But now, it seems like ages since I had a chance to taste BasaLe Soppu or commonly called Malabar Spinach. The Malabar Spinach, also known as Red Vine Spinach grows abundantly in humid weather conditions. It has wide heart shaped leaves with soft-stems that grow into creepers. Despite my dislike for them through my growing up years, I missed them ever since I moved to Bangalore. I have never seen them around here where we live. If someone offered me this dish now, I would probably tag them 'exotic'. As kids, we were told these are healthy and have a great source of nutrition. But it's only now that I have learnt to appreciate those thick stalk-y chews of these wild creepers.
A while ago, I grabbed a budding Malabar Spinach plant from a nursery on our trip back home. A handful of budding leaves on a stalk is all it stood with. Before I could let them grow and spread their wings, my impatience to revive my childhood memories with this dish took control over me and I went on a chopping spree. What remains now is a single barren short stalk that is making its way to climbing, twining, and creeping along another stem. As I patiently watch it grow to nurture new leaves, which will probably take a couple of months, I have a strong sense of excitement of using these home grown leaves in this home styled traditional recipe today. I hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
1/2 cup Basale soppu (Malabar spinach / Red Vine Spinach)
1/2 cup togaribeLe / tuvar dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
3 tbsp. kottambari beeja (coriander seeds)
10 + 2 Byadagi red chillies
1 tsp. hing (asafoetida)
1 tsp. jeerige (cumin seeds)
1 tbsp. kadale bele (split bengal gram)
1/2 tsp. menthya (fenugreek seeds)
1/2 cup grated raw coconut
Lemon sized tamarind
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. jaggery
1 tsp. mustard seeds
A sprig of curry leaves
Salt to taste
Wash and cook the togaribeLe/pigeon peas in pressure cooker along with turmeric till they are soft and mushy.
In a thick bottomed pan, dry-roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, methi seeds, split bengal gram, hing with about 7-10 red chillies till they are fragrant. Remove from heat and allow them to cool. Grind them to a fine paste with a handful of grated fresh coconut and tamarind. Set aside.
Wash the Basale leaves, along with their tender stalks. Chop them into small pieces. In a wide mouthed pan, cook the leaves and stalk in some water. As the leaves wilt and the stalks are cooked, add the cooked dal to this along with the freshly ground paste, a cup of water and bring to a rolling boil. Add a tsp. of grated jaggery along with salt to taste. Adjust the consistency of this huLi by adding more water to your taste and preference.
For the seasoning, heat a tsp of coconut oil in a wok. Fry the mustard seeds till they splutter. Add in torn curry leaves, hing and 2 broken red chillies. Fry for 30 sec and turn off the flame. Add this seasoning to the prepared huLi. Serve hot with steaming hot rice.