Twenty nine years ago and counting, I’d come to Madras as a new bride, entering a new home and a new culture and many strange new foods i’d never heard of, much less encountered!
Some i took to my heart some i preferred to meet just occasionally and some – topping this last list is something called ‘maahaani’ in Tamil and Malayalam and sarsaparilla in English ( always wondered how something so stomach-churningly smelly could have such a pretty name, conjuring up rose arbors , lavender sachets in frilly lace and peaches and cream and all things nice!) which i’d prefer to keep out of my life and my kitchen altogether!
Ouch – all you maahaani lovers out there, don’t throw stuff at me – i can’t actually keep it out as in OUT coz’ of a maahaani-loving husband – sigh….
One of the dishes i grew to like and make frequently is something called ‘kosu molagootal’ – ok, the cat’s outta the bag, i’m married to a Palakkad Iyer! Kosu (pronounced with and elongated ‘o’ is cabbage as opposed to “kosu” pronounced with a shortened ‘o’ which is the byproduct of eating too much chana and is guaranteed to clear the space around you in seconds!) p.s. – let you in on a secret – i mixed these up many times in the process of learning Tamil, resulting usually in much hilarity!
Molagootal – i am informed – is a ‘kootu’ made without pepper (i.e molagu vittitu panninadu – made leaving out pepper – weird way of naming a dish by mentioning that which is left out – rather like he-who-shall-not-be-named). This is one injunction i prefer to ignore because just 4 or 5 peppercorns added to molagootal elevate it mightily!
Here goes my version:
Cabbage – chopped fine – 2 cups
Green peas – 1 tbsp (optional)
Cooked tuvar or moong dal – 1 cup
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
2 small red chillies
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp urad dal
1 tsp + 1/2 tsp jeera
Grated fresh coconut (mine’s fresh from the freezer 😉
1 tsp coconut oil
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Curry leaves to garnish + 1 pinch hing
Cook cabbage and green peas with the turmeric till almost done (in an iron kadhai if you have one. no? go buy one!). In a separate saucepan, heat 1/2 tsp coconut oil and fry the red chillies, 1 tsp each of jeera and urad dal and the pepper. Add coconut and switch off. Let it cool and grind to a fine paste using a little water. Add this past to the cooked vegetables and bring to the boil. Add cooked dal, simmer for 3-4 minutes to blend the dal and veg together and switch off. Heat the remaining 1/2 tsp oil and add mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp each of urad dal and jeera and curry leaves and hing powder. Switch off when seasoning is ready and drop into the dal.
Molagootal is now ready! Very simple, very low on fat, high on veggies and very tasty. Serve with rice, a salad and a pickle. Jokes apart, Palghat does have a very healthy cuisine – that should keep hubby quiet for a while- along with the molagootal!