Karnataka style greens curry, Soppu saaru


Cheera curry (in Malayalam), which is called Soppu saaru (Soppu is 'leaf' and saaru is 'curry' in Kannada), pronounced "Soppsaaru", is one of the most popular vegetarian curries in Karnataka. It's rich in fiber and flavor. Pretty easy to make except for the part of cleaning the leaves.

In Bangalore we're usually woken up early in the morning, every Tuesday and Friday, by the calls of the 'Soppu aunty' as we call her. She comes to our doorstep with a broad smile and a basket laden with freshly cut greens  and fresh flowers on her head. She'll always have at least about 10 different types of greens and around 5 or 6 types of flowers. It's a pleasant sight to wake up to. The reason she comes very early on Tuesday and Friday is b'coz around here these two days are considered very auspicious and almost every Hindu house will buy flowers to decorate the Puja room on these days. On other days she makes her visits a little later in the mornings.

Coming back to Soppu saaru, this was a preparation I had never seen before coming to Bangalore. The way my Mom prepares greens is very different from this and the taste is entirely different too. Frankly I prefer Mom's preparation, but this version is supposed to be extremely nutritious as it contains not 1, but atleast 4 to 5 types of leaves.
 
Mixed greens, 4 or 5 types, which includes spinach, coriander leaves and gongura leaves, washed and chopped, about 4 cups
Toor dal, or sambhar dal, 1/2 cup
Moong dal 1/2 cup
Garlic 10 cloves
Tomato 1
Green chillis 6-8
Turmeric 1 tsp
Water 1 cup

Cook all the above together in a pressure cooker for 5-6 whistles or till both the dals are cooked well. Remove from heat and when it cools, add salt and use a heavy ladle to mash the contents a little.

Coconut grated, 3/4 cup
Jeera, 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp

Grind the above to make a smooth paste. Add this to the curry.

Tamarind pulp, 1 tbsp (If you are not adding gongura leaves, then you'll have to increase this to 2tbsp)

Add to the curry along with the coconut mixture. Mix well. Let it simmer for 5 minutes.

For the garnish:
Coconut oil, 1 tbsp
Mustard, 1/2 tsp
Dry red chillies, 2
Shallots, sliced 2tbsp
Curry leaves, a few

Heat the oil, add the ingredients in the given order and fry till the shallots turn golden brown. Then add the curry leaves, pour onto the curry, close the lid for about 10 minutes. You can add a dollop of ghee too, but that would be a lil on the heavier side. I usually avoid the ghee, even though it improves the taste drastically.

This curry goes well with rice, chappati or Ragi ball or Ragi Modde, as its called in Kannada. It tastes best when accompanied with curd and fish fry.