Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Chayote squash (Bangalore kathirikkai) kootu

Say pumpkin, and immediately the garish orange one comes to mind - the one that's hollowed out to make Jack o' Lanterns for Halloween. I guess it's eaten a lot in the US during Thanksgiving - made into pies and cookies and cakes and casseroles and goodness knows what else. But orange pumpkins arent my favourite - the white ones are. That is, translucent white on the inside, and green on the outside.

White pumpkin seems to be a vegetable eaten mostly by Tamilians... it's one of my favourites when made into kootu (using ground coconut to flavour the gravy and bring the cooked vegetable "together") following my mother's recipe.

I'm not sure if it's particularly popular elsewhere (except when making aviyal, I suppose) in India, because the last time I visited my mother when she was living in Hyderabad, we didnt find white pumpkin in the vegetable shops for love or money. And the one time that I spotted a pumpkin, the shopkeeper refused to sell us a portion of it - it was all or nothing. Since a whole pumpkin is a waste of a purchase for just two people - even for two people who love it! - we had to leave with nothing.

But a reasonable substitute for white pumpkins - which I have never seen in the UK - is the chayote squash... or Bangalore kathirikkai, as I knew it in Madras. It's a slightly strange looking vegetable, puckered up on one side, but it tastes great when made into kootu.

Chayote squash, or Bangalore kathirikkai

What it looks like cut lengthwise

It's nice as a side dish with vatha kuzhambu/sambar and rice, fantastic as an accompaniment for rotis and pretty darn good over plain rice as a main meal. That's what I had yesterday for my dinner - chayote squash kootu with rice and microwaved appalams. Homey, filling and healthy!

Recipe for:
Chayote squash (Bangalore kathirikkai) kootu


2 cups chayote squash, chopped evenly into small cubes
1/4 cup gram dal (chana dal/kadalai paruppu)
Two pinches of turmeric powder

For the coconut paste:

2 tbsp fresh grated coconut
4-5 green chillies (or to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp rice flour

For the tempering/tadka:

1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
a few curry leaves
pinch of asafoetida
2 tsp oil
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves for garnish (optional)

1. Put the chopped squash and the chana dal in a saucepan and pour in just enough water to cover the vegetables fully.

2. Add the turmeric and stir, then cover the pan and bring the water to a boil. Turn down the heat to a slow simmer till the chana dal is cooked but still retains its shape, about 15-20 minutes. (Test by squashing a kernel of dal between your fingers - if it mashes easily, it's done.) Keep an eye on the water level so that it doesnt fall below the level of the vegetable. The squash should be cooked by then as well.

3. Meanwhile, grind the coconut paste ingredients into a smooth paste using some warm water (about 3-4 tbsp).

4. Add the paste to the cooked vegetable along with salt to taste, and mix well. Let the kootu simmer for 3-4 minutes.

5. In a small pan with a lid, heat 2 tsp oil and add the tempering ingredients, then close the pan. Wait till the mustard seeds have popped and the cumin seeds and urad dal have changed colour, then pour directly onto the kootu. Mix well and take the kootu off the heat.

6. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve with rice or chapatis/rotis.


Mika said...

I love chayote squash too. We do get white pumpkin here in asian stores. But I think white pumpkin is little sweeter. Your recipe is similar to mine. Shammi- this must be one of your few recipes with coconut, right?

Anonymous said...

Yup, Mika - definitely one of the few recipes where I use coconut :) But it has to be ground finely - if there are any lumpy pieces, it grosses me out.

I know... I'm fussy, but only about this! ;)

Anonymous said...

I have a request for 2 recipes,vatha kuzhambu and ennai kathirikaai kaara kozhambu.Thanks a lot.Lovely blog and very inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon, Thanks for stopping by! Re your request: I can do vatha kuzhambu but I'm afraid I dont know how to make ennai kathirikkai kara kuzhambu.

Anonymous said...

Looks good! plan to make this variation this weekend for chappathi! we at home add curds and season it and serve this as a salad .

In Bangalore it's called "seemebadnekayi "-

Anonymous said...

Hi S,

I'd forgotten it's also called "chowchow"! :) Would love the recipe for the peel thogayal - I love thogayal!

As for Pete, he's not madly fond of kootu, but he'll eat it if he has to :) He loves anything to do with rice and dals, though

Kay said...

Shammi, White pumpkin is called winter melon abroad. You might want to look out for winter melon in oriental stores. Almost all oriental stores (chinese, korean, vietnamese) stores have winter melon. I usually get it from a local vietnamese store.

Your kootu looks yummy. I make a similar kootu, with the yellow mung dal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kay! How kind of you to let me know about winter melon - I shall definitely look for it in oriental stores when I go Birmingham next! Thanks for the tip! :)

Anonymous said...

Your site is a boon 2 me,someone with no experience in the kitchen whatsoever.
An added benefit is that all your recipes sounds so healthy.Your site is an encouragement 4 me, a major non-veg eater to try out healthy daals& veggies.

Kay said...

You are welcome, shammi. I've learnt a lot from your site. I'm glad I could be of some help.

Anonymous said...

hey shammi, r u back from India. Hope u r having a gr8 time in india. I made this chow chow kootu today. It was very tasty . the best chow chow kootu ive tasted. Thanx for the recipe.

Shammi said...

Hi Priya, glad the kootu was good :) Yes, I'm back from India - just havent found time to post recipes yet!

Anonymous said...

Hi Shammi:

Thanks for your kind words for my post on Mahanandi. I've always meant to tell you..I tried out this Chayote Daal and it was awesome. Although back home in Bangalore, my grandmom and mom cook this squash fairly often , we never cook it with daal as far as I can recall. So this was a good paradigm shift:)

Krithika said...

Tried this for lunch today. It turned out delicious. Thank for this recipe.