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.
1. MIXED VEGETABLE KOOTTU
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.
2. SIMPLE MIXED VEGETABLE KOOTTU
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
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.
3. MUNG DAL ‘COOKER’ KOOTTU
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
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.