My sister in law keeps telling me she made “chavli chi bhaji dal ghalun” which is a delicious leafy vegetable of cowpeas made with dal. Yes, it’s the vegetarian way of increasing the protein content in all possible ways. She has started this since she has settled in Pune.
For ages now, I have been mystified about the vegetable and wondered about the vegetable. It never did occur to me to Google and see.
The other day in the market, if you have come to Panaji market you will know there are a lot of ladies selling their wares can be it vegetables, pickles or spices even whole grains and boiled rice. Depending on the season you may also buy coconut oil, kokum, fresh cashew nut kernels.
There is one lady I do occasionally visit. She gives me fresh vegetable but most importantly tells me how to make the vegetables or use the stuff she is giving me. The other day she reminded me that these days I have not bought anything from her for ages.
She had this vegetable, a leafy vegetable which she called chavli or chawali. Now I decided this is too much of a coincidence and brought it.
At home, my maid cooked it so no credit to me. She did a good job I think but Father-in-Law would have preferred a little gravy to the vegetable.
So what are cowpeas? In the local parlance, why are alsande healthy?
Cowpeas are low in fat and calories and rich in dietary fibre. They are also a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin A and vitamin C making them an effective tool for fighting skin problems. Further, it is low on the Glycemic Index. This means it is a healthy choice for those with blood sugar or blood pressure issues.
But what are cowpeas and what are the uses?
Cowpeas, also known as blackeye pea, are a legume that is said to have originated in Africa. Charred cowpea remains have been found here dating back to the second millennium BCE. It grows best in semi-arid regions. It is used for both for food as well as fodder. In India, it’s a favourite among farmers. It has a special ability to fix nitrogen contents making it a top contender or intercropping in many parts of the country.
It is also popular in kitchens, featuring in various preparations. In Tamil Nadu, during the months of February and March, it stars in a cake like a dish called “kozhukattai” made with cooked mashed cowpeas mixed with jaggery, ghee and such. In Sri Lanka, they are cooked in coconut milk. Turkey serves it the as an appetiser- dressed with olive oil, salt, thyme and a garlic sauce.
Cowpeas are healthy and almost all the parts of the plant can be eaten. This vegetable we get in the rainy season here in Goa makes a yummy dish goes with chapati/roti and/or rice.
For the vegetable:
- 2 Bundles Chavali
- ¼ cupToor dal, soaked in water
- 2 Green chillies
- Salt to taste
- 2tablespoons Coconut, freshly grated
For the tempering:
- ¼ teaspoonRai/mustard seeds
- 1/8 teaspoon Hing/asafoetida
- 1/8 Haldi/turmeric
- 1 Garlic clove, chopped (Optional)
- Soak the dal for at least 20-30 minutes.
- First, pluck the leaves off the stem include the tender bits of stem too.
- Cut them up fine and then wash the leaves in running water and let it drain.
- In a thick kadhai/wok heat the oil and splutter the mustard seeds.
- Add the hing, turmeric and green chillies.
- Add the garlic and stir fry till the garlic changes colour.
- Add the drained dal (reserve the water) stir then add the washed and chopped leaves.
- Cover and cook use some of the reserved water if needed (about 2-3 tablespoons at a time) till the dal is cooked.
- Add salt and coconut mix well and let it stand covered for 5-10 minutes before you serve with chapatti or rice and dal.
The rest of the drained water can be used to knead the dough for chapati or to cook rice. Do not forget you have soaked dal in it and some water soluble nutrients are in the water.