Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is a flavourful gravy that is an integral part of Tamilnadu cuisine. It refers to beetroot cooked in tamarind, along with a few other spices, till it is silky-smooth and absolutely delicious. The beetroot adds a lovely mild sweetness to the dish, which is beautifully offset by the tamarind and spices in there, as well as a pretty colour.
Usually a great accompaniment to hot rice, Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is bliss when had with a drizzle of sesame oil. In my family, we love having it with curd rice too. I adore it as a side to hot steamed rice mixed with cooked and salted toor dal – rustic and oh so sastifying!
Let’s go through my family recipe for Beetroot Vattalkozhambu today.
What Is Vattalkozhambu?
We will start with understanding what ‘kozhambu‘ is – it is a term used for a broad category of gravies, which can be paired with rice or with idlis, dosas and other ‘tiffin‘ items, usually made with tamarind or other souring agents like tomatoes. ‘Vattalkozhambu‘ is a type of kozhambu, a gravy that commonly has a tamarind base, which can be made using a variety of fresh or dried berries/greens/vegetables. Beetroot Vattalkozhambu, like I was saying earlier, is made using beetroots, which are cooked in a tamarind gravy, with some flavouring agents added in. It is also referred to as ‘Beetroot Puli Kozhambu‘ in some parts of Tamilnadu, ‘puli‘ being the local word for tamarind.
I have several other kozhambu recipes on my blog, which you might be interested in taking a look at:
- Manathakali Vattalkozhambu| Dried Nightshade Berries Cooked In Tamarind
- Kotthavarangai Vattalkozhambu| Cluster Beans In Tamarind Gravy
- Arachuvitta Vattalkozhambu| Tamarind Gravy With A Freshly Ground Spice Paste
- Appalam Vattalkozhambu| Papad In Tamarind Gravy
- Kondakadalai Kara Kozhambu| Chettinad Style Chickpeas In Tamarind Gravy
- Aati Kachina Thakkali Kozhambu| Tomato Gravy For Idlis And Dosas
- Vendakkai More Kozhambu| Okra Cooked In Curd Gravy, Tamilnadu Style
- Paruppu Urundai Kozhambu| Lentil Balls In Tamarind Gravy
What Goes Into Beetroot Vattalkozhambu – The Ingredients
Beetroot and tamarind are the two major ingredients used in this dish.
The dish is flavoured with sambar powder (I have used home-made) and some jaggery, in addition to the usual suspects like salt, turmeric powder and red chilli powder.
I have used jaggery powder here, which is nothing but powdered jaggery. I prefer using jaggery powder in my daily cooking, as opposed to the jaggery that is sold in blocks. Jaggery powder is commonly available in several departmental stores here in Bangalore. There are many organic, zero-chemical small brands of jaggery available, and they work well for me in all the cooking that I do. I find jaggery powder very convenient to use, much more so than jaggery blocks which are sometimes quite sticky and have to be broken down into granules manually. But then, do what works for you!
There is a simple tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves, asafoetida and fenugreek seeds in sesame oil. Sesame oil, referred to as ‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil, is what is traditionally used in several foods from the state. This oil is not to be confused with the toasted sesame oil that is used in Asian dishes – the flavour profile of the two oils is completely different. I prefer using sesame oil from the Idhayam brand (not sponsored).
Rice flour has been used to thicken the gravy here, as is done traditionally. See the ‘Tips & Tricks’ section of this post for alternatives.
How To Make Beetroot Vattalkozhambu
Here’s how to go about it.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1. A small lemon-sized ball of tamarind
2. 1 medium-sized beetroot
3. 1 tablespoon + 1 tablespoon sesame oil (nalla ennai)
4. 3/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
5. 2 pinches of asafoetida
6. A pinch of fenugreek seeds
7. A sprig of curry leaves
8. Salt to taste
9. 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
10. 1-1/2 tablespoons sambar powder or to taste
11. 3/4 tablespoon jaggery powder or to taste
12. Red chilli powder to taste (optional)
13. 1 tablespoon rice flour
1. Soak the tamarind in about 1/2 cup of boiling hot water, for it to become soft. Let it cool down enough to handle.
2. In the meantime, wash the beetroot well to remove all traces of mud from it. Remove the top of the beetroot and chop it into quarters.
3. Take the chopped beetroot in a wide vessel, along with about 1 cup of water. Place the vessel in a pressure cooker and put the whistle on. Allow 5 whistles on high flame. Let the pressure come down naturally.
4. While the pressure cooker is cooling, extract the juice from the soaked tamarind. Use water as needed. Keep the extract thick and not too watery. I had about 1-1/2 cups of tamarind extract.
5. When the pressure from the cooker has gone down completely, get the cooked beetroot out. Drain out all the water from it and reserve. Let the beetroot pieces cool down enough to handle.
