Friday, September 04, 2009

Tamil Keerai Kootu Varieties

Kootus are mild, thick curries built from boiled lentils and coconut. A thick kootu without boiled lentils starts resembling a poriyal and a kootu without coconut borders on becoming a dal curry. So cooking a kootu without coconut or lentils is best left to experts. A Kootu is always mildly flavoured. Too much of spices / chilies are never used. A huge variety of spinach is used in Tamil kootus, some of which are listed below  : 

0.:  Arai Keerai  kootu

1.: Mulai Keerai  kootu

2.: Thandan Keerai  kootu

3.: Ponnanganni Keerai  kootu

4.: Murungai Keerai  kootu

5.: Agathi Keerai  kootu

6.: Vendaiya kerai kootu

7.:  Palak keerai  kootu

8.: Manathakkali Keerai kootu

9.: Fusion kootu ( Bok Choy kootu, Kale kootu etc)

The base :
Kootus  are cooked with a variety of dals , though Bengal gram ( Kadalai paruppu), Tuvar dal ( Tuvaram paruppu) and Mung dal ( Pasi paruppu) are the most common. A mixture of lentils is  also used. A kootu cooked with yogurt is a Thayir kootu. The popular Aviyal is a type of thayir kootu. A sweetish pal kootu is cooked up from from milk / coconut milk. Kootus can be eaten not just with rice, but with a variety of flatbreads like chappatis and parathas. Being mild, they also serve as an excellent introduction to south Indian cuisine. A large variety of spinach go well with kootus.

The flavouring :
The blended paste of cocont, cumin and chilies are common to all kootus. . Like most Tamil curries, all kootus can be garnished with a pinch of mustard and curry leaves fried in oil. In addition a mix of fried, roast & ground  or fried and ground spices ( listed in column 2) can be used as flavouring. Ready made kootu podi can be mixed in for an extra burst of flavour.

Easy Kootu podi :

 Take ½ handful roasted urad dal,  1 spoon of roasted chana dal  and 3 red chilies. Add to a mixie and blend all to a powder. Optionally add a bit of dhania, pepper, cumin, curry leaves or sesame seeds.

 Spinach used.: 
Almost  any edible greens can be used in a kootu. A huge variety of spinach is consumed across south India and all of them can be turned into delicious kootus. It is faster to precook spinach and add it to the kootu. Spinach can be easily cooked in the following ways :

Stir frying : Heat a spoon of oil. Add two handfuls of chopped spinach.& stir fry for 3 - 5 minutes.

Boiling :Bring a liter of water to a boil. Add a spoon of salt. Add two handfuls of chopped spinach. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Pour in a colander to drain water. (Chitra rightly points out you lose nutrients here by draining the water. To minimise nutrient loss you can cook spinach in the simmering kootu itself. Would however take longer to cook.)

Microwaving : Add two handfuls of chopped spinach in a microwave safe cup. Sprinkle a bit of water. Cover loosely and cook on high for 1 -2 minutes.
Pressure cooking : Add two handfuls of chopped spinach to a pressure cooker. Add half a cup of water, Pressure cook on medium heat for 2 whistles.


Journo Deepa said...

Ramki, I think it is not a great idea to boil spinach in a litre of water and then draining all the water. All the nutrition is washed out as well is it not? :(
Chitra Deepa anantharam

Ramki said...

Hi Chitra,

You are right. It is partly true that some nutrients are lost. but since the cooking time is brief, you'd be more like blanching them than boiling them to death.

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