mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

You could call it Kootu, I suppose

In Low Fat, south Indian, Under 30 min!, Vegetables, Vegetarian on September 14, 2008 at 10:05 pm

At the end of a more-than-full work day we all deserve to put our feet up and get the much needed rest.  Recharge our batteries.  Good wholesome food contributes much to this recharge.  Many of us also admit to the therapeutic qualities of the act of cooking itself!


Roth – the baked kind. Crusty, you think?
This is my entry for the September edition of Click! the photo event at Jugalbandi.

The last couple of weeks have been more fast paced than ever for me.  Work, work related travel, sister’s visit, Ganesh Chaturthi and the Pun Pooza, and the continuing house renovation, all came to a head. As if I didn’t have enough on my plate already, the maid had to make a sudden visit to her hometown – an extended three week visit.  Which isn’t so bad actually.  Now I can multitask – plan the meal as I brew my evening cup of tea, have all the burners going and cook the veggies as I temper the dal, or roll out roti, and not have to deal with less-than-perfect food prep.  Much better.

Last night, after a grueling 11 hour work day (when I was lucky to have two additional people helping out!) I knew I needed a special meal.  TH brought me a Toro Bravo while I was still at my desk.  It needed to be a rice-night (that means, rice as the main starch for me), I could tell. Nothing short of the comfort of good old Kashmiri food would do.  Though it was late, I prepared dum aloo along with my nani’s special mung dal and served it with steamed rice (and roti – for the undiscerning).

makai bakarwadiHow about this for Crusty?

Today, it is pizza for a lazy Sunday lunch.

Such special meals have been many, just that the time to share with you has been hard to come by.  One such meal, a couple of weeks ago, comprised pumpkin, usually the last vegetable to get used from my weekly stash of groceries. It is not on the son’s list of edible foods.  Me, I love all my veggies.  While prices for most vegetables have gone up three-fold in the last month, many ringing in at Rs60(!) per kilo, this one continues to sell for under Rs10 for a kilogram.  I, for one, am not complaining.

my southie mealBeetroot rasam and taro roast with steamed rice

That night I wanted to do something different.  I again needed it to be a rice-night.  Which meant that baakar bhaaji, very much a favourite, wasn’t going to cut it.  And I was not in the mood for the fiery Kashmiri-style dum-pumpkin either.  I think, that night, I really needed to be in touch with my past-life-Tamil-self.  Yes, I have zeroed in, with the help of my Madrasi friend, to the place of my past-life-roots within Southern India.  I drew on those roots that night, and put together something wonderfully fragrant and mild-tempered in the Madrasi fashion (don’t kill me for saying that, please) – you know the kadipatta and mustard seeds combo, and had myself a colourful meal made in heaven.  There was yellow pumpkin, fuschia beetroot rasam, with white rice (and roti – for the undiscerning, of course).  Lifted my spirit right up.  We polished off in one sitting what normally constitutes two meals for us.

It was so good that I made it again the following week.  And this time I knew I must use restraint and take pictures before serving it.

When I shared the recipe with my Madrasi friend (who is sick of me raving about the kuzhambus, rasams, pitla, and kootus that I have been dishing out lately), and asked if it sounded remotely Southie… She was disgusted to admit that it sounded a lot like pumpkin poricha kootu to her!  I was thrilled! The garlic makes it more Kerala than Tamil Nadu, but it’s still Madrasi to a lot of us!

Here it is, the pumpkin kootu of my dreams, from my dreams!  In this dish I prefer to use the less-ripe pumpkin, with greenish flesh rather than the fully-ripe sweeter yellow kind.

pumpkin kootu
Pumpkin Poricha Kootu
(Pumpkin curry with coconut)

500gms (about 1 lb) pumpkin, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes
1/2 t turmeric

For the coconut masala:
2 T fresh grated coconut
1 t cumin seeds
2-5 hot green chillies
1/2 t turmeric
1-2 cloves garlic

for the tempering:
2 t oil
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds
pinch of hing
few curry leaves

Pressure cook the prepared pumpkin, with half a teaspoon of turmeric, till soft but still holding shape (about 5-7 min.), or cook with a little water in a pan till tender. Using a little water grind all the ingredients for the coconut masala. Add this masala to the cooked pumpkin and simmer for a few minutes to blend the flavours. Rinse out the grinder and add that water to the simmering stew.

