Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cheera Thoran / Lal Maat bhaji / Red Spinach veggie

Red spinach, also known as lal maat in Marathi, cholai in Hindi and cheera in Malayalam is a very healthy leafy vegetable. In Kerala, a thoran is made using the leaves and the tender stems of the Amaranth or it is added to dal (lentil) and coconut and made into a moloshyam / molagootal called cheera moloshyam. In both ways, the vegetable is very lightly spiced allowing the flavor of the cheera to stand out without being overshadowed. The thicker stems (thandu in Malayalam) of the cheera are saved to be added to avial / aviyal to be chewed on like the muringaka. In fact, an aviyal made of the cheera thand and chakka kuru (jackfruit seeds) with lots of coconut was a delicacy at my grandparents place. Personally, I love the cheera whichever way it is cooked; the taste along with its color has always made my mouth water. When I was small I always wanted a little curd rice / thayirsaadam when there was cheera thoren, just to see the color contrasts in my plate.
The leafy vegetables we get in India are not cleaned and usually have the roots intact with the mud and dirt on them. It is hence necessary to rinse them a few times in clean water. Cut off the roots and pluck the leaves and the tender stems out for this preparation. As much as possible rinse each leaf carefully in water, changing the water a few times. You will actually see the grime that collects in the sink when doing this. Keep the amaranth leaves in a colander to drain the water and after 10 minutes chop them up.
Amaranth / Lal Maat / Cheera - 3 cups, chopped
Mustard Seeds - 1tsp
Curry Leaves - 4-5
Green Chilli
Onion, small - 1/2
Coconut - 3tbsp
Turmeric pwd - 1/2tsp
Oil - 1tsp
Salt as per taste
Heat a kadhai and add the oil when it is hot add the mustard seeds into it. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the curry leaves and then the turmeric powder. Immediately, add the chopped amaranth leaves and salt and mix well. Cover the kadhai with a lid and cook on low heat.
Add the green chilli, onion and coconut to the blender and give a quick whisk only to crush it well. When the cheera is almost done, add this crushed mix and stir it in. After a couple of minutes, turn the heat off and the thoran is ready to serve.
Like all  leafy vegetables, cheera is also full of vitamins and minerals and is purportedly healthier than spinach also. Popeye would have been stronger had he gulped Amaranth instead of spinach. Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and Folate. Cheera is also a complementing source of other vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.

This Cheera Thoran recipe goes to "Side dish mela", hosted by cooking4allseasons.

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