I do not remember having cooked gongura leaves before. It was not so commonly found green in my hometown and even during the few years in Madras, I may have come across them but was ignorant to recognise them. Though I may have tasted the very famous gongura chutney sometime, I cannot recall the taste.
The many cookery books that I have collected list a recipe of this with many of them making it sound very flavoursome with added ingredients. I might just read those and let them be. However, there came a day when I had to spot them and not just pass it on, but buy and try making the chutney! Finally!!!!
Last week when I had already loaded my green grocer shopping bag with fruits that I might need for the Varalakshmi poojai at home and a few random vegetables, I had to wait for my driver, who had gone looking up a florist's address for me.
I was next to the greens aisle in the shop where I found some fresh amaranth and as I requested the assistant to pick me one bunch, he said that they were GONGURA GREENS. I was wondering that he used the Indian name for the red sorrel leaves, and corrected him that the greens he gave me were amaranth. He still insisted that he had the gongura and showed me those in the other section, which indeed were the gongura leaves. I bought them also.
At home they were washed, patted dry and rolled inside a cloth bag and off they went into the crisper tray of the refrigerator and forgotten until the beginning of this week. As luck would have it, they had not wilted and where in good condition to be cooked. Thus my chutney was to be cooked and tasted at my own kitchen.
I chose to make the simple form of the chutney with just basic ingredients and no flavours. Only while trying to take pictures did I feel that the chutney looked plain and brown and that some onions and garlic may give it a boost both looks wise and in taste. Nonetheless the chutney tasted great and I consumed it with dosai, rice and anything I could pair it with.
2 cups red sorrel leaves / pulichcha keerai / gongura
8 to 10 dry red chillis
4 green chillis
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/2 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons sesame seeds oil (or any cooking oil)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Few dry red chillis
Wash the greens, pat them dry and remove the petiole and the midrib, if necessary and dry them well spread on a cloth.
Dry roast the fenugreek in a heavy pan until a pink - red tinge forms. Keep aside.
In the same pan heat half of the required oil, add the chillis and coriander seeds. Toss them until they are well roasted and add the salt, turmeric and asafoetida. Remove from the fire after a few seconds of this addition.
Transfer these to the jar of the blender along with the fenugreek.
In the same pan toss the gongura leaves until they wilt to a brown colour.
Allow them to cool.
Grind the roasted ingredients initially to a slightly coarse powder and then add to the jar the gongura leaves.
Blend well until a thick paste is achieved. No water is to be added and the chutney will blend well with the moisture in the cooked leaves only.
Heat the rest of the oil in the pan and add the mustard seeds. When they pop add the chilli and finally add the chutney. Toss the chutney in the hot oil for about three minutes and switch the heat off.
Cool the chutney and store in clean containers.
This chutney keeps well for a week.
If you desire to store this as a pickle, you may dry the leaves in the sun and increase the quantity of oil. Cook the chutney for a longer period in the final step until the contents are well reduced and the oil forms a layer over the surface. This way it can be stored for as long as six months too.