Beetroot kootu (stew), a mildly sweet and spicy coconut-ty stew. It is made with cumin and coconut spice paste and seasoned with coconut oil tempering. This is a quick and easy meal loaded with all the veggie goodness when you are pressed for time or when you have to empty your refrigerator!
Kootu literally translates 'to add' in tamil but it can also mean 'to augment' something. It is believed that this is how this dish was born, out of necessity. To make something quick with the remaining excess veggies. To augment the quantity, veggies are mixed with some lentils and ground coconut paste to form a semi consistency stew. You can make this with almost all kinds of veggies. A mix of veggies or just your favourite!
Kootu is one of the healthiest dishes from South India and the best way to include veggies in your diet. It is a semi solid side dish that is consumed along with poriyal ( dry veggie side dish) as a side dish to rice.
As you may know, South Indians love their rice and we need a gravy like kuzhambu or rasam to mix with plain white rice and some form of dry veggies on the side. Kootu here is an in between of sorts. It is a semi gravy dish that can be mixed with rice and had as a main course or make it slightly thicker and consumed as a side dish.
Most of the veggies can be used in preparation of this dish. You can use a mix of veggies or just your favourite!
The traditional ones are winter melon / ash gourd ( vellai poosanikai), chayote (chow chow), cabbage, snakegourd and avarakkai (broad beans). You can also use beets, zucchini, squash, cucumber, etc... and even fresh greens like spinach.
Kootu is majorly eaten as a side dish / accompaniment to sambar and rice or rasam / vatha kuzhambu and rice.
Kootu can also be mixed with plain white rice and consumed as a main dish.
This is also a great accompaniment to rice and thogayal or rice and paruppu podi combination.
You can use either and it will taste amazing. Traditionally, and since coconuts are in abundance in India, we use freshly grated coconut. Use unsweetened desiccated coconut only if you have no choice. If you are outside of India, grated frozen coconut is easily available in all Indian grocery stores.
This is not mandatory. Rice flour is used as a thickening agent and it helps in combining the beetroots and the coconut paste into a wholesome concoction.
Tips and Suggestions
- Use fresh beets while they are in season. Naturally sweetened beetroots are the highlights in this dish.
- Coconut oil - Use coconut oil while tempering to enhance the flavour of the kootu. We generally use coconut oil for any coconut based savoury dishes.
- If your kootu is runny, use a tablespoon of rice flour / all purpose flour to thicken it. When adding rice flour, do not add it directly to any hot mixture. It will lump. Mix it in a tablespoon of cold water and make it into a paste. Then add this paste to the mixture.
Prepping the Beets
- Beet stains on your hands can be easily washed off. Wash your hands with a hand wash/soap and it goes off in a day. Rubbing your hands with lemon juice helps it to remove the stains easily. If you are very particular, wear a kitchen gloves while working.
- Chopping / Slicing the Beet is a tough job. Some can be really hard to chop. So the best way would be to cook it before you chop them. This makes the job really easy. Pick beets of the same size. Wash them and trim the extra roots and leaves. Place them whole in a pressure cooker and cook it for one whistle. Once the steam releases, take the beets and peel off the skin. Just press and rub it with your hands, it comes off way too easy. Then you can either chop or dice or slice.
- Do not peel off the skin before you cook. You'll loose the colour as well as nutrients. Peel the skin after you cook them.
Amazing veggie sides for you to try!
Beetroot kootu, a mildly sweet and spicy coconut-ty stew. It is made with cumin and coconut spice paste and seasoned with coconut oil tempering.
- 750 grams beetroot, finely diced
- 2 tablespoon mung dal or toor dal
- 1 teaspoon rice flour (mixed in a tablespoon of water) to thicken and combine the gravy
- 1/2 cup grated coconut, fresh or frozen
- 1 red chilli depending on spice level
- 2 small green chillies
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- Few curry leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon urad dal | split black gram
- 1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
- 1 teaspoon channa dal | Bengal gram optional
Cook the beetroot & dal until it is soft and tender in a saucepan. If pressure cooking, add a cup of water, salt and the chopped beets. Once the pressure is reached, cook for 12 to 15 minutes.
Keep the dal also along with the beetroot in a separate dish in the pressure cooker. Else, cook the dal separately until it is soft and mushy. It should be smashed.
Meanwhile grind the ingredients mentioned under "for grinding" into a thick smooth paste by adding very little water.
Once the beet is cooked, drain the excess water to another vessel. Reserve the cooked water. If there is too much water the kootu will be runny.
Transfer the cooked beets back to the same pan. Then add the ground paste, cooked dal (if you have cooked it separately) and rice flour paste (mix rice flour in a tablespoon of water and make it to a paste). Bring it to a boil and then turn off the flame.
Tadka: Heat a small pan and add coconut oil. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the channa dal and once it starts to brown slightly, add the urad dal, red chillies and curry leaves. Once the dal becomes golden brown turn off the flame and add the asafoetida.
Pour this over the beetroot kootu and mix well. Check for salt and adjust. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- You can substitute 6 tablespoon of desiccated unsweetened coconut also.
- Rice flour is used as a thickening agent and it helps in combining the beetroots and the coconut paste into a wholesome concoction. This is not mandatory. Keep in mind, if your kootu is runny, use rice flour to thicken it.
- When adding rice flour, do not add it directly to any hot mixture. It will lump. Mix it in cold water and make it into a paste. Then add this paste to the mixture.