Thiruvathirai Kali and Thalagam (Ezhukari kootu)
Thiruvathirai is a south-Indian festival celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god who destroys the forces of darkness. This sweet rice (kali) and 7-vegetable stew (thalagam / ezhukari kootu) is prepared as an offering to the lord on this auspicious occasion.



For Kali:

Ingredients

raw rice – 1 cup
water – 3 cups
jaggery – 1 cup
coconut – 1 tsp, grated
cashews – a few
ghee – 2 tsp

Roast raw rice in a spoonful of ghee and keep stirring until a nice aroma emanates. Grind into a coarse meal.  Add roasted cashewnut and set aside.

In a sauce pan, fry coconut in a spoonful of ghee. Heat water and dissolve jaggery. Add rice, mix well and pressure cook. When done, garnish with roasted cashews. Serve with thalagam (ezhukari kootu - given below).

Notes:
Brown rice can be used instead of the traditional white rice, for health benefits - which needs almost twice the time for cooking.




For Thalagam (Ezhukari Kootu):

Ingredients

sweet potato - 1, peeled and cubed
chayote squash - 1, peeled and cubed
white pumpkin - 1 slice (3 to 4 inch triangle)
beans - 1/2 cup (chopped into 1 inch pieces)
carrots + peas – 1 cup, (I use frozen)
cabbage - 1/2 cup, grated
tamarind paste – 3 tbsp
turmeric powder – a pinch
asafoetida – a pinch
toor dal – ½ cup
mustard seeds – 1 tsp
curry leaves – 1 stalk
ginger paste - 1 tsp
cilantro – few springs, chopped
oil – 1 tbsp
salt - 2 tsp

Spice mixture:

coriander seeds – 4 tbsp
chana dal – 1 1/2 tbsp
fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
red chillies - 6

Roast all of the above in a tsp of oil and grind to a fine paste.

Method

Pressure cook lentils with a pinch of turmeric powder. In a separate sauce pan, cook vegetables, with tamarind paste, salt and spice mixture. Once the tamarind stops smelling raw, add water and boil the mixture until the vegetables have cooked. Add the cooked lentils and allow this to boil on a low flame for 5 minutes. Adjust seasoning as required. In a small pan, heat oil, add mustard seeds and add curry leaves. When it splutters, pour it over the kootu and top it with cilantro. Serve as a side-dish for kali.

Notes:

Any seven of the following vegetables can be used: red pumpkin, white pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, potato, peas, plantain (raw banana), yam, colocasia, green beans, cluster beans, chayote squash(chow chow), snake gourd, carrot, etc.

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