After reading up on so many of our native greens, the term ‘green leafy vegaetables’ has taken on a whole new meaning in my understanding of ingredients. Living in a tropical country that is blessed with an abundance of varied plant specimens,we actually seem to be spoilt for choice with the plethora of greens growing all around us.
The reason we think it’s ok to eat palak , cabbage ,brussel sprouts, herbs etc is because it’s something we’ve been familiarised with since childhood.So any greens outside of those leafy comfort zones are often met with disinterest,disdain and expressions which convey the ‘are you trying to poison me?’ message.
As nutritional do gooders aka moms, we have all encountered many a barricade while trying to introduce local plant kingdom dwellers into the family meals.My first thought on encountering a pomegranate leaf recipe was exactly this,’how to serve it in manner which will interest my lot ?!’
I stumbled upon it a few years ago while thumbing through Ms.Prema Srinivasan’s cookbook titled,’Pure Vegetarian’.The cookbook offers a wealth of information regarding cooking techniques,utensils used, what vegetarianism is all about and lots more.For an enthusiastic home cook like me ,reading it is therapeutic.
Interestingly the pomegranate plant is one that thrives with little care.It looks quite untamed in the manner with which it’s spindly branches just hang out in all directions with pops of colour here and there from the bright orange blossoms that dot it.I must confess that I have scarcely paid attention to the pomegranate leaves.That’s because I love the shape of the fruit and never fail to delight in finding some on the plant.
Since our pomegranate plants were of a decent size,it was time to try out the recipe that had been put on hold.The leaves are a very dark green and don’t really have any particular aroma or taste. So while it may not be a popular ingredient to cook with,the pomegranate leaf extract is used often in ayurvedic and natural medical treatments.
It is beneficial in treating insomnia, jaundice,dysentery, thrush , rectal abnormalities and eczema. It is commonly used both in tea form and as a poultice to apply on specific areas. (pomegranate loose leaf tea is available online)
The recipe that we tried was quite simple.After boiling the leaves in water they needed to be ground to a paste with shredded coconut, roasted dried red chillies, some aged tamarind and salt. A little water can be added to get a smooth consistency.
The water that is used to cook the leaves is laden with anti bacterial properties and is used to form the gravy by adding it to the ground masala over low heat. After a quick boil and a slow simmer for a few minutes it is then tempered with a spoonful of hot ghee.
We first made this at home for a vegan friend who gets excited by the different foods that she can experiment with while in India. All the flavours in this dish blended really well and were quite tasty. However, to be honest, the dull colour of the cooked matulai ilai kulambu is not very appetising.But what it lacks in colour is more than made up by way of taste.
The next time we made this ,I thought why not add some extra nutrients by including roasted cashewnuts in the ground paste. That’s why simple recipes like these are so great to play around with.Once you have a basic idea of how to cook it,mixing and matching the flavours is the fun part. The ground cashew nut paste was followed up by a ghee roasted whole cashewnut tadka.This is one gravy that is delicious when served piping hot ,yes even in summer !
Served on the side with a fresh coconut tossed seeraga samba rice dish makes for a delicious summer meal. All you need is half a cup of pomegranate leaves to make one batch,it’s worth a try!