A thoran is a simple stir-fry from the south of India, with mustard seed, curry leaves, shallots, cumin and fresh coconut. It is a typical vegetable side dish served in Kerala, especially on feast days as part of a banana-leaf-laden offering. This is a fairly typical recipe. Beetroot is a local vegetable they love to cook in this way. I have added the chard as I love the texture and earthiness it brings to the dish, and it feels virtuous with it. You can vary this recipe with a host of other vegetables and greens and, in fact, they also make thorans from leftover red meat and chicken, so you can add some of that in as well. I also often add a can of chickpeas if I am serving this as a main course, as the earthiness and mealiness work really well with these flavours. It is also a lovely side dish to serve with a lentil curry, grilled meats or Tamil-style lemon rice. 

Anjum Anand's Beetroot and ruby chard thoran (Serves 4-6 )

2 tbsp coconut oil
¾ tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp urad dal (split and skinned black lentils), if you have them
2-4 dried chillies
20 fresh curry leaves
500g raw beetroots (beets), peeled and chopped into 
1cm cubes salt 
2 small shallots, or ½ red onion, quartered 
80g grated fresh coconut, plus more to serve 
1 tsp cumin seeds
18g finely chopped root ginger (peeled weight)
1 large garlic clove
14 large stems of ruby or rainbow chard, leaves shredded, tender stems sliced 

Heat the oil in a non-stick saucepan over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, lentils and dried chillies and reduce the heat. Once the popping of the mustard seeds starts to subside and the lentils have turned a light golden, add the curry leaves. Follow 5 seconds later with the chopped beetroot and some salt. Stir well for a few minutes, then reduce the heat. 
Cover and cook for 18-20 minutes, or until beginning to soften (it depends on how large the beetroot was chopped). Meanwhile blend together the shallots or onion, coconut, cumin, ginger and garlic without any water. It will form a coarse paste. 
Add the paste to the beetroot and cook gently for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, then add the chard. Cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the whole thing is done. Taste and adjust the seasoning, sprinkle with the extra coconut and serve. 
Recipe from Anjum Anand's I Love India, available for R415 on Loot.co.za. Click here to purchase. 

The Independent