The south west monsoon is here and this cloudy weather is urging my craving for some good old fashioned ‘kadanja kollu paruppu’. The kollu has been lying unused in it’s tall glass jars in my store room and I couldn’t wait to bring them out.
Horse gram as it’s known in English is actually a lentil that is fed to horses both in plant as well as seed form. It comes in both brown and black colours. In the south of India it is also a much loved veggie protein that is savoured especially during lunch.
I love everything about this family of pulses. The dark brown colour, the manner in which it is mashed using a mann chati and wooden masher, the creamy texture when cooked and especially that unique flavour which carries a deep earthy aroma. To mix it when still warm into a helping of hot, steaming, fluffy rice and a dollop of ghee gets the salivary glands working overtime! Though it is meant to be eaten with nallennai (cold pressed sesame oil), I love it with home-made ghee as well. My favourite combination is to eat this with vazhaithandu poriyal, if it’s available, otherwise any other poriyal will do… as long as I have my kollu paruppu.
I’ve managed to pass on this liking for kollu paruppu to my children as well. It’s so deeply nourishing that even while eating it one is aware of how beneficial it is for health. And that kind of thought process uplifts the meal experience and makes it that much more pleasurable.
Did you know that there is much more to this humble lentil than what meets the eye. It was fed to livestock because of it’s high protein, calcium and iron content, the highest found in any lentil. It’s drought resistant and grows fast keeping the land fertile.
During the digestion process it releases heat and energy and that’s the reason that it is best eaten during the cooler months and completely avoided during summer.
This was not something that was really taught to me but since it was the pattern of our diet all through our growing up years, it’s natural for me to associate the monsoons with a warm helping of kollu paruppu. In the past few years we have also tried adding it to our meals in other ways. The left over paruppu (dhal) from lunch is made into a delicious gravy by adding small onions, garlic, tamarind and dried red chillies. It’s so tasty to eat with on the side with a helping of soft, fluffy idlis or even a crisp dosai. Another favourite is to make a kollu podi by dry roasting the lentils along with a larger quantity of split urad dhal, curry leaves, dried red chillies, salt and a pinch of asafoetida. Take care when roasting that the horse gram doesn’t burn and get bitter. Let cool, powder and store in an air tight bottle. Just like a paruppu podi, this is great to mix along with rice and serve with a seasonal pachadi of choice. Simple cooking at it’s best.
This podi can also be used as a dry spice rub for meats. In the telugu speaking states, the horse gram is slow cooked to serve up a much favoured delicacy called the ulavu charu. It’s like a South Indian version of the dhal makhani and is also served with a dollop of cream. Of late we have even heard of an ulluvu charu biriyani making the rounds in foodie circles but I’ve yet to taste it.
When people who have issues with excess flatulence and discomfort talk about their inability to digest lentils, the best way to add them to your diet is to sprout them. Sprouting makes it more easily digestible and there is less stress when suffering from gastric disorders. Kollu is rich in antioxidants and can help combat several of the monsoon maladies like bronchitis, rheumatic disorders, fungal infections etc.,
However do make sure that the lentils are purchased from a reliable supplier. Never blindly buy off the shelf. Educate yourself about the source of the many ingredients which you consume. An aware consumer will help pave the way for sustainable farming.