In the garden of my childhood, one small portion was set aside for the roselle plant. The tart leaves usually went into dal and with the red fruit. I remember my mother making jelly. And so beautiful it was with the red so vibrant. Since the plants were always in our backyard, during its season, roselle was treated like any other locally available greens. I was surprised to see it termed as one of the super foods by Rujuta Diwekar, India’s leading nutritionist, in her book Indian Super Foods.
Rich in folic acid and iron, it also helps in stimulating the stomach and cleans the intestines. During the rainy season, leaves are a breeding ground for micro-organisms. However, the roselle remains unaffected and it makes it safe for us to consume it. I remember once my help refused to have cooked vegetable fern during this season. He told me that certain leaves are not eaten during the rainy season because leeches lay eggs on them. Yikes!
In my mother tongue, we call it theklou. In Assamese, it’s tengamora. Ambadi in Maharashtra and gongura in Andhra. The list goes on. In fact one of the most famous roselle dishes must be ‘gongura pachadi’.
Dal with roselle leaves:
1/3 cup masur dal
Water as needed
Salt to taste
One bunch roselle leaves. washed and chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 dry red chillies, snapped off in the middle
A quarter tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp mustard oil
You can add more spices here if you want. But I kept it simple and it was still good!
Wash and soak the dal for about 10 minutes.
Put dal and water in a pressure cooker. I used my smallest cooker.
Add turmeric powder and salt.
Cook till one whistle goes off.
Let the steam go off.
In a pan, heat the oil. When it comes to smoking point, throw in the cumin seeds and the chillies.
Remove the chillies if you like. They can be added again later,
Add the onions and fry till they turn golden brown.
Add the chopped roselle leaves and cook for a couple of minutes.
Pour the hot dal into the pan and cook for another 2 minutes or so.
Switch off the flame and transfer the dal to a serving bowl.
This goes well with rice and one or two more accompaniments.
Some of the leaves will be added to fish curry but the other day, I used some tender ones in mint chutney. Mint chutney needs a souring agent and we usually use lemon juice or tamarind pulp or tender mangoes (when in season) but using roselle is another option. What do you say?
Other roselle posts on my blog: