Stir fried spinach with choice spices lend a simplicity & elegance to this dish that owes its origin to my southern Indian roots. Try it this way when your palate feels like it needs fresh.
This spring I accidentally spotted amaranth seeds in a packet while grocery shopping. I brought the packet home thinking ‘what are the chances that I will be able to sprout the seeds’. This ancient grain grown and used by the Aztecs and also from my home land of India packs a hefts protein punch & can easily give plant based followers a great bang for their buck.
As we moved home, mostly because of our family’s love for gardening and nature, one of our moves in Delhi while my Dad was in government service was to a home that had not one gardening space, but three. A front yard, a side yard and a back yard. By all accounts this was the most exciting time of our young lives, as up until then we had only stayed on a first floor home. However, seeing us sad about the move, as we were going to leave our friends behind, Dad sold us on the home by painting us a vision. Each of us siblings would get our own yard to grow whatever we wanted. My sister picked the front yard to grow flowers, hibiscus & bougainvillea and my brother the back yard for veggies, I got the side yard which was quite a rough patch. But Dad gave me hope and helped me plough through the soil to plant okra. And that’s how the seeds of nature were effectively sown in our young minds that still stay with me today.
Dear reader, you can’t even imagine how the amaranth went rogue. Every single seed I planted sprouted, as I moved the heavy pot in April from window to window seeking light & sun. Soon Victoria Day weekend arrived in May and I transplanted each tiny seedling to the great outdoors of my small townhome back yard. Again they grew merrily and the very first of the seedlings attained gigantic heights and is called jack (the beanstalk). Standing proud at well over 8 feet tall, Jack has given my home and that of neighbors & friends plenty of amaranth to munch on.
Try my spinach curry with amaranth, available in Asian stores if you don’t grow it. Or sub with any spinach for a similar effect.
4 cups washed, rinsed and chopped packed amaranth leave
½ cup diced red onions
¼ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp urad dal
½ tsp channa dal
¼ cup grated coconut
½ lime squeezed
Himalayan salt to taste
2 tbsp grapeseed oil
Heat pan and add oil.
Add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add urad dal & channa dal. Let Roast till golden and then drop curry leaves, red chilles, hing, ginger, red onion. Sauté till onion is cooked and then drop in the amaranth. The greens will wilt quickly. Then add in the lime juice, salt and coconut. Give everything a stir and turn off heat. Cover for 5 minutes. Serve with steamed rice or chapatti bread.
This ancient grain has been cultivated for over 8000 Years! Both Mexican and Indian cooking use amaranth extensively. In Madras, Amaranth is called Mulaikeerai.
Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate; they are also a complementing source of other vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
Amaranth seeds contain lysine, an essential amino acid, limited in other grains or plant sources. A great source of protein for those who are gluten sensitive, because unlike protein found in grains like wheat & rye, protein provided by amaranth seeds is gluten free.
Where to source Amaranth leaves
Your best bet is Chinese grocery stores that sell a majority of East Indian vegetables. Sometimes I’m awed when I enter Chinese stores to find so many common fruits and vegetables. I loved to see the New Year decorations too & wishing you all a wonderful Chinese New Year. You can’t miss amaranth, brightly colored with red strokes through the leaf, I tend to think indicate heart healthy. If you get lucky and see baby amaranth leaves, don’t think twice, I repeat don’t.Just grab them, flavour wise there is no second.
In all our runaround to find new and tantalizing recipes, it’s always good to see how classics come right back into fashion. Amaranth has been used for hundreds of years in southern Indian cooking. I really hope you’ll give this curry a try to get a taste of an amazing past.