Monday, July 21, 2008

Koottus - Mildly Spiced Mixed Vegetables and Lentils

KOOTTUS- Mildly Spiced Mixed Vegetables and Lentils
Koottu is the name given to mildly spiced boiled mixed vegetables, and is usually prepared as one of the side dishes in an elaborate feast. With the addition of dal (lentils) it becomes a course in itself when served with rice. The spices are usually fried and ground with coconut and thus it is also known as Poricha (fried) koottu.
Koottu can be prepared with assorted mixed vegetables, such as carrots, beans, peas, chow-chow (marrow), cucumber and so on. The sight of so many varieties of fresh vegetables soon after returning from the green grocers inspires me to prepare koottu. The same feeling takes me over when I see the itsy bitsy left over vegetables at the end of the week!
Koottu can even be prepared with any one vegetable. Since raw green papaya was abundantly available in our garden we were treated to papaya koottu very frequently. We children and our great grandmother loved the dish very much as it was not very hot or tangy. It was very gentle on our palates, especially when it was prepared with half ripe papayas, which lent a sweet taste to the koottu. We ate and ate the koottu and ripe papayas until we developed an aversion to it, which of course lingered only up to the next season.

Koottu goes very well with chapattis, poories and rice. Here are three variations.
For dal
Tur dal (Red gram dal) – ½ cup
Mung dal (Green gram dal -½cup
Turmeric powder -1 pinch
Assorted cleaned and chopped vegetables – 2 cups
(Carrots, beans, peas, marrow, cucumber)
Kabuli channa (chick peas) that has been soaked for at least 12 hours – ¼ tea cup
Salt – 2 tsps
For the seasoning
Oil – 1tsp
Mustard seeds -1/2 tsp
Urad Dal (black gram dal) – 1 tsp
Red chilly -1
Curry leaves – 6 to 8 leaves
For the spice paste
Cooking oil -1 tsp
Urad dal (Black gram dal) -1 tbsp
Jeera (cumin seeds)-1 tsp
Red chillies -3
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Freshly grated coconut – 2 tbsps

1. Wash and tur and mung dals. Cook until soft and mushy with turmeric powder, in 3 glasses of water and set aside.
2. For the spice paste, heat oil and drop in asafoetida, black gram dal, cumin seeds followed by red chilies and fry them till they are reddish in colour. Fry carefully on low flame, till it emanates a pleasant aroma. Do this carefully, browned dals loose their flavour and become bitter.
3. Grind the fried ingredients with grated coconut, and set the spice paste aside.
4. Cook the vegetables, along with the previously soaked chana in a vessel with just enough water.
5. When the vegetables and chana are are done, add the mushy dal mixture, salt and the spice paste and stir well.
6. Bring to a boil (2 to 3 minutes) and remove from flame.
7. For seasoning, heat oil and add mustard seeds to splutter; then add the black gram dal and red chillies. When the seasoning becomes red and crisp add curry leaves and pour the whole seasoning into the koottu.
For dal
Cleaned and chopped vegetables – 2 cups (eg. carrots, beans, peas, marrow, cucumber)
Salt - ¾ tsp
Split Bengal gram dal – 1 tbsp
For spice paste
Jeera (cumin seeds) – 1 tsp
Freshly grated coconut – ½ cup
Green chillies – 2
Rice flour -1 tsp
For seasoning
Cooking oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Black gram dal – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – a few
1. Soak the split Bengal gram dal in water for at least 20 minutes until soft.
2. Grind the ingredients for the spice paste viz. green chillies, grated coconut and cumin seeds with a teaspoon of rice flour and keep it aside.
3. Cook cut vegetables and the soaked split bengal gram dal in enough water.
4. When the vegetables and dal are soft, add the ground spice paste and salt and boil for 2 – 3 minutes until till every thing blends.
5. Season with mustard seeds, black gram dal and curry leaves.
For Dal
Mung dal (Split green gram dal) – 1 cup
Mixed cut vegetables of your choice- 1 tea cup (eg. carrots, beans, peas, marrow, cucumber)
Black pepper – ½ tsp
Jeera (Cumin seeds) - ½ tsp
Asafoetida -1 pinch
Sambar powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder -1/4 tsp
salt - 3/4 tsp
For seasoning
Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Urad Black gram dal – ½ tsp
Red chilly – 1
Curry leaves – a few

1. Take dal and turmeric powder in the separator of a pressure cooker, add 3 cups of water and set it in the pressure cooker.
2. Arrange the cut vegetables in another separator and sprinkle the sambar powder, and set it above the dal separator.
3. Close the lid, and place the weight and pressure cook until 3 whistles.
4. Switch off the flame and allow it to cool.
5. Coarsely crush pepper and cumin seeds with a mortar and pestle, and keep it ready.
6. Open the cooker and take out dal and vegetables, and pour them into a vessel.
7. Add salt, asafoetida, crushed pepper and cumin seeds and boil for 3 minutes.
8. Remove from flame and season with mustard seeds, black gram dal, broken red chilly and curry leaves.
Enjoy the cooker koottu with rice or chapattis.

