"...Amma, how do you make that Cauliflower koottu that you serve with rotis for dinner?"
"But there is no recipe for it. It is the easiest thing ever!"
That's how I extract recipes from my family, often on a weekly basis. So I can taste the flavours of my childhood.
This is one dish that my granny used to make in the evenings, to go with chapathis / rotis. Usually, it would be rice with sambar / rasam and curds for an early lunch before 11 am, then a tiffin time - something light like idlis, dosai, upma etc at around 4 pm and then dinner at 8 pm. Dinner would be either rice or roti. And for rotis, there would be no fancy 'punjabi' side dishes, because on most days my grandparents wont eat onions and garlic and imagine making anything 'fancy' without these two star ingredients.
As a child, this boring stew like vegetable preparation would be no incentive for the rotis. But protesting against any food was unheard of when I was a kid, so I would quietly eat what was served, carefully avoiding any second servings.
Nowadays, at mum's place, it is always rice (with various accompaniments) for lunch and roti for dinner, so when cauliflower is in season, this dish is almost always made. It is a zero-effort dish, no peeling, cutting onions or garlic, no tomatoes, no ginger even. A potato is usually added to this preparation. Heck, you don't even peel the potato for this recipe. You might wonder how boring this will taste. But there is one secret ingredient in this dish that keeps it far from boring and that is asafoetida. A much ignored and maligned seasoning, it subtly stands out in this dish, making up for the lack of more exciting flavours like onions or garlic.
This winter we got the most amazing, fresh cauliflowers in our local Hopcoms and what better thing to make than this minimalistic dish with simple ingredients. I chopped up the cauliflower into florets, cleaned them in salted water and then made a call to amma, asking her how she makes her cauliflower kootu for rotis. Technically, koottu has some kind of dal along with the vegetables. In this case, it's just easy to call it koottu as the preparation is not entirely dry like a curry.
When cauliflower is not in season, the same recipe is prepared with cubed or quartered brinjals and potatoes.
Cauliflower Peas Potato Koottu
Under 30 minutes
A simple accompaniment for Rotis
2 cups medium sized cauliflower florets
1/2 cup shelled fresh peas or frozen peas
1 large potato, cubed
2 tsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
Fat pinch of asafoetida (LG asafoetida powder or Goldie's Pure Hing)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tsp sambar powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp rice flour (optional)
- In a big kadai, heat the oil. Pop the mustard seeds, add the asafoetida.
- Within a few seconds, add the vegetables. Toss them in the oil.
- Add salt, 3/4 cup water, turmeric powder, sambar powder.
- Cover with a tight fitting lid and cook on medium heat for around 8 minutes. The vegetables should be just tender and not mushy. If the water dries out in between, add 1/4 cup water to aid cooking.
- In the end there should be a few tablespoons of watery 'gravy' in the dish, not fully dry. So adjust water accordingly while cooking.
- If you find the end result too watery, then make a slurry of 1 tsp rice flour in a tbsp of cold water, add to the vegetables and bring to a simmer. Remove from flame and serve hot with phulkas.
Minimalistic recipes like these really bring out the flavour of the vegetables due to the use of very few spices. So it is important that the vegetables you use are a 100% fresh. Try it with eggplant and potato, which are in season all year round. If you don't have homemade sambar powder, borrow from a Tambrahm friend or if you rely on any brand that comes close to the authentic taste do share in the comments. You could try making your own sambar powder from our authentic tambrahm recipes blog.