BasaLe Soppu Koddel |Mangalore style Malabar Spinach Sambar

BasaLe and Pearl onions

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.

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Pahalakkai Poricha Kootu | Stewed Bitter Gourd in sweet and tangy gravy

Bitter Gourd rings simmered in freshly ground coconut, black pepper, tamarind gravy

Pahalakkai Poricha Kootu

I think about this all the time.

An Apple Pie or a Tiramisu, say a Chocolate pots de crème – people need no introduction on any of these dishes, let alone ask for ingredients. A mention of the dish is pretty much enough to lure anyone to grab and taste. This is true for many of us, isn’t it? How often does someone totally new to a dish from another cuisine get drawn to and motivated to cook it without a clue about its taste, especially when it is a typical traditional dish never seen in any restaurant?

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Green Beans and Carrot Puzhi Kootu

Green Beans and Carrot in a freshly ground South Indian coconut masala gravy

Puzhi kootu rice papad

As a young girl, I was always curious about the goings-on in the kitchen. Hovering around my dear aunt, the then head chef in my grand dad’s kitchen was one of my favorite pastimes. Over the years, whether it was for my keen interest or my unsolicited opinions, somewhat naturally, I had earned a say in vital decisions such as the daily menu. Vegetables would be brought fresh for the next day, the evening before, in a green tarpaulin bag. Plastic had no place then. And in the morning, before leaving for school, I would dash to the kitchen to see what’s cooking for lunch. Whenever it was green beans, there were only two ways I would love them, either in a simple stir fry with freshly grated coconut or an elaborately prepared gravy in the form of this lip smacking traditional South Indian dish. This was the recipe I wanted to learn to make first, whenever I would start cooking on my own.

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Ellu Bella

A festive trail mix of roasted peanuts and sesame seeds, dried coconut and diced jaggery

Ellu Bella

Year after year on the 14th of January or sometimes 15th, like in many Kannadiga homes, the tradition is, whether or not we eat anything else, there is always one thing fixed on the festive menu – Ellu Bella (pronounced yelloo-bella) (sesame seeds – jaggery).

It is not much of a recipe at all but just a medley of simple ingredients as anyone can see it. What makes it special however is that, it is never made for eating alone but, in spite of the tedious work involved it is always prepared in quantities large enough to be shared with as many people as one possibly can.

Or at least, that is how it used to be.

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