Saturday, February 13, 2010

Quick Parangikkai Koottu (Pumpkin Lentil Stew)

Being a big fan of Koottu, I'm always looking for ways to make it quickly. Koottu is a wonderful Tamilian stew that is nutritious, low-fat and filling. A good introduction to some of the ways to make Koottu can be found here. While I love the Pal koottus, Mor Koottus and Araichuvitta varieties(ones involving grinding), I'd settle for an easy short cut Koottu on a busy day.


1 C Pumpkin, cut into small cubes
1/2 C Chana Dhal(Bengal Gram Dhal)
2 Green Chillies
1 Red Chilli
1/2 t Turmeric
1 T Sambhar Powder
1 T Coconut, grated
10-12 Curry leaves
1 T Cilantro, minced
1 t Mustard seeds
1 t Urad Dhal
Asafoetida, a pinch
Salt, to taste

Start out by washing the Chana Dhal and boiling it in a pot with 2C water. While the Dhal is boiling, peel and dice the pumpkin, slit the green chillies. After 20 min, when the Dhal still retains the shape, but is mostly cooked, add the pumpkin pieces and the green chillies. Cover and let it cook for 10 more minutes, adding water as needed. Add Sambhar powder, salt and turmeric and cook for 5 more minutes. Prepare a tempering by heating the oil, sputtering mustard seeds, Urad Dhal, Red Chilli, Asafoetida and Curry leaves. Add to the cooked Dhal and pumpkin mixture and remove from the heat. Add the grated coconut(frozen works okay) and the cilantro.

This koottu tastes delicious with Rice/Chapattis. Using a pressure cooker would make the cooking process even faster and more energy-efficient.

Katthirikkai Thogayal ( Brinjal Chutney )

Though this recipe is nearly the same as what appears in Meenakshi Ammal's priceless gem, I thought I'd post about this thogayal anyway. I enjoyed it so much and it was so delicious, that it really does deserve a post! People who aren't fans of brinjal seem to like it as well. This is usually made with the Indian brinjal, roasted on a flame but I tried it with a big eggplant. While it doesnt taste the same as with the brinjal, it is pretty good.


1 large Eggplant
1 T Urad Dhal
2 Red Chillis, Dried
1 t Mustard seeds
1 t Tamarind paste
1 T Oil
Curry leaves, a sprig
Salt, to taste

Smear the eggplant with a little oil and roast in the oven for about 30 min at 375F, or until the skin gets blistered and dark. Let the eggplant cool, and peel the skin. Meanwhile, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, Urad Dhal and red chillies. Once the seeds pop and the dhal turns reddish brown, add the curry leaves, asafoetida and tamarind and remove from the heat. Add the peeled eggplant to this and grind to a coarse paste with salt. Check for sourness and add more tamarind as desired.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Red Pepper Soup

This soup reminds me of fall.. it uses butternut squash (which is a winter squash, usually harvested in September - October). Also, with the addition of roasted red pepper, the soup is a gorgeous reddish orange, reminiscent of the beautiful crimson and gold leaves on trees in fall. I tried a new technique on an old recipe and it turned out to be quicker and tastier.


1 Butternut Squash
1 Onion
1 Red Bell Pepper
1-2 stalks Celery, chopped
1/4 tsp Rosemary
1-2 Bay leaves
1 tbsp + 1tsp Olive oil
1/4 tsp Cinnamon
1/8 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 tsp Garam Masala( I used Kitchen King)
3 C water

Halve the Butternut squash, Red Bell Pepper and quarter the Onion. Toss in 1 T Olive oil and roast in an oven at 375F for about 30-45 min. Place the Squash with the skin side facing up. The red pepper and onions get roasted much faster than the squash (in about half the time), so watch carefully to avoid burning. The red pepper is done when the skin gets charred. The squash is done when it is fork-tender. Place the roasted red pepper in a covered bowl, letting it sweat for about 10 minutes. After that, the skin slips off easily. Peel the Squash skin as well and cut into large chunks.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a soup pot and add the bay leaves and celery. After about 3 minutes, add the roasted squash, peppers and onions, cinnamon, rosemary, nutmeg, Garam Masala and water. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool and puree to desired consistency. Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, or a swirl of cream, a topping of toasted sunflower/pumpkin seeds or just as is.

The sweetness of squash and red bell pepper, intensified by roasting, worked really well in a soup that is alive with flavors. A great meal starter.