Sunday, March 14, 2010

Poricha Kuzhambu (Lentil and Vegetable Stew With Coconut)

Poricha Kuzhambu is a comforting classic stew served over steamed plain rice. This nutritious and delicious everyday fare can also be served with other grains such as Quinoa, couscous, soft polenta, Bulgar, etc or chapatis. Traditionally it is prepared in two basic ways: with or without tamarind; but then there are many variations - with Toor/Mung dal or a combo of the two, with Sambar Powder, with raw or roasted spices, with/without fresh or toasted coconut, thick/thin, with fewer vegetables or a mixture etc, etc. Whichever of the endless variations you are inclined to make, the basic ingredients needed are: dal and a few veggies. The traditional favorites for making poricha kuzhambu without tamarind are: all types mild flavored veggies such as summer squashes, moringa pods, carrots, green beans, green bananas, sprouted beans/peas, carrots and peas etc and for with tamarind are all the ones mentioned before plus brown chick peas, val beans (Dolichos lablab), eggplants and peppers. Spinach and other greens also can be utilized to make either type of poricha kuzhambu but are not combined with other veggies - greens stand gloriously alone.

You can make it thick or thinner too depending on how you plan to serve it; I make it a bit soupy to go with rice and a little less so to serve with chapatis. Poricha kuzhambu definitely belongs in the comfort food category of the South Indian culinary repertoire.

Here is a sample of one of my favorite variations with freshly roasted spices:

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1/2 cup Toor or Mung dal (or a combo of the two)
1 small Chayote Squash (aka Bangalore Kathirikai, chow-chow, Buddha's Hand, Mirliton, etc)
1 medium Carrot
1 small Green banana/Potato
1 medium Parsnip
a Handful of green beans
1 cup sprouted beans or fresh/frozen Corn Kernels or peas
1 medium Zucchini/Cucumber
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt or to taste

Masala: 1 Tbsp Urad dal
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1 or 2 dry Red Peppers (to taste)
1/2 cup fresh coconut (1/3 cup dry unsweetened)
1 tsp uncooked rice

Tadka/Thalippu: 1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Urad dal
1 dry red pepper
1 or 2 sprigs Fresh Curry Leaves, stripped off the stems and chopped

Method:

1. Sort the dal for stones or debris. Wash well and cook the dal in fresh water to cover until very soft.

2. Make the masala while dal is cooking: roast the dal, black and red peppers in a tsp of oil until toasted and fragrant; take care not to brown the dal too much. Cool and grind together with the coconut and rice in a blender using as little of water as needed to make blending feasible.

3. Prepare the veggies: Wash and dry them. Peel lightly the chayote and parsnips. Potatoes and carrots should be thoroughly scrubbed but need not be peeled. Peel the green banana with a potato peeler - only the top green layer of the skin need be peeled. Remove stem and blossom ends of zucchini, cucumber and beans and trim both ends of bananas, carrots, and parsnips. Cut all the veggies into 1/2" cubes; they should all be approximately of the same size so that they all cook evenly.

4. Place all the veggies in about 1 cup of water with the salt and turmeric and bring to a boil. Simmer until veggies are tender.

5. Turn up the heat and stir in the coconut masala into the veggies - rinse the blender container with a few tablespoons of water to extract all of the masala and pour into the veggies. bring to a boil.

6. Stir in the cooked dal; this is the time to check the consistency of the kuzhambu and add hot water as necessary. Bring to a good rolling boil and turn off the heat.

7. Prepare tadka: heat the oil in a small pan and add all the tadka ingredients; remove from heat when the mustard seeds pop and the dal turns pink. Place the curry leaves on top of the kuzhambu and pour the hot tadka over the curry leaves.

8. Stir gently but thoroughly, cover and let rest for a few minutes for the flavors to mingle.

9. Serve hot or warm.

2 comments:

mdusekar said...

Hi,

My name is Sekher.
I did exactly as you said and it came out very well. It tasted exacly like the one what my mom used to prepare 30 years back.

Excellent narration.

Geetha said...

Hello Sekher, I am glad the recipe for Poricha Kuzhambu worked out well for you - and tasted like your mom's. Nothing beats mom's cooking - I know this for a fact :). Thank you for your comments & compliments.

Happy cooking!! - Geetha