Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Puli Kootu (Tangy Vegetable Stew)

Sri Om.
Puli Kootu is my favourite of the kootu family. It's a tangy and spicy sambhar-like stew, with my favourite ingredient - peanuts! It's slightly time consuming, but worth it if you're having guests over for lunch. I love having it as is.

This week, I've been listening to an old favourite by Ilayaraja. Swarnalatha and Mano have done an outstanding job with this number, really suiting Rajnikanth and Meena. From the movie, Veeraa, this song has been composed in a very unique tune; both catchy and melodious. I think it's in the raga, Natabhairavi - 
"Malai kovil vaasalil, kaarthigai deepam minnuthe,
Vilaketrum velaiyil, anandha gaanam solluthe...

Muthu muthu chudarey sudarey, kodu vendidum varangalaiyae
Vanna vanna kathirae kathirae, kodu aayiram sugangalaiyae..."

If you haven't heard this song yet, you must listen to it! It's simply beautiful...

Off to today's recipe..

For puli kootu, you ought to think of the dish this way: if you were to separate the dish into four portions, then -
1/4 part - Tamarind essence
1/4 part - The ground up mixture of coconut and spices
1/4 part - Vegetables
1/4 part - Cooked lentils

Thinking of it this way, it's easier to picture what needs to be done and what the dish constitutes of.

Time req: 40 minutes
Yield: Will easily serve 6 people.

1/2 ash gourd (pooshnika)
1/2 pumpkin (parangika)
1 or 2 chokos (chow chow/benglore kathrikai)
You can use other vegetables too such as snake gourd, eggplant, ash gourd, sweet potato, and other hard ground/root vegetables.
1 cup of toor daal (thoram paruppu)
1 cup of chana daal (kadala paruppu)
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric (manja podi)
1 pinch of asafoetida (hing/perungaayam/LG)
1 golfball-sized piece of tamarind soaked in warm water
A handful of peanuts
Salt to taste.

For ground mixture -
1 tablespoon of chana dal (kadala paruppu)
1 tablespoon of urad dal (ulutham paruppu)
1 heap teaspoon of coriander seeds (dhania)
1 strand of curry leaves (karuvappillai)
4 or 5 dried red chillies (vatha molaga)

1.5 cups of grated or dessicated coconut to grind with.

Method - Short and sweet.
Cook lentils. Boil cut up vegetables in little water. Add turmeric and asafoetida. Squeeze essence from two pieces of tamarind using hot water. Add to vegetable pot. Add peanuts. Dry roast ingredients under "For Ground Mixture" except for coconut. Allow to cool. Grind into a paste with coconut and water. Add to pot of vegetables. Add cooked lentils. Add salt. Mix well. Boil. Done.

In a pressure cooker, first keep the toor daal and chana daal (1 cup each), and cook them very well on a low heat for more than 5 whistles. Otherwise, they won't cook properly. Once they're cooked, they should be so soft that you should be able to mash them. See:
In a small pan, dry roast the ingredients under "For Ground Mixture" EXCEPT FOR THE COCONUT.
Once you have roasted them, keep them aside till it cools down:
Cut up your vegetables in 2cm X 2cm chunks. In a thick bottomed vessel, add the vegetables, and put just enough water to cover the vegetables, and heat it on sim.
Don't allow it to overcook. It needs to stay in its shape and not go mushy. Add turmeric and asafoetida/hing/LG.
Add two small pieces of tamarind to hot water, and allow it to stew in it. Then squeeze out the essence.

Drain it out with your hands, and put it into the pot of vegetables, once most of the water has evaporated.
Add a handful of peanuts.
Allow the mixture to boil.
Now, take the dry roasted spices, and put them into a blender.
 Add the 1.5 cups of coconut.
Add about 1 cup of water, and grind till it is a very smooth mixture.
 Add it to the pot.
Now add the cooked lentils. All salt to taste.
 Let it boil for 10 minutes, till it has thickened. Turn off the heat.

Serve hot with rice and pappadum/applam :)