To prepare the tempering, heat oil in a cast iron ladle or pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds to the hot oil; remember to cover to catch all the spluttering mustard. When the spluttering stops, add hing followed by the curry leaves. Cover quickly because the addition of curry leaves also causes fine oil sprays all over! Once the curry leaves have done their magic, pour the tempering over the cooked pumpkin (which is now off the heat) and seal tight with a lid for a few minutes to let the fragrance infuse the curry. Serve over warm rice.

pumpkin kootu

Just a reminder:
Do please contribute generously to Srivalli’s fundraiser for her young maid, Anita Lakshmi, who is in urgent need of heart surgery.  A little help will go a long way and make it possible for her to receive the medical attention she requires but cannot afford.  She has two young children who are totally dependent on her alone.  You can make your contributions through Chip In or send cheques in Indian rupees.  Read all about it on Srivalli’s blog. There are also raffle prizes to be won!

  1. This is food that graces our table a lot of the time, being a Madrasi (but not from Madras!).:)
    For a nicer flavour (if you don’t ming coconut oil), do the tempering in coconut oil and that takes this kootu to another level.

    Ours too! I am not averse to coconut oil at all! Might try that next time.

  2. I’m a Madrasi… part assumed Madrasi and part real Madrasi 🙂 And your entire meal looks super cool.

    And when do I getting the promised Madrasi baingan?

  3. Ohhh Anita I do like that crusty picture! 😉 I am a rice girls too. I find myself craving for it when I get a bit homesick – weird eh? Then I usually simply make a simple dal and enjoy it with my fingers LOL! I like this pumpkin kootu. It’s perfect Fall food! I have a hokaido pumpkin – can I use that?

    Dal-chaval (eaten with fingers!) rocks! I had no energy to cook dinner tonight – it was therefore, another dal-chaval nite with some plaintain chips.
    From what I found out about hokaido pumpkin – it should be a good choice. I think this recipe should work for any squash.

  4. hi yah
    Lovely pics n tempting dishes!!
    Pumpkin poricha kottu is my fav n my mom makes in every now n then

    So, you agree then this is very Madrasi then? Thanks!

  5. oh..more garlic makes it andhra too..atleast at our home…:)..lovely pictures..

    And thanks for the support Anita, really appreciate it. does my cumin+mustard tempering, I guess! Very yummy – all them ‘Madrasi’ cuisines. 😉

  6. This curry looks sensational: I can’t wait to try it…. I’ve gone off Thai-style curries laden with coconut milk, but this looks extremely enticing!

    The curry really is disarmingly simple. The two tablespoons of coconut were surprisingly enough to give just the right richness to an otherwise very light curry. Very very satisfying.

  7. It sounds quite good, and it looks splendid (I thank the gods for India or I would never eat pumpkin!), but I think I would mix in the tadke a little better before serving it instead of leaving it all in one lump like that. 😀

    Lump? LUMP?!

    😀 But stirred it was, my friend. I have learned to keep a tight lid after being smacked on the hands many times for forgetting the correct way to do a Madrasi tadka. Remove the lid, stir, and serve.

  8. …I lied. It should say: …I would never eat pumpkin… other than in pie! Except I have started to like sweet potato pie moreso, but that’s another story.

    Of course. And cherry pie, where does that stand?

  9. Er, Pel, that ‘lump’? That is frou-frou. You might just have hurt our dear hostess’ feelings. Now you will have to ask for forgiveness and that might involve a few bottles of pickle. And while you’re at it, please send a few or five to me, too.

    Oh and that Toro Bravo (hic) – man, is that strong or is it STRONG!

    Yeah, that Toro Bravo is just what the doctor ordered!

    Are you ignoring my pumpkin by any chance?

  10. me love the look of the roth. crusty indeed.

    Ummm…great with Kahva.
    And the kootu – what about that?

  11. omg!!! that kootu looks delicious.. my mom makes the same recipe with ash pumpkins.. the white ones?? it is so out of the world, tasty!

