MATHAN KOOTU/ RED PUMPKIN CURRY
Thickly cubed pumpkin is stewed in salt, water, jaggery and turmeric powder, thickened with a fine puree of coconut and red chillies and finished off with a tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and a lone red chilli.
Mathan Kootu can be best described as an Orangish-Yellow-Mellow dish that feels like a warm hug on a cold day. Its flavors are savory-sweet with a suggestion of spicy and the texture is soft and meaty. This dish comes together in no time at all.
The consistency is dense and on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being solid and 10 being runny, I would rate this as a 3 or a 4. It’s typically paired with Vathal Kuzhambu. The mildness of this dish perfectly complements the profound and intense flavors of Vathal Kuzhambu. But really, any puli kootan/sour curry such as Sambhar, Rasam, Menthiya Kuzhambu, Pulikaichal, etc will pair well.
THIS RECIPE SERVES 4
- Diced Red Pumpkin – 500 gms
- Water – 1/4 cup + 1/4 cup
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Jaggery – 1 tbsp
- Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
- Grated Coconut – 3/4 cup
- Whole red chilli – 1/2 or 1
- Coconut oil – 1 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Curry Leaves – 1 sprig
- Whole red chilli – 1/2 (optional)
- Dice the pumpkin into 2-inch cubes (Refer note 1). This will yield about 2 heaping cups or 3 even cups of pumpkin.
- Throw the pumpkin into a heavy-bottomed vessel along with 1/4 cup water, salt, turmeric powder and jaggery. Cover and cook on medium heat until it’s almost done. You’ll notice that the pumpkin getting translucent from the side as it cooks. Turn off the stove when the very middle is still a little undone. It’ll continue cooking in the remnant heat in the pot. This process should take anywhere between 8-10 minutes.
- While the pumpkin is cooking, blend the coconut along with the red chilli and 1/4 water into a smooth puree. Add it to the cooked pumpkin and mix gently. You don’t want to break down the pumpkin too much. Turn on the heat back to medium-low.
- Heat the coconut oil in a small seasoning pan. Splutter the mustard seeds. Add the curry leaves and red chilli. Pour this over the Kootu. Bring it to a simmer. Switch off the stove.
- Serve with hot rice and other accompaniments. (See note 3 below)
NOTE 1 – You’ll be tempted to cut them into smaller pieces. But please don’t succumb to the temptation. You’ll end up with mush.
NOTE 2 – Once again, you’ll be tempted to add more water, but don’t. The pumpkin will shrink as it cooks and adding too much water will make the kootu very runny in the end. And cooking down the water will make the pumpkin mushy. If needed, add more water in 1 tbsp increments.
NOTE 3 – A typical meal combination with Mathan Kootu would include Vathal Kuzhambu, Poriyal, Paruppu thogayal and pappadam.