Back in the early 90’s, I came across this Gujju recipe* from Yamuna Devi’s Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking. (I don’t actually own this book, instead I have the “best of” abridged version that was published a few years later, but that big, out-of-print classic is still on my want list). I recall that I didn’t have any besan the first time I made this, so I used corn-meal as a substitute as the recipe suggested (it was still very good!), but if you have access to besan, do use it as the aroma of it roasting is pure heaven. Actually, this dish is pure heaven: greens and plantain (cooking banana) are steamed separately first, then combined with a lightly-sweetened, besan-infused masala to form a dry dish which is topped with roasted almonds and served with lime wedges to squeeze over at will. Using utensils for this dish is out of the question; only by eating out of hand is true justice served!
Kacha Kela Sak
(Unripe plantain vegetable dish)
2 lbs. fresh or frozen greens (the original recipe asks that one of these pounds be spinach, but truly any green of choice or mix of greens can be used successfully)
1 large unripe or semi-ripe plantain (2 firm, green bananas would probably work as well)
5 T ghee or oil (I was able to reduce this to about 3 T)
3 T besan
1 t black mustard seeds, coarsely-crushed
1 t cumin seeds, coarsely-crushed
1 t salt
1 t gur, jaggery
1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t (or more to taste) ground red chiles
3 T almonds, toasted and slivered or sliced
1 lime cut into wedges
1)Steam the greens just until tender- about 10-15 minutes; remove and allow to cool, then place in a piece of cloth (I used cheesecloth) and wring out as much liquid as you can. Save this liquid (it is rich in vitamins) to use as stock for another dish; chop the greens finely.
2)Peel the plantain, then shred coarsely or chop into 1/4″ dice. Steam these as well until soft- about 10 minutes.
3)Heat the oil in a kerai or wok over medium-low heat; add the besan, mustard-seeds and cumin; stir and fry until the mixture turns a few shades darker and is very fragrant.
4)Add the plantain and fry 2 more minutes.
5)Add the salt, sugar, turmeric and chiles; stir once, raise heat a bit and add the greens. Stir gently until fully heated.
6)Remove from heat and place the mixture into katoris or onto a serving platter. Sprinkle over this the almonds, and serve with lime-wedges on the side for each diner to sour as they please.
*Thanks for being my dictionary Mispa!