Pumpkin kootu without coconut

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Yesterday, I posted a kootu recipe with spinach and lentils and coconut in it. Today’s recipe is also a kootu, but with pumpkin, moong dal and no coconut. This is a very simple dish to make and tastes excellent. My son likes this dsh since its not very spicy and has a very mild sweetness from the pumpkins. Sometimes the pumpkin gets replaced by a combination of chayote/chow chow and carrots.

This is my friend’s recipe and  one I had tried many times now. I have been using  powdered hing for a long time now, but I am slowing making the switch to whole asafoetida. Hing aids in digestion and is used in almost all the places where you use lentils and beans. There is a nice and noticeable difference in aroma and flavor when using the whole hing.

The problem with whole hing is that it comes as a block and becomes rock hard in a day or two after you open the packet. My MIL told me that it is soft when its right out of the box. So that’s the time to cut it into very small pieces or make small balls using your hands. You have to store the pieces in air tight jars with a tablespoon or two of whole wheat sprinkled in. The wheat prevents the pieces from sticking together and becoming a solid mass again. At the time of cooking, you take a small piece and use it as usual. If a couple of pieces stick together, you can soak it in water overnight and by next morning, it would have melted. The flavor of whole hing is so much better than the powdered version.

Read on for the pictorial and the recipe.

4pumpkin kootu

Serves : 3

Recipe Source: My friend Mangalambigai

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup moong dal
  • 1 teaspoon jeera seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • a good pinch of hing
  • salt to taste
  • 1 medium tomato
  • about 1 cup of chopped pumpkin

For the tadka

  • 1 teaspoon ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 red chillies, optional
  • 5-6 curry leaves

Method:

In a steel bowl, add the washed dal, chopped tomato and pumpkin pieces, jeera seeds, a good pinch of hing and salt as needed.

Add 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and enough water so that it covers the dal completely by about an inch on top. Pressure cook for about 3 whistles.

Once the pressure releases naturally, open the cooker and mash it a little using a ladle. Heat oil or ghee in a separate pan, add mustard seeds. Once it splutters, add the red chillies and curry leaves. Add this tadka to the kootu and serve hot with rice, papad and pickle. If the kootu is dry, you can add more water and bring it to a boil.

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Keerai Mulagootal – Keerai Kootu

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Indian meals have at least one lentil based curry everyday. I use the term curry on a broad sense here. When we say Indian curry, the image is that of a creamy, red color gravy with ghee or oil running on the top. But that’s not what you eat at home everyday. Everyday cooking is a completely different than what you get in restaurants.

On an everyday basis, rice is served with a lentil based gravy and some veggies on the side. A popular South Indian gravy is sambar, which is toor dal or pigeon pea cooked with vegetables in a tangy tamarind base. Rasam is another one. In my house, the Kootu comes to a close third place.

There is no single recipe for sambar or rasam or kootu. There are so many different variations for each of these. You can make sambar 5 days a week and yet come up with five completely different flavors each day. For example, this kootu here is a combination of spinach with lentils and coconut. I have another version coming up soon which has pumpkin cooked with dal and with no coconut. So the taste is completely different even though the base of the dish is same.

Kootu is usually a mix of one or  more vegetables cooked with lentils and then rounded off with ground spicy coconut paste. So the recipe has three components. Cooked lentils, cooked vegetables and finally the roasted and ground coconut spice paste.  The coconut paste imparts flavor and it also helps thicken the gravy a bit. What goes into the coconut paste also differs from recipe to recipe. And sometimes its completely skipped also.

Today’s recipe is spinach kootu. This is about a bunch of spinach cooked with lentils. I cannot say that I was a big fan of this preparation when I was a kid, but it is one of my favorites now. I love my mother in law’s mixed vegetable version a lot. It is her weekend special along with masicha keerai (spinach, mashed and cooked in a tamarind base). I am yet to blog that recipe, but will do it soon.

Read on for the recipe.

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Recipe adapted from: Subbu’s Kitchen

Ingredients:

To saute and grind:

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons urad dal
  • 3-4 dry red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon jeera
  • 1/4 cup coconut
  • water as needed

For the kootu:

  • 4 cups spinach, chopped
  • 1/2 cup moong or toor dal, cooked separately
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 dry red chillies

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan. Roast 2 tablespoons urad dal, 3-4 red chillies. Once the dal turns brown, add 1 teaspoon jeera seeds and turn off the heat. Once cool, add to a mixer jar along with 1/4 cup coconut. Grind to a smooth paste adding a little water.

Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a pan, add one teaspoon mustard seeds and 2-3 red chillies to it. You can do the tadka later, but sometimes, I prefer to do it together. Once it splutters, add about 3-4 cups of cleaned and chopped spinach. Add a little water and let it cook. 

Cook 1/2 cup moong dal (or toor dal) with 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder separately. Add the dal to the spinach once its cooked.

Mix well, add water as needed and add the ground paste. Mix everything in, adding salt to taste. Add water as needed to bring it the consistency you prefer. Serve with rice and pickle.

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Parippu Usili – Pressure cooker method

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My husband is a big fan of parippu usili. Which is bad, because making usili is kind of time consuming. First, there is this matter of soaking beans. So waiting time of a couple of hours. Then you have to roughly grind it and then steam it using steamer or idli vessel until cooked. So in addition to the steaming time, there is a whole bunch of extra vessels involved now. And then you have to cool it and crumble it again. So some more time until the dal mix cools down. So all in all, though the actual effort is not much, there is a whole lot of extra vessels and some waiting time too.

