My mom, who’s based in Delhi, had a surgery last month, during which time I was with her for nearly two months (lest some regular visitors think I suffer from amnesia, having mentioned this fact a couple of times before too, this is for the benefit of first-time visitors to the blog!). My grandma (mom’s ma) was with us during that time.
Amma was in hospital for 10 days and I was chiefly in the hospital and used to go home for lunch daily. That was a time when I was on a crazy diet (in retrospect I’m surprised I even had the guts to try it out!) whereby I was totally off rice, ate only fruit and raw salads for lunch, while dinner (latest by 7 pm) was usually some curd-rice and a one cup of fruit/salad. I was very strict about what I ate and to cause least trouble to my grandma, I’d prepare this stuff myself when I went home in the afternoon.
Having run lots of errands at the hospital, one day I was too tired to cut fruit and vegetables and was planning to subsist on fruit juice till dinner. That’s when my grandma gave me one of her stern looks. Now, she’s a very sweet lady who hardly ever gets angry. So, when you get this look from her, you’d rather agree to eat brinjal (I HATE the vegetable, by the way) than face her ire!
But the sweet thing that she is, she did not force any brinjals down my throat. “I have been keeping mum all these days. Iniku pesama porichu kootu sapidu. (Don’t make a fuss. Eat the ‘poricha kootu’ that I’ve prepared),” she glared at me.
I meekly nodded my head and proceeded to fill my usual salad bowl with her preparation. And what a delight it was! Needless to say, my grandma is a fantastic cook. Kootu (a simple dish made with dals/pulses and vegetables) is one of her specialties and she makes an impressive variety of kootu by adding one spice here, reducing another there.
Incidentally, it is quite a healthy dish with little oil and full of protein goodness. You can add vegetables of your choice and adjust spices to your taste. The recipe below mentions quantities for two assuming you’ll go in for multiple servings like me!
Poricha kootu (with tomato, urad dal and red chilies)
Diced vegetables of your choice – 2 cups (I used chow-chow, carrots and green peas today. Beans, broad beans, capsicum, drumsticks, white pumpkin, potatoes etc are all good options)
Moong dal (split green gram/pasi paruppu/payatham paruppu) – 1/2 cup
Toor dal (split red gram/thuvaram paruppu) – ¼ cup
Chana dal (splitBengalgram) – 2 tsp
Urad dal (split black gram) – 2 tsp
Dry red chilies – 3
Tomato – 1 medium
Fresh grated coconut – 1 tsp (optional)
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 4-5
Oil – 1.5 tsp
Heat ½ tsp oil wok
Add urad dal. When it starts to change colour, add red chilies
Take off flame when the dal turns a nice golden brown and the chilies, bloated and bright red in colour
Cool. Grind into a paste along with the tomato and coconut (if using)
Mix the moong dal, toor dal and chana dal and pressure cook in 2 cups of water. Turn off the flame after the third whistle. Let cool
Take diced vegetables in a microwave-safe container and sprinkle some water. Cook for 7 minutes, giving the vegetables a thorough mix once in between.
Alternatively, steam the vegetables in a steamer. Another way to steaming veggies is this: Fill water in pressure cooker till 1 inch level. Place the veggies in an open bowl and keep it in the cooker. Close the lid and place the weight. Switch off the flame when it starts to make some noise and is about to sound the first whistle. If you keep it any longer than this, vegetables tend to turn mushy.
You could also simply boil vegetables in water till just tender.
Add cooked dal to the nearly-done vegetables. Add ground paste. Mix thoroughly. Add water depending on the consistency you want.
Cook for 2-3 minutes. Keep stirring. Take off heat
Heat oil. Splutter 1 tsp mustard seeds and a few curry leaves. Pour this on the kootu and serve.
Traditionally, usage of coconut is a given in poricha kootu. The addition of tomato in this recipe is to cut the quantity of coconut or even leave it out altogether, without compromising the taste.
You can also make this kootu with just moong dal. Using only toor dal makes it a little heavy and a totally toordal-based kootu is traditionally made with tamarind and/or more spices. The addition of chana dal is purely to add to the texture and taste
The dish is prepared with minimum gravy if it is had as a side dish/curry and a watery gravy if it is to be mixed with rice