Of lullabies and iron- pumping comic characters!

“Shhh, Kanch, your mother is singing such a lovely song. Don’t talk”, says Tara, Kanchu’s friend from infancy, trying to shush the kid who will NOT be shushed! Both are about two years old and Tara is spending the day at our home. Having lunched, it’s nap time and I’m singing a hoary Telugu lullaby “Aayi, aayi aayi, aapadalu kaayi… zzzz… ” – a song that is completed to the accompaniment of snores from the singer – it has invariably put me to sleep before the baby! 

Tara DOES manage to shush me however – my singing has been called many names, many four-letter names even, which I, being a magnanimous sort of creature – have forgiven the name callers for! But no one, NO ONE, has ever called it lovely!! I still cherish the moment 😉 Today, when I sing, it is generally to the accompaniment of groans from an unappreciative family!

Was a little worried about what I’d give them for lunch – Tara is a picky eater and prefers meat-based dishes. We are an eggetarian household and remembering the Dennis cartoon strip about saying grace. But there’s only vegetables today. What do I have to thank God for? I was wondering whether she’d eat anything at all! Anyway I could always whip up an omelette – was my thought.

I needn’t have worried – the kid not only ate but actually asked for seconds – of spinach! My lunch that day was a very simple dal, spinach mashiyal (is exactly what it sounds like – mashed up, cooked spinach with tempering), roast potato and rice. 

I still don’t get why kids in comic strips are supposed to say yuck to spinach and that there’s a whole comic character created for the specific purpose of getting American kids to eat the green stuff – POPEYE! American consumption of spinach went up by a third after Popeye appeared!! wow! like WOW!

All they needed to do was to make spinach like THIS.


  • Spinach (palak) or amaranth(thotakoora/molakeerai) – 2 bundles – washed well and chopped any which way!
  • Coconut oil (preferred) or any cooking oil – 1 tsp
  • Red chili – 1 or 2 – cut into pieces – easiest way to do this is with the kitchen scissors
  • Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
  • Asafoetida – 1 large pinch
  • Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
  • Jeera (cumin) seeds – 1/4 tsp
  • Turmeric – 1 pinch
  • Grated fresh coconut and / or 2 tbsp cooked toor dal.
  • Salt

Cook the spinach on high in a microwave for 3 minutes until wilted. Pulse it for 2-3 seconds in a mixer or use a bar blender to mash it a little. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the urad dal, red chilies and cumin. When the dal turns golden yellow, add the asafoetida and turmeric.Add the spinach and salt and cook for three minutes or so till the spinach has reduced completely and there isn’t too much water left. Do NOT, at any stage, discard the water – you will lose valuable nutrients. Add the coconut and / or cooked dal. Mix well and switch off.

Serve as a side with rice and sambar and a roast vegetable. Or with rotis.

Psst… and if you really don’t like spinach, it’s not all it’s hyped up to be – the idea of spinach as an iron-rich food was due to a mistake – with the scientist who transcribed his notes misplacing a decimal point  – thus making 3.5 mg of iron per 100 gm of spinach to 35 mg of iron – no wonder Popeye’s muscles popped up! It IS a very good source of other nutrients though – Vits  A, K, B6, B2, E and C and lots of minerals. 

Shall I sing you a lullaby? 😉