So can you imagine the world’s laziest person making this dish on a regular basis?

Yeah…I didn’t think so too.

But my husband hasn’t given up hope yet. He still gets cluster beans every single time he goes to the Indian store. But compared to before, I make this more often. Ever since my mother in law taught me an easier way to prepare usili. The pressure cooker method.

There is a lot of wait time in this method too, but the number of vessels involved is lesser and the quantity of usili you get is more. I serve usili with rice, so I have to cook rice anyway. The usili gets cooked along with rice in the pressure cooker. I just reuse the same vessel which I use for soaking the dals for pressure cooking. So no extra vessels. The mixer jar which we use for grinding the dals is used again (without washing, so that its not wet) to pulse the dal once it is done pressure cooking. This way, you get a lot more lighter and fluffier usili than crumbling with hands would give. Also, this gives more quantity since you have less clusters. Technically, there is not a lot of improvement than the traditional method, but to me somehow, this method feels easier.

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Usili has lot of lentils in it, so it usually gets served with a gravy that doesn’t have any lentils on it. Here, I have served it with moru curry (buttermilk spiced with onions, ginger and chillies), coconut sambar and a coriander leaves thogayal.

Rice and vadam (fries) complete the dish. A South Indian platter like this is my husband’s favorite :-).

Read on for this slightly different preparation than usual.

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Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup toor dal (pigeon pea dal)
  • 1/4 cup chana dal
  • 3 red chillies
  • a good pinch of hing
  • salt as needed
  • 2 cups of chopped beans or cluster beans
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

 

Soak 1/4 cup toor dal and 1/4 cup chana dal for 2-3 hours at least. Drain water completely and pulse a couple of time in a mixer/blender along with 3-4 red chillies with required amount of salt and a good pinch of hing.

 

You want to get coarsely crushed dal at the end of it, not a smooth paste. Don’t bother cleaning the mixer jar. Set it aside. Take the dal mixture in a pan and pressure cook it along with rice. I cooked it for 5 whistles.

 

Once the pressure is released and the dal is cooled down a bit, transfer it back to the mixer (see, I told you not to wash :D, we don’t want it wet) and pulse again for a couple of times to get a kind of fluffy and crumbled dal.

 

Cook two cups of chopped beans or cluster beans with salt as needed separately. Here I have cooked it in Instant pot for 2 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally. Now to assemble this dish together, heat 1 or 2 teaspoons of oil in a pan. Add 1 teaspoons of mustard seeds and curry leaves, if you have. Let the seeds splutter.

 

Add the dal mixture, see how fluffy it has become by pulsing in the mixer!! Add the cooked beans and mix well. Let the flavors mingle for a couple of minutes and then take off the heat. Serve with rice and any sambar of your choice.

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Palak Paneer

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Palak paneer is one of my son’s favorite dishes and that is an achievement indeed. He hates rice, but when I think about it, even I wasn’t a big fan of rice or  koottu or most South Indian foods at his age  . I wouldn’t protest since I didn’t know any better, but I didn’t exactly love the food I was served either. And look at me now…I love all foods and South Indian is my favorite. So maybe it’s just a game of not giving up now and feeding him even though he eats with a look of martyrdom and a loud sigh. And hope that he will learn to love it as time passes by.

But some recipes are his favorites. Palak paneer is one of those. Even if you serve it with rice, there are no complaints. There is obvious delight and no questions are asked. I won’t say that I make it regularly, but I do make it at least once a month. Don’t want to jinx the special status of the dish by making it regularly. 

I used to try my friend’s recipe for a long time, but now found another recipe at this site and that’s what I have been making for the past couple of times. Basically it’s spinach cooked with ginger, green chilies, garlic and onion. A few more items and the dish is complete. Palak paneer is a mild dish and you usually don’t add a lot of spice powders, letting the spinach shine over everything else. 

Read on for the recipe. This serves about 4-5 people. 

4palak_paneer

Serves 4-5 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tablespoon ghee
  • 1/2 teaspoon jeera
  • 1″ piece of ginger, chopped fine
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 green chilies, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder or per taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder 
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg 
  • 1/4 cup thick yogurt, optional
  • 2 bunches of spinach, about 600gms, chopped roughly 
  • 200 gms paneer 
  • 2-3 tablespoons of cream, optional

Method:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of butter or oil in a pan. Add 1/2 teaspoon of jeera seeds. Once it changes color, add 1″ piece of chopped ginger, couple of chopped green chillies and 3-4 crushed or chopped garlic cloves. Once this turns golden in color, add one roughly chopped medium onion. Sauté until it turns pink. 
  2. Chop and add one medium tomato to the sautéed onions. Let it cook for a couple of minutes. Add all the spices – 1/2 teaspoon each of turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, a pinch of ground nutmeg and salt as needed. Cook for a further minute or two. 
  3. Add 1/4 cup of yogurt and mix well. You can switch off the heat and let the curry cool a bit before adding the yogurt if you want. I didn’t do that. 
  4. Add 3 bunches of spinach, about 750 gms, that’s roughly chopped and cook until it shrinks in size and is wilted. Taste test and adjust seasonings if needed. Take off the heat and let it cool down. 
  5. Purée this mixture in a blender. Now add it back to the pan and bring it to a slow simmer. Add the cubed paneer pieces as well and let it cook together for a few minutes. You can add a few tablespoons of cream if you wish. Take off the heat and serve hot with chapati or jeera rice. 

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