    It’s authentic! It really was unbelievably good – so unpretentious. And what a breeze to cook! The rice-kootu meal was ready in under 30 min ’cause I cooked the rice and the pumpkin together!

  12. and sorry I missed your vada party! hope you all had a great time! I’ll be there next time.

    And we missed you! Yup, next time!

  13. Ah yes, pumpkin. Did you grow your own?

    Now if you had used coriander seeds in your coconut masala, that might have been more northern Madrasi. And some ginger also. And red chillies in the phodni.

    Nice pumpkin recipe. I will surely try this as the pumpkin season is upon us. Only prob is the garlic. Lately the child has been taking desi khana for lunch so I would probably reduce the quantity of garlic – 1-2 cloves is about how much? Out here, it’s a lot as each clove is mucho humongo.

    So you sending that in for crust? I want to send a pic of my eyelids in the morning but that is culinary for cats only so I doubt Bee will allow it. The instant I send it in, I will get a comment that says: “You have mail.” [Of course, I have mail. I *always* have mail.

    Why should I have a pumpkin patch – you are the one with the 0.1 Ac lot – I only have a terrace garden (with 2 grapevines now!) in a city lot.

    You are not just saying “will surely try” na? I know you will like it and it is so quick that you will love it for that too!

    With Bee, it has to not just be culinary but look-like-culinary too… lol. She’s very particular. She makes the rules 😉 – it is her blog! lol

  14. kootu is nice any which way, dear anita. that pumpkin in the kootu looks darn sexy. but show me something crusty, and i get distracted – even if they are manisha’s eyelids.

    i gotta post kahva soon. i love it (mroe than chai) and keep thinking “i’m going to make some today” and forget.

    and what is this “northern madrasi” the one from northern colorado refers to?

    You are easily distracted. The title for the post should have brought you back…but who cares about the subject on these pages….
    Kahva is especially great in the cool weather, the warming spices and nuts hitting the spot even more so. Since it is green tea, you can down as much as you like and never get the tanin-ny feeling in your tummy.
    Looks like TLO knows a lot about Madrasi cuisine in addition to knowing her history!

  15. Eeeeeooooo. Culinary for cats. Waaaay TMI. Mine just do my hair for me; they would give me a trim and set it in curlers if I let them. But what’s this? I am now paying for tongue-in-cheek with pickles? I’d best behave then: stay indoors on these last golden days, venturing out for little else but to collect the lumpy green bitter things.

    You do know that since you’ve mentioned coriander seeds being used in the Uttar Madrasi version that she will try it- (is that costing me another pickle?) And her son will be rolling his eyes at yet another avatar of pumpkin.

    Anita, yes indeed I like a slice of cherry pie once every 5 years. It has to be home-made (preferrably by yours truly-), but I’d much rather have a chocolate anything. It could have a few cherries mixed in. Cherry pickle is a brilliant idea! Thanks.

    Which lumpy bitter green things are you talking about? Fiddlehead ferns (I know nothing about them)? Too late for dandelion greens too I guess…
    And cherry wine! Oooh, and the cherries from that – divine.

  16. I might refrain from killing you for calling all southies “madrasis”!!! It is awful lingo used by more than the bearable % of N. Indians – educated and illeterate – et al…I wonder how they do it.and I wonder why S. Indians dont call all N. Indian Punjabis, or Haryanavis, or Himachalis for that matter?? Well, its a debatable topic, but the kootu does look yumm. You have some energy to whip up all this after 11 hrs of work…..Kudos to you.

    😀 Thanks for being the good sport you are, Shella!
    In all honesty, I refer to only this one Madrasi friend (who is from Madras) thus – and only because she calls herself one. Thankfully, we had very good Geography text books in the middle-grades published by NCERT, and lucky for me, I love geography! I do use the term South Indian though, which I find is a fair use because there are many commonalities between the cultures of the South, as there are in the cultures of the Indian Northern Plains.
    South Indians don’t think all North Indians are Punjabis? 😆 But, then we also say that South Indians are brainy, don’t we! [My grandmother, and most Kashmiris, used to address all non-Kashmiris as Punjabi! Says a lot about our frog-in-the-well mindset.]

