Thursday, July 25, 2013

Ratalyachya Pananchi Paatal Bhaaji - Sweet Potato Leaves Curry

During one of my Farmers' Market visits, I discovered "Sweet Potato Leaves" for sale. I didn't even know that they can be eaten so I didn't buy them. But I told my mom about them over the phone and inquired if she had ever heard about these leaves as edible. Mom reminded me that my childhood favorite Marathi book - Shyamchi Aai - had a reference about Sweet Potato Leaves Bhaaji. I remembered the story perfectly well but I had forgotten that it was the same "saltless" bhaaji, Shyam's mom had prepared which was devoured by the entire family without a single complaint. Just because Mother's hard work should never be scorned by throwing tantrums - that's what Shyam's dad teaches the whole family.

"Shyamchi Aai" - is a classic Marathi book written by Sane Guruji. It was also made into a National Award winning movie, which I haven't seen.  My mom used to read it to me when I was young. Shyam or Sane Guruji himself narrates the story about his family and the main character is his mother. Soft yet strict, Shyamchi aai and his entire family make a beautiful impact on the impressionable, young and mature, old minds alike. Shyam's father, who never belittles food or mother's hard work, actually compliments the food in spite of mother forgetting to add salt and calling it "Raajmanya" - worthy for kings. Mother who tastes the food after everyone was served, realizes and blames herself, since she forgets to add the salt. Simple yet touching, Shyamchi aai is not just a book of childhood memories but it's a treasure of family values - sanskars and simple life and upbringing.

Once my mom reminded me the story, I wanted to make that bhaaji. Of course, I didn't have any recipe to follow. Mom suggested to make "Paatal Bhaaji" just like we make Aluchi paatal bhaaji. She was absolutely right. This bhaaji tasted delicious. Sweet potato leaves don't  have a distinct taste/flavor of their own. They get soft after cooking.  This recipe was the perfect choice.

Ratlaychya Paananchi paatal Bhaaji
रताळ्याच्या पानांची पातळ भाजी 
Sweet Potato leaves Curry
1 bunch sweet potato leaves, cleaned, roughly chopped
2 tbsp raw, unslated peanuts, soaked in water for 2 hours
2 tbsp chana daal, soaked in water for 2 hours
2-3 kokums
salt to taste
1/2 tbsp jaggery
3-4 green chilies, slit

1 tbsp besan/chickpea flour + 1/2 cup water

Tempering 1
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida
3-4 green chilies, slit

Tempering 2 (Right before serving)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds

0. Clean sweet potato leaves under running water. Pluck fresh leaves. Shred them roughly. If stems are good, chop them as well otherwise discard them.
A bunch of sweet potato leaves

1. Pressure cook shredded sweet potato leaves and peanut/chana daal in separate containers using adequate water. Mash cooked leaves with a ravi/butter churner. Do not mash peanuts/chana daal mixture.
2. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add tempering1.
3. As it sizzles, add mashed leaves, peanut and chana daal. Add more water.
4. Add salt, jaggery and rinsed kokum.
5. As curry comes to boil, add besan + water as a thickener for the curry.
6. Simmer on a low flame.
7. Just before serving, heat oil in a small saucepan - fodNichi paLi. Add mustard seeds. As they start spluttering, drizzle this tempered oil over each individual serving of curry.

Note -
1. Chickpea flour and water mixture acts as a thickener that gives the right consistency to this curry. If you omit it, the curry will be very watery.

Sweet Potato Leaves from a farm

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