A recipe for a mixed vegetable kootu made using seasonal winter vegetables – a dish prepared in Tamil homes
Winter vegetables are love
In India, come winter and the vegetables look extra bright and happy – especially the red carrots, the tender green beans, blemish free cauliflowers and the plump green peas. Ever since I started tending to my kitchen garden, I am first hand witness to the effect that this pleasant Bangalore winter has on the vegetables. A few days we had some harsh sun and the broccoli florets bolted to give out yellow flowers and then pods which housed the seeds. And a few days of cold weather and I did manage to get some other broccolis whole.
We also got a generous harvest of sweet potatoes this season and there’s still more to come. Then there’s Avare or flat beans that come up on their own from the fallen seeds of last year. They just wait for December to take over the metal grille with their pretty heart shaped leaves, white flowers and bunches of flat beans the size of my little finger. If we don’t pluck them on time, we open the pods and use the ‘bean’ within.
My not to great relationship with kootu
As a kid, if the response to ‘What’s for lunch?’ was ‘kootu’, instant loss of appetite would happen. It used to be a boring old thing made to combat the routine of sambar and rasam. My granny would say it’s a day off for extracting pulp from soaked tamarind, which is the first step to making a rasam or sambar at home.
Decades of avoiding Kootu meant I would never want to make it when I started running my own kitchen. And then suddenly one day, you feel homesick (yes, this is possible) and you want to eat that hated dish of your childhood that now becomes comfort food. You can debate on how something as ‘blah’ as kootu can be comfort food, but this is a completely relative thing. Just like how I don’t question how Maggi can be anybody’s comfort food :D’
The thing about kootu is that it forms a handy vehicle to eat the most boring of vegetables such as bottle gourd, snake gourd, chayote squash (chow chow) and THE dish to resort to when you have a little bit of everything left in the vegetable crisper. This morning I woke up and I thought of this simple dish, not made with boring veggies but brimming with the freshness of colourful winter vegetables. It was convenient that I did have all these vegetables in stock. Plus, I added home grown sweet potato and avare beans to the mix, and it turned out into quite the colourful party.
One thing to remember while making a kootu is that the consistency depends on how you want to eat it. If you want to mix it into rice, then keep it thinner and thicker if you want to keep it as a vegetable side dish to be served with rasam (for example) and rice.