Its a week into January of the New Year. After the revelry of December, I am reminding myself to eat better. My grocery cart had plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit this weekend, and just one bag of potato chips. In order to prevent myself from eating out too often during the week, I cooked a few meals this weekend.

One of the dishes I made is this one – called Spinach Kootu. Kootu is a dish with origins in the southern state of Tamil Nadu in India. It is used to denote a dish that is a combination of a vegetable with a lentil. A smooth blend of coconut, cumin and dry red chillies is used to impart a delicate spicy flavor to this dish. As with many Indian daal dishes, this one is rounded off with a seasoned oil mixture consisting of mustard seeds, ural daal, asafetida and curry leaves. Garlic is optional when you are making the seasoned oil mixture.

20180107_181541462_iOSFor my choice of vegetable and lentil, I picked fresh spinach and tuvar daal, also known as pigeon peas. Tuvar daal takes a while to cook if you are cooking it on the stove top. Its best to use a pressure cooker or an insta pot if you have one. If you do not have a pressure cooker, pre-soak the daal for about 2 hours. Then combine the daal with 2 cups of water and cook on medium heat for 30-45 mins until the daal is very soft. Keep an eye on the daal as it cooks and stir often to prevent any scorching.

I’ve used coconut oil in the seasoning, and it smells divine when you are cooking with it. You could use vegetable oil or ghee as well. That blob of white you see in the picture below is coconut oil.


Serves: 4
Cooking time: 30-45 mins

1/2 cup tuvar daal or pigeon peas, rinsed and drained
3 cups chopped spinach
1/2 tsp turmeric powder + 1/2 tsp salt
3 tbsps fresh or frozen grated coconut
1 tsp cumin seeds
1-2 red chillies
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad daal 
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 tsp asafetida
4-6 fresh curry leaves
salt to taste

Combine the 1/2 cup tuvar daal with 1 cup water and cook in a pressure cooker per manufacturer's directions until soft. Set aside.

Combine the spinach, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 cup water in a cooking pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for 5-10 mins until the spinach is wilted and cooked. 

While the spinach is cooking, blend the coconut, cumin seeds and red chillies with 1/2 cup water until smooth. Set aside. 

Mash the daal using the back of a spoon. Combine cooked daal and coconut puree with the cooked spinach. Adjust salt as needed. Continue cooking for 5-10 more minutes. 

To make the seasoning, heat the coconut oil in a small saucepan. Add to it the mustard seeds, urad daal, garlic cloves, asafetida, curry leaves and cook gently until the mustard seeds pop and the garlic is lightly browned around the edges.

Pour seasoning over the daal and mix well to combine. Serve hot as a side dish with quinoa, rice, or rotis.