Presenting Thakkali Kai Kootu, a recipe from our family kitty
Do you cook with raw tomatoes? You know, those hard, green ones, which may or may not be speckled with red? There’s no ‘squish’ to them, as in case of a ripe tomato, but they do have a fresh, earthy feel to them and a beautiful tart flavour.
I’m here today to tell you about something absolutely delicious we make using these raw tomatoes, called Thakkali Kai or Pacchai Tomato in Tamil. Read on for my family recipe for Thakkali Kai Kootu or Tamilnadu-style green tomato gravy!
Thakkali Kai Kootu for the win!
This Thakkali Kai Kootu is a specialty of my maternal uncle’s, who is a wonderful cook. I’m not a big fan of tomatoes, really, but this kootu happens to be one of my most favourite things. This is a heritage Tamilnadu recipe, very simple to prepare, but very delicious!
The green tomatoes lend a unique tartness to the kootu. A special paste made using roasted spices and coconut goes into the kootu too, which makes it supremely fragrant and flavourful. Served hot with rotis or rice, this Thakkali Kai Kootu is comfort in a bowl.
Is this Thakkali Kai Kootu vegan and gluten-free?
This is a completely vegetarian and vegan preparation, one that is suitable for someone on a plant-based diet.
Skip the asafoetida used in the tempering, and you can easily make it gluten-free as well. This is because most Indian brands of asafoetida include wheat flour to some extent, and should therefore be avoided in case one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you can definitely use it.
How to prepare Thakkali Kai Kootu or Green Tomato Gravy
Here’s how we go about making this kootu.
Ingredients (serves 6):
1. 4 medium-sized green tomatoes
2. 1/2 cup moong dal
3. Salt to taste
4. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
5. 1 teaspoon + 1/2 tablespoon oil
6. 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
7. 1-1/2 tablespoons chana dal
8. 2 tablespoons fresh grated coconut
9. 4-5 dry red chillies
10. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
11. 2 pinches of asafoetida
12. 1 sprig fresh curry leaves
13. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
1. Wash the moong dal well under running water. Drain out all the water. Transfer to a wide vessel.
2. Chop the green tomatoes. Add these to the vessel.
3. Add about 1/2 cup water to the vessel, along with a little salt and the turmeric powder. Pressure cook on high flame for 4 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
4. In the meantime, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Reduce heat to medium. Add in the coriander seeds, chana dal and dry red chillies. Roast on medium flame for about 2 minutes or till the dal starts turning brown and begins to emit a lovely fragrance. Stir intermittently and make sure the ingredients do not burn.
5. Add the grated coconut to the pan at this stage. Roast on medium flame for about a minute more or till the chana dal turns a nice golden brown. Again, stir intermittently and avoid burning of the ingredients.
6. When done, transfer the roasted ingredients to a plate. Allow them to cool down fully.
7. When completely cooled down, grind the roasted ingredients together to a paste, using a little water. Keep aside.
8. When the pressure from the cooker has fully gone down, get the cooked tomatoes and moong dal out. Mash them gently – not too much. Keep aside.
9. In the same pan we used earlier, heat 1/2 tablespoon oil. Add in the mustard, and allow to sputter. Now, add in the curry leaves and asafoetida. Allow them to stay in for a couple of seconds.
10. Lower flame to medium. Add the cooked tomatoes and moong dal to the pan.
11. Add in salt to taste and the paste we added earlier. Mix well. Taste and add red chilli powder if needed, otherwise skip. If the mixture is too thick, you can add in water too, as required.
12. Cook on medium flame for 2-3 minutes, or till the mixture thickens up and comes together nicely. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas when the mixture is still a bit runny – it thickens up further upon cooling. Your Pacchai Tomato Kootu is ready. Serve hot or warm with rice or rotis.
Tips & Tricks
1. Use firm, raw tomatoes that do not have any softness to them. The tomatoes should be fully green, green with bits of red, or red and yellow, but do make sure that they are unripe.
2. I used green tomatoes from Gourmet Garden, a farm that grows zero-pesticide vegetables and greens hydroponically. I have been using some of their veggies, and have been loving how fresh and lovely they are. They deliver all over Bangalore – do check them out! Read my review of Gourmet Garden produce, on Instagram, here. Use my code TGND30 to get a 30% discount on your first order with Gourmet Garden!
3. Make sure the roasted ingredients do not burn. Let them cool down fully before grinding.
4. I have used a mix of the hot Salem Gundu dry red chillies and the milder Bydagi dry red chillies here. You can use any variety you prefer.
5. If you feel the spiciness from the dry red chillies is not enough, you can add in a bit of red chilli powder. However, that is perfectly optional.
6. Make sure you keep the Thakkali Kai Kootu a little runny. It thickens up on cooling.
7. Adjust the amount of water you use, depending upon the consistency of the kootu you require.
8. Make sure the moong dal is fully cooked before adding it to the pan.
9. Adjust the quantity of coconut you use as per personal taste preferences.
10. Sesame oil (nalla ennai) or coconut oil (thengai ennai) works best in the making of this kootu.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!