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Drumstick leaves with lentils and coconut

Drumsticks, or moringa pods, are very common in Indian cuisine (Kerala-style Drumstick dal curry and Spicy drumsticks from Mangalore (Nurge gashie) recipes on this site) and I do love peeling the pods apart and scooping out the delicately flavored flesh inside. However, the leaf is new to me and was brought to my attention by the abundance of it in the local markets.

I have recently been reading about the health benefits of moringa leaves and its use as a health supplement in the form of teas, capsules and dried leaves. This leaf has attained lofty health claims and moved to the ultra-healthy category amongst nutritionalists and alternative medicine groups.

As a chef I love cooking and learning about new ingredients. My library has a number of recipes for these nutritious leaves and here is the first one. This simple recipe is simple, delicate and amazing. The lentils pair beautifully with the delicately flavored leaves that have a mild bitter-earthy flavor, and the sprinkling of fresh coconut adds a wonderful richness to the dish. I could eat a whole bowl of this just by itself.

This is another cookbook from Chandra Padmanabhan that I adore. The recipes are varied across the southern states in India and each recipe turns out very well. The recipes, like this one, are authentic and wonderfully flavored. This cookbook is for those who want to go beyond the ordinary and enjoy very localized cuisines from the South.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


1/4 cup split pigeon peas, toor dal, soaked overnight

6 cups water

3 cups drumstick leaves, finely sliced

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon chili powder

Salt, to taste

3 tablespoons grated fresh coconut, frozen ok

2-3 tablespoons oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon husked Bengal gram dal (urad dal)

1-2 dried red chiles

Drain the soaked dal and rinse well. Add the water and dal to a pot and bring to a simmer, skimming of the foam that rises to the top. Simmer gently for 10-15 minutes till the dal is just cooked but still has a bite. You are not looking fr a mushy dal but for whole firm grains. Once cooked, immediately drain the water and cool the dal by rinsing in cold water to stop the cooking process. Set the drained dal aside.

Heat the oil in a large flat pan on medium heat, large enough for all the vegetables and the cooked dal. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, and the red chiles and sauté for 30 seconds till the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the drumstick leaves, sugar and salt and cook for 4-5 minutes till the leaves are cooked through. You want the leaves to still have some structure and are not cooked to a mush.

Add the cooked dal and mix well to evenly distribute the dal, leaves and spices. Taste and adjust salt and spice.

Serve warm as a side with chapattis.

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