not fair that they hide in there for an unsuspecting eater to bite into them and promptly spit them out in disgust – ditto for green chilies in the same sambar!
 
But it takes the combination of three green things to create the most heavenly sambar on earth – thotakoora pulusu. 3 things that used to grow in all our backyards so that when budgets were overdrawn, even piggy banks emptied, there was still a yummy dish to look forward to – those women were truly alchemists!
 
Warning: The recipe that i am going to give you now is patented by 3 sisters – my grandmother Nemali Chandramathi and her two sisters Susilakkayya and Paapayakkaya – you think they came up with one ingredient each in a Masterchef challenge? Maybe but masterchefs all, each one of them!
 
P.S: I just made a big pot and there was nothing left to clear up even – try it out and tell me if it’s awesome or not!
 
Here goes:
 
Thotakoora (green amaranth, molakeerai in Tamil)) – 1 large bunch – should make about 4 cups – wash and chop
Cooked toor dal – 1.5 cups
Tamarind paste – 1.5 heaped tsp
Jaggery – 2 tsp
Sambar powder – my recipe is below – 3 heaped tsp
Turmeric – 1 large pinch 
Salt
To garnish : Gingelly oil 1 tbsp
Asafoetida – 1large pinch
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves (you can spit ’em out later if you want but you do need them for garnishing!)
Green chilies – 2 or 3 – slit
 
Use an ‘eeya pathram’ if you have one. “eeyam” is an alloy of tin and other metals and improves the taste of anything with tamarind in it – like rasam and sambar. In Telugu, it’s called a Shweta (white) chembu but i never heard this term while growing up and i’m pretty sure it’s not known to many people… otherwise any heavy bottomed vessel will do (I know some people like that too but this pulusu is truly low cal)!
 
Drop in the chopped greens with a glass of water and a pinch of turmeric. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes till the greens have shrunk a bit but are not cooked through. Add the tamarind paste, jaggery, sambar powder and salt. Cover and cook again for 3-4 minutes.
Add the cooked dal and green chilies and let simmer for another couple of minutes. Switch off.
 
In a small ‘popu’ pan (little saucepan), heat the oil, add the ingredients for garnishing, starting with the mustard and letting it splutter before adding the other stuff. Pour over sambar. 
 
Eat with rice and a wee bit of ghee – preferable. 
 
Sambar podi – roast separately and powder together 
coriander seeds – 1 cup
chana dal 1/4 cup
urad dal – 1/4 cup
fenugreek (methi) seeds – 1 tbsp and 
asafoetida – 1 pinkie nail sized lump
curry leaves – 2 sprigs
While powdering, add 1/4 cup of chili powder and powder the whole thing fine.
 
Remember the veggie korma we made yesterday? And against my advice re. the calories, you converted it into pakoda kurma? Well, this is a perfect dish to assuage those pangs of conscience – one tbsp oil altogether! This is actually perfect student fare – one dish meal with greens and dal and very low – all rolled into one.
 
P.S: there’s a story behind the picture too – made the pulusu today, photographed it and when time to load pic came around, realised that i hadn’t put the storage device back in the camera after yesterday -and pulusu already consumed like i mentioned! Therefore here’s a picture of the raw stuff!! – the green leaves only – thanks to the brilliant idea of s-i-l and daughter!!
 

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