Leafy greens are a part of our meals most days of the week. Spinach, Fenugreek, Dill, Amaranth, Chards, Watercress or any other fresh finds from the Indian store or the local grocery stores, a few of our favorite recipes for which you can find here, here and here.
Basale Soppu (Bus-uh-lay) as we call it in Kannada or Poi leaves as sold in the Indian store is not just a leafy green to us. It is a special creeper that ties us both, Mr.K and I, to our fond childhood memories.
A magical nostalgic vehicle that transports Mr.K to his Mangalore days, quite similar to how the imperious food critic Anton Ego takes a bite and drifts off to a distant childhood memory of his mother’s cooking in the movie Ratatouille.
A faithful companion in my pretend kitchen as a little girl playing in the back yard in my grandfather’s house in the heart of Mysore. On many days, digging through dirt, making mud chapathis, tearing up leaves and the glossy plump berries of the prolific creeper painting my little fingers purple were one of my most cherished after school pass times, always leaving me feeling like time froze when I was immersed in toying around with the uncomplaining Basale plant.
So, when we find fresh and tender Basale Soppu, neither of us hesitates in picking a bunch. Or two.
Little surprise that I have come to eat more Basale Soppu living in Houston than all of my life put together or even when the plant grew in my our own backyard back in the nineties.
It makes me so happy that the recipe has been passed on, is a part of our present and hope that it becomes a part of the childhood memories our kids will recollect equally fondly someday.
Koddelu means Sambar in Tulu, a language native to many in Southwest Karnataka. A Sambar in which spices are mild and sweet taste neutralizes the sour is a characteristic of Udupi/Mangalore style cooking.
Boiling the leaves in tamarind water cuts the slime in the Basale while roasted urad dal gives body and thickness to the ground masala. Finishing off with a tempering of coconut oil adds a distinct coastal flavor to the Koddel.
If you are a mangalorean and wonder why peanuts appear in this recipe, it is just us. We are crazy for peanuts and like to add in all kinds of Sambars. Peanuts boiled and simmered with the freshly ground spices have a special taste and bite that we often crave for.
Pearl onions are charming and irresistible and my kitchen is usually well stocked at all times with these tiny beauties. I like to throw them whole or chop them up as few as or many as I need without worrying about leftovers or wastage. Needless to iterate why they made their way into this Koddel as well.
BasaLe Koddel tastes great with or without onions or peanuts, with hing, with garlic – any which way. This version with pearl onions and garlic cloves is our favorite. It is particularly comforting during wet and gloomy days when served piping hot with steamed rice, a drizzle of ghee and a side of appalam.
If your mouth is watering by now, go make it!
If it is not, well, what do I say? You are missing out on something really good.
- 4 cups (loosely filled) Basale soppu, washed and chopped (malabar spinach / poi leaves, about 1 lb)
- 10 red pearl onions peeled and ends removed
- 2 tbsp peanuts
- 1/2 cup Toor dal pigeon peas
- 2 tbsp size seedless tamarind
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 2 tbsp jaggery
- 2 tsp peanut oil
- sea salt to taste
- 1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
- 5 byadagi red chillies
- 1/2 tsp methi (fenugreek seeds)
- 1 tsp jeera (cumin seeds)
- 1 tbsp urad dal (black gram)
- 3 tsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2-3 garlic cloves peeled
- Soak tamarind in half a cup of warm water.
- Wash Toor dal in several changes of water and pressure cook in 2 cups of water to 3 whistles.
- While it cooks, clean Basale soppu leaves discarding yellow and damaged leaves, cutting off stringy and mature stalks.
- Rinse BasaLe soppu well and towel dry to avoid sliminess while chopping. Roughly chop the leaves and stems into half inch long pieces.
- Heat 1-1/2 tsp peanut oil in a skillet or kadai. When the oil is hot and shimmery, add peeled pearl onions and a pinch of salt and sauté till they are golden brown.
- Place chopped leaves and peanuts in a thick bottomed pot with enough water to cover the leaves.
- Squish the tamarind to pulp. Strain the pulp and fibers and pour juices into the pot. Add the pan roasted pearl onions and jaggery and cook covered till the leaves are wilted and onions are tender.
For roasting, heat the remaining 1/2 tsp peanut oil in the same skillet or kadai.
When the oil is hot and shimmery, add red chillies and roast for a few mins on low-medium heat till they are light brown making sure to not let them smoke or burn. remove on to a plate. Add methi and jeera and roast till methi seeds are golden brown and both seeds are aromatic. remove on to the plate. Add urad dal and roast till golden brown. switch off the stove, add grated coconut and stir till the coconut is dry and aromatic making sure it does not burn. remove onto the plate.
Grind all the roasted ingredients along with some water to a smooth paste.
- Add turmeric powder to cooked dal and mash to a smooth consistency adding water if required.
Pour the dal and the masala paste into the pot with the cooked Basale Soppu leaves. Season with salt. Add more water if it is too thick and give it a good stir. It should have a nice pouring consistency neither thick nor thin.
- Bring it to a gentle boil about 5-7 mins on medium heat, stirring intermittently to avoid masala and dal getting scorched at the bottom.
For the tempering, heat coconut oil in a small kadai or skillet. when it is hot and fragrant, add mustard seeds. when they are done spluttering, add garlic cloves and sauté till garlic cloves turn golden. switch off the stove and quickly pour the seasoning into the Sambar.
- Cover the pot immediately to preserve the flavors. Let sit for at least half an hour before serving for the flavors to settle.
- Enjoy served with hot steamed rice, a drizzle of ghee and appalam (papad).
Always buy tender looking bruise-free leaves and stems. Discard stems that are stringy and mature.
For an Onion and garlic free version, just omit them and add a big pinch of hing to the tempering.
1/2 cup dal broth or the leafy green stock can also be used for grinding the masala
Basale Soppu plant is easy to propagate in your home garden using the stalk.