Elavan Kootu (Ash Gourd Curry)

Kootu (a wet curry) is almost a staple in most South Indian homes. It is invariably bland and there are several types of kootu. Often paired with a sambar (or any other spicy curry that is mixed with rice), kootu is the perfect counterbalance to a spicy curry. There are several ways of preparing kootu and many different vegetables are used, individually or in combination. The recipe presented here uses just ash gourd. This humble vegetable has become somewhat of a hero in recent times, especially in the Northern parts of the country – as people begin to discover its numerous health benefits.

250 gms ash gourd (poosinikai, safed peta), peeled and cubed
1/4 cup Bengal gram (chana dal, kadalai parupu)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
Salt to taste
To Grind
1 tbsp raw rice (I used brown rice)
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 green chilli
1 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
For The Seasoning
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 dried red chilli
1 sprig curry leaves
Cook the Bengal gram in a pressure cooker till soft (about 4 whistles)
Soak the rice in water
Transfer the ash gourd into a heavy bottomed vessel
Add turmeric powder and enough water to cover the vegetable
Cook on medium heat till the ash gourd is soft
Grind the coconut, green chilli, cumin seeds and rice to a paste, adding a little water
Add the cooked Bengal gram and the ground masala to the vegetable
Mix well
Add salt
Continue cooking for a couple of minutes more till everything is well blended
Remove from flame and set aside
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the red chilli and curry leaves
Roast for a few seconds more and add to the cooked curry
Serve hot with red/brown rice and a spicy ‘dal’ like sambar or kuzhambu

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