Sunday, July 13, 2008



This is a hot favourite among the children at home. On the days when my grey cells are too tired and refuse to budge, I take the help of my grandchildren to plan the menu, and their unanimous choice would be carrot and peanut sambar. No roasting, no grinding and no slogging. The quick method is to just set a pressure cooker with the dal, vegetables, and rice in the three separators and then relax. A nutritious, pleasant looking and mouth watering sambar, along with steaming hot rice will be ready in less than half an hour.


Carrots – 4
Tur dal (Red Gram) – 1 tea cup
Peanuts – a handful
Tamarind – 1 small lime size
Sambar powder – 2 tsps
Salt – 1 ½ tsps
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Rice flour – 1 tsp
Cooking oil – 1 tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch
Fenugreek seeds -1/4 tsp
Dry red chillies – 2
Curry leaves – 6 

1.Soak peanuts in hot water and set aside.
2.Wash the tur dal well. Add ¼ tsp of turmeric powder and 3 cups of water and set it in one separator of the pressure cooker.
3.Peel, slice and arrange carrot slices in another separator. Don’t add water, as the steam in the cooker is enough to cook the carrots.
4.Take a small steel cup with water and drop the tamarind and sambar powder into it, and place it beside the carrots.
5.Now arrange the separators in the pressure cooker. Add an inch of water at the bottom of the cooker. Place separator containing rice and water first. This is optional in case you want to make rice.
6.In the second separator, place the dal and turmeric mixture. Finally place the separator with carrots, and the cup with tamarind and sambar powder.
7.Close the lid. Pressure cook until 3 whistles on a high flame and then switch off the flame.
8.Do not open the cooker now, as the cooking process continues until the cools down. Once the cooker has cooled down (takes about 10 minutes) it is ready to open.

9.Now heat 1 tsp oil in a vessel, and add asafoetida and mustard seeds. When the mustard splutters, add the fenugreek seeds and roast till it becomes red in colour.
10.Next add the broken red chillies and fry till crisp.
11.Add curry leaves.
12.Now remove the carrots and dal from the cooker and add to this seasoning.
13.Drain the peanuts and add it to the dal as well.
14.The tamarind and sambar powder would have dissolved in the cup of water. Squeeze out the tamarind seeds and fiber and discard. You will be left with a thick mixture of tamarind juice and sambar powder. Add this to the dal as well.
15.Stir all the ingredients till well blended, and boil for a few minutes.
16.Make a paste with rice flour and a little water and add it to the sambar and boil for 2 or 3 more minutes. This step is optional, and can be done if you want to thicken the consistency of sambar.
17.Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve it with the steaming hot rice. A spoonful of ghee will enhance the flavor.
In case you do not have a pressure cooker you can still make sambar in a large heavy bottomed vessel.
Boil dal and turmeric till soft and set aside.
Soak tamarind in water for 15 to 20 minutes, and extract the juice.
Add all the fried seasoning (Steps 11 to 14), and sambar powder to the tamarind juice and boil. Next add carrots, and the ground nuts, and continue boiling till the carrot is soft.
Now add the cooked dal and continue to simmer, and follow the rest of the steps from 19 to 21!

Enjoy the quick, tasty and flavorsome carrot and peanut cooker sambar!

Saturday, July 5, 2008


Mor means curd in Tamil, and Kozambu means gravy or thick soup. The basic ingredients for Morkozambu are curd and spices. The dish is tastier if a slightly sour curd is used. Watery vegetables like cucumber, chow-chow and ash gourd lend a special taste to Morkuzambu. Vegetables like okra, brinjal, and capsicum can be sautéed and added to the kozambu. Cooked drumsticks can be added for a special flavour. Tubers like colocasia are also used. Vattals or Sun dried vegetables are another option. You can fry them and add to this kozambu.
Morkozambu always brings back memories of an incident during my childhood. My Pati (grandmother) used to prepare excellent ash gourd Morkuzambu. I was about four years old  when I sat down for lunch with my mouth watering for the dish, she also served roasted potato curry with it. All hell was let loose and I started howling and howling. I loved to eat both the dishes with rice. But as I was very young at that time, I could manage to have only one course per meal. My Pati burst out laughing when she learnt about my predicament. After much persuasion, she finally helped me ‘tic-tac-toe’ and I decided to have the morkuzambu with great relish!

