Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Home grown valche bhajji- Mangalore Style Spinach with Coconut

This has been a dream come true. We have always wanted to grow this lovely vegetable in our garden. Valche bhajji brings back so many fond memories of home meals. I can remember this vegetable being cooked at home very often when the family wanted to detox. Mum would serve valchebhajji sukke with pej/ kanji ( rice cooked and served with water), galmbi chutney ( dried prawn chutney) or fried fish, and ambe che lonche (mango pickle). A wonderful treat.
At 4months

At hubby's estate this vege is a favourite. My mil has a huge valche bhajji vine. When we go to the estate mil cooks us a lovely sukke. This vege goes down very well especially with our nephews and nieces, who usually have a competition on who could eat the most number of stems they fondly call bondhu
The journey of our home grown valche bhajji from a stem to a healthy green tender vine has been long and emotional. We brought back 5 stems of the vine from India to the UK following our christmas holiday. At the time UK was in the peak of winter ( including snow). Put them in water on a window sill and watched them everyday for signs of life. There were moments when we lost all hope, with the cold 3 of the 5 stems died. Hubby not ready to give up, potted, nurtured and cared for the remaining 2 stems through the winter months into spring. It took around 4 months for us to see the first signs of life in these stems. And since then they have grown into the most beautiful green vines with extra large green leaves and thick tender green stems.

To manage the growth of the vine hubby trimmed the branches last week. The trimmings were sufficient for a mini feast. We decided to make a simple valche bhajji sukke out of it with minimum spice to retain the flavour of the vegetable. The dish was tasty and enjoyable. Most of all it gave us a sense of VICTORY!!

My version of Valche bhajji sukke:

Recipe for Valche bhajji Sukke
Valche bhajji- 1 large bowl of leaves and stems
Ginger- 2 inches sliced
Green chillies- 3 small slit
Onions- 1 large sliced
Small tomato- 1 no.
Fresh grated coconut- 1 handful
Garlic flakes- crushed 3
Oil 3tsps.
Salt to taste

1. Wash valche bhajji leaves and stems. Seperate leaves from main stem and chop large leaves into halves, cut the stems into 4 inch pieces.
2. In a closed vessel place the stems with onions, tomato, green chillies, ginger, coconut, salt, half a cup of water and 1/2 tsp oil , and bring to a boil. Then turn down flame to medium and cook for a few minutes till stems are tender and cooked. Then add the prepared leaves and cook without lid till the leaves wilt and are done. Taste for seasoning.
3. In a pan heat 2 1/2 tsps oil. Add crushed garlic flakes and fry till brown and fragnant. Tip seasoning over the valche bhajji. Serve hot.
Tip: If you leave the vessel open while cooking the leaves, the leaves will retain their natural green colour.

Food Fact: Distantly related to the vegetable spinach is the valche bhajji (in konkani) or Buffalo Spinach in English. Its botanical name is basella alba. This is a fast-growing, soft-stemmed vine with heart-shaped leaves and thick, semi-succulent stems. It is high in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium. It is low in calories by volume, and high in protein per calorie. The succulent mucilage is a particularly rich source of soluble fiber, thought to remove mucus and toxins from the body. The plant is also a rich source of chlorophyll.


Anonymous said...

Great to know that this could indeed be grown in the UK....(always assumed it to be in coastal areas and requiring more of red soil)

Roshan Dsouza said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe. I tried my luck to find valche bhajji in Indian super-marts across the UK but in-vain... using alternate spinach.

Carol Pereira said...

Hi Anonymous....thankyou for stopping by......we love valchi bhaji and were desperate to grow it here. Suprisingly it grew really well between spring and end of summer.But come winter the plant died with the cold. We keep the vine close to a window in the kitchen and has worked great for us. Also tried using cow manure and plant vitamins which I guess helped as each leaf grew really large.

Carol Pereira said...

Hi Roshan,
Thankyou for stopping by.....Its really hard to find valche bhaji in the UK...almost impossible....but a good substitute is the whole leaf spinach at Tesco's or sometimes we get the frozen whole leaf spinach ( make sure its not chopped) at ASDA or TESCO....works great.

Where in the UK are you based?

Roshan said...

Using whole spinach... the fresh ones... from Tesco, it is....

Yasmine said...

Hi there,
Love this recipe, will give it a try. I've grown this Malabar spinach from seeds successfully INDOORS only, and have my vine for 3 years now (Southeast UK). It has pride of place by my patio doors, trellis and all ;) Have noted the red stemmed variety grows more prolific, self seeds and I've given the seeds away to loads of friends who have successfully grown them. Happy to put some in the post for you or readily available on ebay.