The amount of food we eat during the winter seems to be inversely proportional to the temperature; as the mercury drops, so our intake increases! Add to that all the celebrations and parties in the festive season and before you know it, the pounds have piled on by February. All this is quite new to me - never having lived in a city which could claim to have a distinct winter season, we managed to maintain our average calorie levels right through the year. It doesn't seem to help that the increasing weight is nicely hidden out of sight under the many layers that we pull on :)
So, I am trying to increase the quantity of soups that we usually consume; but its tough though when all your body craves is carbs. Salads especially, which are quite welcome during the summer months, just don't seem to do anything for us in winter. Enter the protein quotient - lentil soups, legume soups, chicken salads - now these seem to do the trick of filling us up and at the same time reducing our carb and cheese intake, not to mention being very delicious and giving me a lot of choice to play around with.
In this category then falls one of my favourite comfort foods - keerai masiyal in Tamil. Its a very simple dish which involves cooking spinach till just tender, mashing it up (not pureeing!) gently and finishing with a light tempering of garlic and red chillies.
Adding lentils to it is optional - I do or don't depending on my mood of the moment. On a chilly afternoon, the addition of split mung bean lentils (yellow moong dal) brings a creamy consistency to the dish and fills one up pretty nicely. Pair that with a spicy kozhambu and a porial (foogath) and you are set for a rather satisfying meal. or simply serve with warm phulkas and that is a complete meal too.
Keerai Masiyal (Spinach with mung bean lentils)
Spinach - 1 small bunch, washed in several changes of water and chopped roughly
Mung bean lentils (yellow moong dal/paasi paruppu) - 1/3 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
half a tomato chopped
1 green chilli slit
salt to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
1 dried red chilli
urad dal seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida (hing/perungayam) - (pinch)
4-5 garlic cloves sliced thin
1. Wash lentils in water, drain and mix with the cleaned and chopped spinach, turmeric, slit green chilli and salt.
2. Cook in a pressure cooker in just enough water (2 cups) for 8 minutes (2 whistles), wait for the pressure to drop. Or this can be cooked on the stove top by increasing the water for cooking (use a heavy bottome vessel)
3. Drain and reserve any excess water on the top and with a back of a ladle (or a wooden masher - mathu), mash together the lentils and spinach gently till well combined. Remove the green chillies if you like and adjust seasoning.
4. Heat oil for tempering, add the red chillies, garlic and urad dal and when they start to brown add the asafoetida and immediately turn off the flame, taking care not to burn the garlic.
5. Add to the spinach lentil mixture and serve warm with rice or rotis.