6. Once the cooked beetroot has cooled down, remove the skin from the pieces and discard. Chop the beetroot into smaller cubes.
7. Heat 1 tablespoon of sesame oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add in the mustard seeds, and allow them to sputter. Then add in the asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves, and allow them to stay in for a few seconds.
8. Add the beetroot cubes to the pan. Saute for a minute.
9. Add in the tamarind extract, along with the turmeric powder and some salt. Mix well.
10. Cook on high flame for about 5 minutes or till the raw smell of the tamarind has completely gone. Stir intermittently.
11. At this stage, add in the reserved water from cooking the beetroot. Mix well.
12. Taste and adjust salt. Also, add in the sambar powder, jaggery powder and red chilli powder (if needed). Mix well. At this stage, you may add in 1/2 to 1 cup more water if you wish to adjust the taste/consistency. Let everything cook together on medium flame for 4-5 minutes. Stir intermittently.
13. Make a slurry of the rice flour with about 2 tablespoons of water. Make sure there are no lumps. Add this slurry to the pan with one hand, constantly stirring with the other. Allow the mixture to cook on medium flame for 3-4 minutes more or till it thickens and attains a silky consistency. Stir intermittently. Switch off gas at this stage.
14. Add in the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame oil at this stage. Mix well. Your Beetroot Vattalkozhambu is ready. Serve it hot/warm with rice.
Related Event: Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge
This post is brought to you in association with the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, a group of passionate food bloggers that I am part of.
The members of the Shhh Cooking Secretly Challenge share recipes based on a particular theme, every month. Participants are divided into pairs, and each pair secretly exchanges two ingredients, unknown to the rest of the group. Each member then uses their secret ingredients to cook a dish that fits into the theme for the month. Upon completion, they are required to post a picture of their dish in the group, and other members try to guess what the secret ingredients used in the food could be – therein lies the challenge. 🙂
The Shhh group had the theme ‘Cook Whatever You Like’ for the month of May 2023, a wonderfully elastic guideline that gave free rein to the participants to whip up anything they wanted, within the scope of the secret ingredients assigned to them. Renu, the versatile blogger at Cook With Renu. She prepared this yummy Besan Pithla for the theme – you guys must definitely check it out!
I was paired with Seema, fellow food blogger at Mildly Indian, for the theme. I suggested Seema make something with ‘coconut’ and ‘cumin seeds’, and she prepared this unique South Indian dish, Aviyal Kozhambu. She, in turn, assigned me the ingredients ‘curry leaves’ and ‘jaggery’, and they fit right into this Beetroot Vattalkozhambu that I had wanted to blog about for quite some time.
This Beetroot Vattalkozhambu recipe is completely vegetarian and vegan, suited to those following a plant-based diet.
It contains beetroot (which is believed to have a high sugar content) as well as added jaggery, so you might want to exercise caution while serving this to a diabetic or to people with similar health conditions.
To make this recipe gluten-free, avoid using asafoetida in the tempering. Most branded asafoetida powders in India do contain wheat flour and are, therefore, best avoided when one is following a gluten-free diet. However, if you can find 100% gluten-free asafoetida, you could definitely go ahead and use it.
Tips & Tricks
1. I have used home-made sambar powder here. You can use a store-bought version as well.
2. Using red chilli powder is optional. If the heat from the sambar powder is enough, you can skip the red chilli powder entirely.
3. Adjust the quantity of water you use depending upon the consistency of the Beetroot Vattalkozhambu that you require.
4. Remember to keep the tamarind extract on the thicker side and not too watery.
5. I have used a slurry of rice flour and water to thicken the Beetroot Vattalkozhambu, as it is done traditionally. Alternatively, a mix of wheat flour and water can be used. Avoid wheat flour if you wish to keep the recipe gluten-free.
6. Adjust the quantity of jaggery powder as per personal taste preferences.
7. I have pressure-cooked the beetroot before adding it to the pan. You can cook it in a pan separately as well. Make sure the beetroot is completely cooked before using it in making the Vattalkozhambu.
8. Make sure the flour-water slurry is completely free of lumps, before adding it to the pan. If this is not the case, there are chances of lumps forming in the Vattalkozhambu.
9. Make sure you add in the flour-water slurry while constantly stirring, otherwise lumps will form in the Vattalkozhambu.
10. Sesame oil (‘nalla ennai‘ in Tamil) goes best in this Beetroot Vattalkozhambu. However, if you do not prefer using it, you can use any other neutral-flavoured oil.
11. Do not skip the jaggery. There is only a small amount of jaggery used in this recipe, which does not make the vattalkozhambu overly sweet. Rather, it balances out the other flavours beautifully.
Did you like this recipe? Do tell me, in your comments!