Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Agathi Keerai Curry & Nellikai (Gooseberry) Pachadi / Amla Raita for Dwadasi Paranai

Today is Koushika Dwadasi. Vaishnavites observe fasting on the 11th day (Ekadasi)of Kartika (not only this month but twice a month regularly) month according to the Tamil lunar calendar. There is immense importance for this Dwadasi and you can read the story in Srirangam Srimath Andavan's Blog. Also, it is only on this day in the entire year that the idol of Ugra Srinivasa Murthy is brought out from the sanctum sanctorum of the Tirumala temple. 

If analyzed, it is easy to understand how our Hindu tradition (I am sure each and every tradition would have similar ways) helps us in keeping up good health by observing fasting on specific days - which in other words a simple DETOX. This detoxing our system twice a month definitely keeps the doctor away - a simple way in the olden days without spending a fortune.

There is a scientific explanation here and here for the 11th-day ekadasi fasting.  And the fasting ended on the 12th day with dwadasi paranai (prayers to God followed by a simple and a healthy feast on the 12th day). On this day, gooseberry pachadi or thogayal is made along with agathi keerai and avial served with rice and sathamudhu (rasam) - a wonderful and delicious meal - a nostalgic trip to my childhood days. Here is a click:

The food is saatvik (our Iyengar cuisine doesn't use onion and garlic). Hence, the food is gentle and easily digestible after fasting. Gooseberry and agathi keerai help in cleaning out the toxins from our digestive system, when consumed on dwadasi days after fasting improves our health and thus increases longevity.

Agathi Keerai Kariamudhu (Curry)

Sesbania grandiflora is called agathi keerai in Tamil. It has numerous health benefits and is a rich source of calcium and iron and helps keep the digestive system in balance. That's why our forefathers made it a point to consume it atleast twice a month on dwadasi days after ekadasi fasting.

Serves - 4 people


Agathi keerai - 1 bunch (leaves alone yields 2 and 1/2 cups)
Split moong dhal - 1 tbsp
Coconut - 2 tsp, grated
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Jaggery - 1 or 2 tsp


Oil - 2 tsp
Red chilli - 1
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Split urad dhal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/8 tsp


Soak 1 tbsp of yellow split moong dhal in 1/4 cup of water. Remove the leaves from the stem and from a bunch of this spinach, you will get 2 and 1/2 cups of packed leaves. Wash, drain, and tear the leaves with hand.

Heat a pan, add the oil. When it is hot enough add the red chilli and mustard seeds. When it starts spluttering add the urad dhal and asafoetida. Fry for a few seconds and add the washed spinach followed by the moong dhal. Sprinkle water now and then (may need about 1/3 cup of water) and cook on a medium flame. Stir now and then and in about 15 to 20 min., the leaves would be cooked.

Add salt, coconut, and jaggery. Saute for 2 or 3 minutes till all the jaggery dissolves. This is a dry curry.


1. Elders say not to use a knife and cut the leaves, just tear it into two with hands. This step is optional. You can use the leaves as such too..
2. It takes a longer time to cook than regular spinach.
3. Instead of yellow moong dhal, can try with toor or channa dhal too.
4. The leaves have a slightly bitter taste and hence adding jaggery masks that flavor.

Gooseberry Raita

Gooseberries are a very rich source of vitamin C. This can be eaten raw or cooked, in juices, jams, pickles - innumerable recipes - all to help us keep our body in good health. It has a slightly sour and bitter taste when eaten raw, but I like the sweet taste when you drink water after eating a gooseberry - awesome sweetness. Try to include this wonder berry whenever you can and here is a saatvik and simple raita recipe for you to try.

Serves 4.


Gooseberry - 1
Coconut - 2 tbsp
Green chili - 1
Yogurt - 1/2 cup

Oil - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 1
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Cumin - 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Curry leaves - 1 sprig


Pressure cook the berry (no need to add water for cooking it, it will cook well and break in the steam). Cool and remove the seed. To this add 2 tbsp of coconut and green chilli. Grind to coarse texture and add it to the fresh yogurt. Add salt and mix well. In a small pan, do the seasoning and add it to the raita or pachadi.


1. Adjust the number of green chillies according to your taste.
2. When grinding, if needed, you can add a little yogurt. Then add it to the remaining yogurt.

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