Continuing the series of Pathiya Samayal Recipes or Recipes for the New Mom, Vegetable Koottu - easy to make, nutritious and very tasty - at least thats what Mridula says, and she should know - I've been making a vegetable koottu as part of lunch, several times a week during the Post Partum diet. The traditional koottu generally has coconut paste added to it, however for the Pathiya Samayal or food for the New mother, I don't add coconut. And of course no chillies - in a regular koottu, fresh chilli would be ground along with the coconut, and a red chili or two added to the tempering or tadka. Pepper is a good substitute for chili in cooking for the new Mom.
Check my post for Menu Ideas and for what goes into a Balanced Meal for the first 40 days after child birth: Cooking for the New Mom Cooking without adding onions, chilies, coconut etc and from only a small selection of vegetables considered healthy for this diet, is not easy, so I have tried to capture my experience in cooking for my daughters, in that post.
The vegetable koottu is a South Indian dish, though I don't know why it is not a Pan Indian one. Perhaps it is because it does not have garam masala and chili powder s as an ingredient. Or perhaps it is a South Indian derivative of the ubiquitous Dal with vegetables added to the dal. Wikipedia says "Kootu (Tamil:கூட்டு) is a Tamil word means "add" i.e. vegetable added with lentils which form the dish, made of vegetable and lentils and are semi-solid in consistency, i.e., less aqueous than sambar, but more so than dry curries.
The caregiver for the new mother is usually rushed for time in the mornings. As for me, I would go to bed only after planning the lunch menu for the next day. The maalish lady would come at 10 and the baby would demand my attention during the time her mother had the maalish and bath. It was 'Me time' for me and my granddaughter for an hour and a half, and I reveled in it. Lunch had to be ready therefore before 10 - a rasam, dal or kuzhambu, a vegetable koottu or a thogayal (vegetable chutney), a sautéed curry or poriyal.
I would wash rice and keep the cooker ready so that I could set the rice to cook 10 minutes before Mridula came for lunch. I like to serve food hot, so I would heat the rasam or kuzhambu just before serving, and fry the manathangali (manathakkali) or black nightshade berries in ghee. Here is a link to an interesting article I came across, on the health benefits of this 'wonder berry'.
The vegetable koottu is an integral part of this menu as it is nutritious, adds the protein and vitamin component to the lunch, and tastes so good with either rasam or a kuzhambu/ sambar. The list of ingredients may seem long, but each little condiment or spice adds to the health of the new mother and helps give her a balanced meal or pathiya samayal. The Koottu may be served with chappaties instead of rice.
Vegetable Koottu - Selecting the Ingredients
When making Vegetable koottu, choose vegetables that are soft and quick to cook - snake gourd (podalankai), saag (arai keerai), pumpkin (either red or white) etc. Mridula's favourite is the drumstick (murungakkai) koottu.
The best dal/ lentils for the new mom, during the 42 days after child birth is the moong dal or pasi paruppu as it is easy to digest and does not cause gas the way thowar or arahar dal would, and adds the protein component to the diet. In fact I observed that even after 42 days when the baby would be better used to mother's milk, a small quantity of thowar dal in the rasam or sambar would often cause gas for the baby. Red/ Pink masoor dal (Mysore paruppu) may be substituted for the moong dal occasionally, to vary the taste, after the first 2 weeks after child birth.
The process is similar for making the vegetable koottu, irrespective of the vegetable used. Boil the lentils and the sliced vegetables with a little salt, asafoetida (hing) and turmeric, add freshly ground peppercorns, mash lightly and temper / tadka with ghee, mustard, fenugreek, cumin seeds and curry leaves.
Links to Other recipes in this series of Cooking for the New Mom:
Pathiya Milagu Kuzhambu (Pepper Sambar) https://www.pepperonpizza.com/pathiya-milagu-kuzhambu-new-mom-recipe
Khichidi for the New Mom: https://www.pepperonpizza.com/easy-khichidi-for-the-new-mom
Easy Vegetable Koottu for the New Mom
For the Vegetable Koottu
- 1 cup sliced vegetables - Diced small for fast cooking
- 1 tablespoon moong dhal - pasi paruppu, skinless split green gram lentils
- 1 cup water
- A few curry leaves
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- a pinch asafoetida powder - hing, perungayam
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- a pinch salt and to taste
- ½ tablespoon ghee
- ¼ teaspoon Mustard seeds - rai, kadugu
- a few Fenugreek seeds - methi, menthiyam
- a pinch split black lentils - urad dal, ullutham paruppu
- ¼ teaspoon Cumin seeds - jeera
- a few curry leaves
To Make Vegetable Koottu for the New Mom
- Preparation: Wash the selected vegetable, dice evenly into small (about a cm square) slices. The more uniform the slices, the better they will cook. Slice the drumsticks, if using into equal length - about 4-5 cms long. The Peel needs to be removed from pumpkin, if using, while the other vegetables such as gourds or drumsticks do not need to be peeled. Wash the moong dal, check for any stones or grit and remove them.
- Place a small cooking utensil on the stove, add a cup of water and begin heating it. Add the dal, sliced vegetables, turmeric, hing (asafoetida) and a pinch of salt. Shred a few curry leaves (one or two) and add.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the flame and cook the vegetables and dal on a low flame. Stir frequently as they may catch at the bottom of the vessel and burn or char.
- After about 10- 12 minutes, the dal and vegetables would have cooked, the vegetables generally cooking faster than the dal. Drumsticks may take a little longer than the dal. If the water is used up before the dal and veggies are cooked, top up with a little water, about a tablespoon at a time. Using a whisk or a buttermilk churner (mathu), mash the dhal so that it blends with the cooked vegetables.
- Add freshly ground pepper and salt to taste. Stir and remove from the stove so that the koottu does not continue to cook on the heat of the stove even when turned off.
To Temper the Vegetable Kootu
- Heat ghee, turn the stove to low flame, add mustard seeds and let them burst. Add fenugreek seeds, sauté for 3-4 seconds till they burst, add urad dal (split black lentils), sauté for 3-4 seconds till they just begin to change colour. Add cumin seeds, sauté and add curry leaves.
- Pour the tempering on the vegetable koottu. Warm the koottu before serving along with chappaties or rice to the new mother.