Kootu is a type of vegetable stew that is made often in South Indian homes and is a great way to combine lentils and vegetables in a one pot dish. Kootu is made with vegetables, lentils and fresh coconut that are all delicately flavored with spices and is served over steaming white rice. With this combination of ingredients one doesn’t need anything else – protein, starch and vegetables are all taken care of in one delicious meal.
For many people including myself when the word lentil pops up in a recipe it sounds like a lot of work because lets face it, we have to cook the lentils forever to get them to be tender. But if you have an instapot or a pressure cooker any recipe with lentils is a breeze to make. Seriously folks, with either one of these cooking pots any lentil recipe gets transformed into an easy lentil recipe.
There are many variations of kootu, for this recipe I’ve made a version that involves cooking the veggies first, then adding the cooked lentils. And lastly to flavor the kootu I made a paste with coconut, dry lentils and spices. All these ingredients are roasted until fragrant and then ground into a paste. This paste is then added to the kootu at the end. Because the paste is made with roasted coconut and spices, they partake a wonderful smoky flavor and aroma. This version of kootu is called araichu kootu – which translates to ground paste kootu.
Araichu Kootu. Squash Stew with Coconut and Lentils
- 1/2-cup moong lentils or yellow lentils cooked until tender according to package directions.
- 2 tbsp of dried lentils moong lentils or yellow lentils to make a spice paste.
- 1 ridge gourd skin removed and cut into small cubes – about 4 cups. Use yellow squash or pumpkin as a substitute.
- 1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut, you can also use frozen shredded coconut
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 red or green chilies seeds removed to keep the dish mild
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 2 tsp asafetida powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- A few curry leaves (optional)
- Cilantro sprigs finely cut
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 lemon
- In a large pot heat 2 tbsp coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them pop. Next add the asafetida powder and turmeric powder and fry in oil just for just 1-2 seconds. Do not burn the spices! Immediately add the the cut squash and curry leaves if using. Add salt and 1 cup water, cover the pot and cook the vegetables until tender, about 7-10 minutes.
- In the meantime dry roast 2 tbsp lentils, red chilies and cumin seeds for about 3-5 minutes until lentils are golden brown. Add the shredded coconut and continue to roast until coconut is toasted. Place this in a mini food processor and blend into a thick paste. Add about 1/2 cup water to be able to make the coconut paste.
- Once the vegetables are cooked add the cooked lentils and mix-in. Next add the coconut paste and incorporate into the stew. Cook for an additional 5 minutes for all the flavors to get absorbed.
- Turn the stove off. Add juice of 1 lemon and garnish with fresh cilantro.
- Serve kootu over steaming white rice.
- Add a tbsp of fragrant ghee to make it extra special!