My new-found fascination for kootu (cooked vegetables with dal) seems to have no reason or occasion to die down, what with me running into some new variety every other week. A couple of months ago, my grandma introduced me to three new ways of making the same old stuff, simply by leaving out one ingredient here or adding a new one there.
Yesterday, at a pooja at my sis-in-law’s place, I got to sample yet another variety of kootu. This one literally blew me apart. So far, the kootus I was exposed to were either spicy or bland, but this had a variety of flavours that fought – each trying to outdo the other. It was spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time! And it neither had any vegetable, nor cooked dal, which is how it came to be called ‘thani’, meaning separate/alone in Tamil.
It was somewhat similar to a kuzhambu (a spicy-tangy chutney eaten with rice) with fresh-ground spices, but was still under the kootu category. It can be eaten as a side-dish or mixed with rice. It could also be used as an interesting chutney/dip for Indian snacks (idlis, upma, dosa, adai, rotis and even samosas!). The same is also prepared with cooked payatham paruppu (green gram dal/moong dal) and snake gourd (called thani-podalangai kootu) or brinjal.
Sadly, I did not have the camera and even if I did, I would have been reprimanded by the elders for taking pics while pooja was in progress. I’ll try it out one of these days and put up pics of the same. Btw, I do remember that pics of the chukkan-kottai keerai plant (it is a croton variety plant with leaves that look like overgrown betel leaves) are due. Will put them up once I get the opportunity to go shoot them.
Incidentally, I did manage to engage the cook at yesterday’s pooja in a friendly chat and learnt how she prepared the thani kootu.
(This will yield about 1/2 cup kootu)
Red chilli – 4-5
Chana dal (kadala paruppu/Bengal gram) – 1 tbsp
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Hing (peringayam/asafoetida) – a big pinch
Urad dal – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Tamarind – size of a small lemon
Jaggery – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
Extract pulp from the tamarind (Boil a cup of water and drop tamarind in it. Let it stay this was for 15-20 mins. Once cool, squeeze the tamarind and separate the pulp and keep aside)
Heat 1 tsp oil and add chana dal. When dal starts to turn colour, add red chillies and coriander seeds. Add hing and take off heat. Let cool and dry grind coarsely
Heat 1 tsp oil and splutter mustard seeds. Add urad dal. Add tamarind pulp when dal turns golden. Keep stirring every couple of mins
Add ground powder and jaggery when tamarind reduces to half quantity
Mix well and cook for about 5 mins. Sprinkle a little water if it seems too thick
Take off heat, add salt, mix well and serve
(The consistency of the end product should be similar to that of chutneys)