Paruppu urundai (lentil dumpling) morkozambu is a specialty. Serve it with hot steamed white rice and a dollop of ghee. Here is how we prepare it.
Tur dal (Red gram) – 1 cup
Dry red chillies – 3
Salt - ½ tsp
Asafoetida – 1 pinch

Soak the dal and red chillies for 40 minutes.
Drain all water and grind coarsely with asafoetida and salt.
Take the coarse mixture and shape into small dumplings.
Steam them in a pressure cooker for 10 minutes without the weight.
Allow it to cool.

For the gravySlightly soured curds – 3 cups
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Turmeric - 1 pinch
Fresh chopped corriander leaves – 1 tbsp
For the spice pasteBengal gram dal (chana dal) – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds – 1/4tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4tsp
Green chillies - 3
Freshly grated coconut – 1 tbsp.
Except for coconut and chillies, soak these ingredients in a little water for 20 minutes.
Grind all the ingredients with the chillies and coconut to make a paste.
For the Seasoning
Cooking oil -1 tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Fenugreek seeds -1/4 tsp
Red chillies - 2
Curry leaves – 10
1) Blend the spice paste into the sour curds, along with salt and turmeric powder.
2) Now we have to add the seasoning. Heat oil and add the mustard seeds. When the mustard splutters add fenugreek seeds and red chillies. When the fenugreek turns reddish and aromatic, switch off the flame. Add curry leaves while oil is still hot, and pour this seasoning into the spiced curd.
3) Blend the curd mixture (kozambu) well and place it on a low flame.
4) Next, add the paruppu urundai (steamed lentil balls) into the kozambu without breaking them. 
Note: Cooked vegetables or sautéed vegetables can be added instead of the urundais for a vegetable morkuzambu.
5) Cook until the kozambu bubbles, gently stirring now and then.
6) Remove from the flame before it boils.

7) Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with steamed white rice and a dollop of ghee.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chinna Vengaya Sambar or Baby Onions in Lentil Gravy

A great many varieties of Kozambus (thick gravies) are served with rice as the first course of a meal in all South Indian homes. Kozambus with dal, without dal, with tamarind, without tamarind and even without either, are the many varieties served as a routine. Among all of the kozambus, Sambar occupies the first and foremost place. Sambar is prepared by cooking dal and vegetables in tamarind juice and spices.

I consider baby onion sambar as the king of all sambars. It is a delicacy, and is usually
prepared for special guests. Onion sambar is prepared in all restaurants and served along with idlies, dosas and vadas. Vadas soaked in sambar is a connoisseur’s delight.
We took our friend’s family for a treat to a restaurant which was famous for its mouth watering Masala dosas and Basundi (milk sweet). My friend’s 3 year old daughter was bowled over by the taste of the sambar, served with the dosa. We were all awe struck to see the little girl slurp cup after cup of the spicy hot sambar as though she were relishing a cup of ice cream. Now restaurants usually serve an extra cup of sambar free of cost on request. Watching cup after cup disappear, my husband assured the flabbergasted waiter that he would pay for all those additional cups. The poor waiter finally looked greatly relieved!

Baby onion - 250 gms
Tur Dal (Red gram lentil) – 1 tea cup
Turmeric -1/4 tsp
Tamarind - enough to roll into the size of a small marble.
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – 10
Cooking oil – 3 tbsps
Asafoetida – ¼ tspa
Bengal gram dal (chana dal) – 1 tbsp
Black gram dal (urad dal)1 tsp
Coriander seeds -1 tbsp
Red chillies – 8
Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Dry coconut gratings or
Roasted fresh coconut gratings – 1 tbsp
1. Soak tamarind in a cup of hot water for 15 minutes, and extract the juice.
2. Peel the baby onions and keep aside.
3. Pressure cook tur dal with turmeric powder and 3 cups of water until mushy, and let it cool.
1. Heat ¼ tsp of oil and fry the asafoetida.
2. Add black gram dal, bengal gram dal, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds and lastly the red chillies, and roast till crisp and golden in colour.
3. Dry grind all the roasted ingredients.
4. Now add the dry coconut gratings and grind again with some water and keep the paste aside.
1. Heat the remaining oil and add mustard seeds followed by curry leaves.
2. After the mustard splutters add the peeled baby onions and stir.
3. Cover with a lid and cook on low flame.
4. When the onions are done and look glassy, pour in the tamarind extract.
5. Add salt and cook for for 5minutes on a medium flame.
6. Add the cooked dal and stir well avoiding lumps.
7. Now add the ground sambar masala paste. If the masala is too thick, you can dissolve it in ½ cup of water and then stir it in.
8. Let the sambar boil for 2 more minutes until all the ingredients blend together giving out a very pleasant  aroma.
9. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.

Enjoy baby onion sambar with rice or any other dish of your choice.