Keerai Masiyal ~ Mashed greens

Last night I slept late in the night after watching bits of two movies. I was curious about the end of the horror movie but watching horror movies sometimes makes me queasy so I missed all the important scenes by switching over a French comedy on ‘World movies’. In the end I did not understand head or tail of both movies and ended up going to bed late.

I was fast asleep at eight this morning when the phone rang and my BIL asked whether I would like some fresh greens from the farm nearby. He knows I love greens and generally picks up a bunch of amaranth leaves or spinach leaves on his morning walks near the field. I prefer making spinach on weekends as it takes time to pick, wash and clean the leaves. After some time he greeted me with a beautiful green bouquet of spinach leaves.

I do not know whether there is an appropriate equivalent term in Western cooking for masiyal, but it is a form of cooking that is very popular in Indian cuisine. It is an act that consists of pressing out the cooked vegetable to extrude its juices to a certain extent while retaining a rough texture. Traditionally we use a ‘kadchi’, ‘kadayal’ or ‘mathna’ for this act. Since the handle of mine broke long back, I have been using a ‘pav bhaji masher’ instead. I find that it is more convenient. If using a grinder, you have to be very careful giving the cooked spinach a half-turn so that it doesn’t blend into a pulp. Just remember that masiyal has to be as grainy as a ‘hand made’ pesto. The texture makes all the difference to the taste.

Traditionally amaranth leaves (chowli) are used for masiyal but spinach makes an equally tasty substitute.

Dish: Keerai Masiyal | Spinach stew, Iyer style
Yield: Serves 4
Category: Inherently vegan dish from Palakkad Iyer cuisine

5 cups – Picked, washed and finely chopped amaranth leaves or spinach
1/2 cup – Water to cook the greens
Salt – To taste
1/4 tsp. – Turmeric powder

A tbsp. of coconut oil
Split black gram – 1.5 tsp.
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp.
Dry red chillies (if long then break into small bits) – 2

Cut the spinach into thin strips and cook with salt and turmeric powder, without covering till well-done in a pan. Now use a masher to mash the spinach till the juices exude and the rough texture remains as for a basil pesto. Set aside.

Heat oil. Splutter mustard seeds, add gram dal and fry with the red chillies till the dal changes into a shade of pink.

Pour the seasoning over the cooked spinach. Stir well and serve as a side dish with rice and rasam. I like it just mixed with rice or even with pasta! I could have a bowl of this without anything to go with it.

Optionally you could also add a few garlic cloves or chopped garlic to the seasoning and let that brown before pouring into the greens.


Harini is a vegan food photographer, writer and recipe developer. She also loves feeding birds, reading, watching crime thrillers, and travelling amongst other things.

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  • blueberry32

    This is such a beautiful picture of keerai masiyal! Really like your recipe, thank you 🙂

  • Curry Leaf

    I echo Aparna.Never ever b4 this spinach or the masiyal has looked so beautiful.I too love the masiyal and always try with spinach.

  • indhu

    I love love the picture… Srimathi and I were discussing how wonderful it looks… your picture reminded me instantly of the masiyal my mother makes 🙂

  • AMA's AnythingVegetarian

    I always love the simplicity of the spinach greens.Just melting masiyal takes me to heavens.Pics looks just perfect.

  • Sunshinemom

    Thanks, Srimathi:). I will post a pic soon of the pav bhaji masher. It is something like a meat mincer but a lighter version.

    Aparna, I know what you mean:D! Thanks!

  • Aparna

    This is one of my favourites and the only reason I haven't posted it is because I couldn't take a good picture of it! LOL

    Never seen mashiyal look so beautiful, Harini.


    Such a healthy nad vibrant colour dish.Simple yet delicious.

  • Srimathi

    Your photo of Keerai masiyal is the best I have seen of any masiyal.I love keerai a lot. I wanted to ask you what is a pav bhaji smacher?

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