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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Fasolada – White bean soup

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I am in the process of loosing weight, so food has to be given a lot more consideration than usual. You want to eat something that is tasty, fills you up and is nutritious as well. 

Most of the bean soups/curries fit the bill perfectly. It’s perfect for lunch or dinner. You feel full and you won’t spend the rest of the day looking at the clock waiting impatiently for the next meal time. 

One of the many soup recipes I tried is this Greek soup made with white beans. A very few ingredients are needed to prepare this and if you use Instant Pot like me, the work gets done a lot more easier. 

This recipe is from My Greek Dish and I have followed it without any major changes. The only change I made was to bring down the quantity of olive oil. The author mentions that you should add some olive oil towards the end of cooking and that really brought to my mind some traditional Kerala recipes, like Avial and Olan, where you add coconut oil towards the end of cooking. Sometimes you can travel across continents and still find things that are common!

I served the soup with some crumbled Feta cheese and some bread. Now that the season is changing and the weather is beginning to get colder, I find myself noting and bookmarking more healthy soup recipes from library books and online.

Read on for the step-wise pictures and recipe.

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Serves: 4-6

Recipe source:  My Greek Dish

Ingredients:

  • 500gm bag dried white beans (18 oz pack)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 2 carrots, cut into semi circles
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced small
  • 1/2 cup pureed tomatoes
  • salt, pepper and red chili flakes per taste
  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Method:

Soak the beans overnight. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in Instant Pot or a thick pot. Saute the garlic and onion until onions turns pink. Add the carrots and celery. Mix it in.

Add in the pureed tomatoes. Add the beans.Season with salt and pepper and red chili flakes.

Add enough water to cover everything by about an inch. Cover and cook in Beans mode for 20 minutes. Once the pressure is released naturally, add the remaining olive oil and boil for a few minutes for flavors to blend. Taste test and adjust seasonings. Serve with feta and fresh bread.

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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. 

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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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Kerala Egg curry

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I usually buy vegetables for about a week to ten days. Most of the times by the weekend,  I am almost always out of vegetables. Good thing is that I am always stocked up in pulses, eggs and onions. So this is one of the dishes I end up making on weekends, mostly Fridays. 

This is a traditional recipe, with changes made according to each house’s preference. This pairs especially well with aapam, but also goes well with chapati, parathas or idiappam. The base for this dish is sautéed onions with coriander powder, chili powder and garam masala. Coconut milk and eggs will complete the dish from there. Tomato is an optional addition here, but I always add it. 

The base gravy can be used for almost any vegetables. Potato and peas, mixed veggies, cooked chana, potato and mushroom are all good substitutes for the eggs here. You can  cover and cook the veggies before adding the coconut milk or even after that. 

I buy canned milk here in US, which makes this dish extremely easy to make. The traditional way, of course, is to extract the milk from the coconut. Feel free to use the method that works for you. 

Now read on for the recipe. 

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Ingredients:

  • 6 large eggs, hard boiled
  • 3 tablespoons of oil 
  • 1″ piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 3-4 green chillies, slit into two pieces each
  • 3 large onions, sliced 
  • 1/2 of a medium tomato, optional
  • 1 Tablespoon coriander powder 
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder 
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 
  • Salt as needed
  • 1 (14oz) can of coconut milk 

Hard boil 6 eggs. I do this in Instant pot. Add 1 glass of water to the pot, keep the eggs on top of the trivet. Cook in Manual mode for 6 minutes and release pressure immediately.  Shell them, make slits and keep aside. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a pan and saute 1″ chopped ginger, three big sliced onions and 3-4 green chillies.

Once the onions turn pink, add half of a medium tomato and follow it up by 1 Tablespoon coriander powder, 1 teaspoon each of chilli powder and garam masala, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder and salt as needed. Since the coconut milk will bring some sweetness, you can add a little more chili powder if you want to.

Mix everything, cover and let it cook completely. Add half a cup of water and add  the eggs. Add 1 can of coconut milk and bring it to a boil (I didn’t take a picture of this step). Taste test and add more garam masala or salt if needed. Take of the heat and serve with aapam or chapati.

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