18 March 2012

Amma's Cauliflower Peas Koottu

I've separated the cauliflower into florets, kept the kadai on the flame and then, I call Amma.

"...Amma, how do you make that Cauliflower koottu that you serve with rotis for dinner?"
 Amma laughs. 
"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
Serves 3-4
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)


  1. In a big kadai, heat the oil. Pop the mustard seeds, add the asafoetida. 
  2. Within a few seconds, add the vegetables. Toss them in the oil.
  3. Add salt, 3/4 cup water, turmeric powder, sambar powder. 
  4. 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.
  5. In the end there should be a few tablespoons of watery 'gravy' in the dish, not fully dry. So adjust water accordingly while cooking.
  6. 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.


Anjanaskc said...

A very simple yet flavourful and delicious cauliflower subzi..beautiful pics..


maayeka said...

Avery simple yet delicious and flavourful cauliflower subzi..loved the pics

Bong Mom said...

My Mom makes a cauliflower-potato exactly like this. Hing is what brings the difference. We use Kalonji and green chili for the tadka and no sambar powder :)

Shilpa said...

Love simple no fuss recipes, this one has comfort food written all over it:) 

Jaysh Suresh said...

Hi nandita, i have been à long time silent reader of your blog and have enjoyed your writing and recipes very much. This is probably the first comment i have made anywhere on the internet but i have à bit of à bone to pick with you. why so much stress on tambrahm?. I get that tamil brahmins have their own food culture and amazing vegetarian cuisine but the caste bit gets added on quite needlessly. No other caste in tamil nadu have the privilige of such proud chest thumping except maybe iyengars. I belong to the cringe inducing scheduled caste and have never come across other tamilians i.e. The non veg eaters identifying themselves by their castes. You are à tamilian who happens to be brahmin seems a more politically correct phrase. Maybe i am needlessly offended but i still felt like letting you know.

Keep up the great blog! :-)
Jayasree suresh

bwl123 said...



bwl123 said...



saffrontrail said...

Thanks for taking the time to comment. I'm sorry if you for the wrong impression - tambrahm is just a slang for the community, like say Chettinad cuisine. I don't use it as a term for any superior caste or cuisine but just as an identifier like any other. Neither have I claimed our cuisine or vegetarianism to be superior to any other cuisines. Sorry if you felt that way!

saffrontrail said...

Thanks Shilpa. My mom cooks only fuss free food :)

saffrontrail said...

I would love to try it with Kalonji and green chillies next time! Funny how a Bengali and Tamil recipe have something in common :)

saffrontrail said...

Glad you liked it, Anjana.

theturmerickitchen said...

Hi Nandita, thats such a simple yet gorgeous recipe.There are heavily spiced cauliflower recipes all around. This is such a breather! Thanks :)

theturmerickitchen said...

Hi Nandita, thats such a simple yet gorgeous recipe.There are heavily spiced cauliflower recipes all around. This is such a breather! Thanks :)

Jagruti Vedamati said...

Hi Nandita, thats such a simple yet gorgeous recipe.There are heavily spiced cauliflower recipes all around. This is such a breather! Thanks :)

Jagruti said...

Hi Nandita, thats such a simple yet gorgeous recipe.There are heavily spiced cauliflower recipes all around. This is such a breather! Thanks :)

Preethi Vemu said...

Mom has something like this, but its heavily Mangalore-ized... I will try this and that recipe too... :)
Btw MTR Sambar powder comes very close to Homemade or Mom-made sambar powder, atleast for me...

saffrontrail said...

Do try and post your version too, even if just on comments, it will be fun to know the Manglorean version. Like @01470c5ed4847a6ee38f1d92e3a20ca5 has posted her Bengali version in the comments. MTR sambar powder doesn't come close to our homemade sambar powder taste. People on the FB page recommend Sakthi and Grand Sweets. I've got home Sakthi powder. Will try it soon.

saffrontrail said...

I prefer the simple, not-doused-in-spices versions @7225c54a34a1ded2bd4d8235d222f724  Do check this other minimalistic cauliflower recipe - http://saffrontrail.blogspot.in/2010/10/simple-cauliflower-mash-gobhi-bharta_22.html

Healthtec Software said...

Yes it is essential to insist on vegetable to the kids but a hard task after all.Interesting preparations make them happy surely.

Anoo said...

Hi Nandita! Thanks for posting tirelessly ... and making us to look forward to more! Can you pls post "mavadu" ... "vadumanga" recipe also??!!

Many thanks,

Karishma said...

hi nandita, i tried this a few days ago with rotis and loved how the minimal spices really brought out all the flavors of the veg...we all loved it at home...thanks to your mom and you!

Saraswathy said...

Can I just say, I love your blog and come back to it time and again to recreate the flavours of my childhood. What I like most about your recipes is the simplicity and the emphasis on keeping the original flavours of the  ingredients intact (which is probably why I love minimalist Mark Bittman too!). I live in Singapore and I've found that the ominous sounding 'Baba's Sambar powder (a.k.a. Serbuk Kari Sambar Baba) comes close to amma's  homemade sambar powder. Usually found in same aisle as Baba's Fish Head Curry powder :) 

saffrontrail said...

When I started cooking, some 15 years ago, I wanted garlic, onion, tomato and garam masala powder in every dish. Over the years, I've got fed up of masaledaar food, wanting to stick to original simple flavours. Glad you liked the recipe.
Your comment on the sambar powder sitting next to fish head curry powder made me laugh!

Anu said...

My MIL taught me a very similar way to prepare cauliflower Her version has just a tadka of chopped garlic, green chillies, mustard seeds, turmeric and hing of course. Lip smackingly good!

Sushma6571 said...

Nice blog to read. I am Sushma from Dubai