Beans, carrot, cabbage, beetroot, chow chow, snake gourd – all these taste just right to me cooked this way, their colours still intact. Cabbage, in fact, I used to hate till I figured out that it was the overcooked, wilted, turmeric yellow appearance that I disliked, but loved it when it was all crisp, white and delicately flavoured. I learnt to like these veggies when Maragatham cooked for us – she was our neighbour's cook who cooked for us for about a year and she used to turn out perfectly cooked porials time after time.
I think most Indian cuisines have this in various versions - upkaris/shaak/poriyal
My daughter seems to have caught on much earlier than I did – she loves porials and will often ask for more while refusing another spoonful of rice – I happily give in.
The other day,I made puli kozhambu and cooked beetroot porial to go with it. I have always thought of porials as being the perfect foil to fiery kozhambus, sort of balancing the spice and sourness with their nutty flavor.
Beetroot – ¼ kg
Mustard – 1 tsp
Chana dal - ½ tsp
Urad dal – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – 5-6
Green chillies - 2
Salt to taste
Oil – 1 tsp
Grated coconut – 2 tbsp
1. Wash beetroot, peel and chop finely.
2. Heat oil in a kadal, add the mustard seeds, when they begin to pop, reduce the flame and add the green chillies, chana dal and urad dal and wait till they brown a bit – ½ minute. Add the curry leaves and stir.
3. Add the chopped beetroot and salt and mix well on high for 1 minute, reduce flame, sprinkle 2 tbsp water, cover and cook on low for 4 minutes. Remove lid, check if cooked, sprinkle some more water if not and cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes till just tender.
4. Add grated coconut just before removing from fire.
Note: The key to a good porial is to make sure the vegetables retain their colour and texture and are not overcooked. Less oil and steam cooking helps in this, as does cutting them finely so that they cook faster and more evenly.