  17. Ah! You mean cherry bounce? That be cherries soaked in vodka…with a bit of sugar if the cherries are sour (which are the best for cooking- or in this case, steeping- usually). I’ve also made blueberries in tequila for yet another fine cordial (I think that is the right term for these soaked concoctions…liqueur would be distilled again after the soaking, but don’t quote me on any of this!). Cherry wine, on the other hand, is made just like grape wine- fermented. Nothing left to nibble on but squishy dregs… this stuff (fruit wine) is common as punch around here (…)

    But my favorite is plum!

  18. BTW: one can become quite tipsy from eating those cherries…

  19. Dear God, please help them all. Help them find out that there was once more than the city of Madras. Help them look up Madras Province, then Madras State. Then they might understand historical and geographical significance of ‘Madrasi’ instead of attributing it to parochialism and writing rant after rant about it.

    Help Pel also. (BTW, Pel, are you going to any of the town meetings in GreenBay today? It would provide for a great deal of entertainment. And lipstick.) Help him make more pickle, of course. What did you think I was going on about?

    Also help Anita find new vocabulary. Every response of hers has “what about my pumpkin?” or “what about the kootu?” Only you would know what she is talking about. Also help her move the decimal place several places to the right so that she gets the acreage of my plot correct.

    Also help Bee look up what I mean by northern Madrasi since she doesn’t read my blog on her post. Or is it my post on her comment? Or is it…never mind. Whatever. But since she won’t and might not even read this, I will be explicit for the rest of them all: the South Canara region, which includes Mangalore. I will admit that I had to look up the specifics of that last bit.

    There is a treasure trove of information on Madras Province and Madras State in the wikipedia. Although I was told about this Madrasi thing by a Tamilian who now lives in Bangalore. He is also my self-proclaimed godfather. Which makes him old. Even older than Anita’s generation. And definitely older than everyone else who is screaming bloody murder at the term Madrasi. Such promise of violence! And all Anita wants to really know about is her pumpkin and her kootu.


  20. Oh! Anita, the fiddlehead ferns…those are a springtime thing. But no, I haven’t tried them. But remember that day (I forgot to mention: Manisha said something about decibels on her acreage) when I hauled a friend off to a park for a little stroll? And I wore him plum out with the uphill gully- not to mention the skeeters? That day. There were bunches of clipped-off fern-heads everywhere (the leaves unroll from a spiralesque bud on a stalk)…so, apparantly, someone local really likes ’em. I was paying closer attention that day to the skunk cabbages. Which aren’t really edible.

    But… it’s mustard-greens galore here right now. And karela, of course. 🙂

    Manisha. Saurkraut?

  21. hmmmm… i’d forgotten that manisha is a brit.

    if anyone who came from the erstwhile madras province is madrasi, all indians are britishers, right? ‘cos india was part of britain.

    and all gujjus are bombayites since it was part of bombay province?

    i’m a mongrel with an american passport, so it doesn’t matter what you call them, really. 😀

  22. […] while fresh…  Enough to make me wonder if I might have had a past life connection to Italy in addition to that with Southern India!  I kid you not, I did all this reasearch after having consumed my meal.  Of course I searched the […]

  23. Bee, it makes no difference to me: Gujarati or Bombayite or Goan or Madrasi or Punjabi.

    Or even British. Call me anything – just don’t call me late for dinner (or whatever that smart saying is). 😀

  24. […] Meat Loaf with Halloumi and Vegetables @ Kopiaste.. to Greek Hospitality Festive Crust @ A Mad Tea Party Tiger or Leopard? @ My Diverse Kitchen A Braided Crust @ Tangerine’s Kitchen Dries tomato […]

  25. Hmmm never had garlic with kootu…this is a first for me. Must try it.

    Kamla Bhatt

  26. Oh yes, the prices of all vegetables have shot up astronomically but that doesn’t deter us from cooking our favourite foods, right?

    A truly good post! Looking forward to more stuff from you. Keep writing.

  27. Hello!
    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

    Are you sure you are talking about the kootu????

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