This simple vegetable and lentil stew, which I ate during a memorable cooking session with the three wonderful sisters Vijaya, Vishala, and Meena, is a great example of Hoysala Karnataka cooking. It makes wonderful use of spices and textures to create a memorable dish with very little effort. Though I (and they) recommend the use of chayote squash (seemebadnekayi in Kannada), the choice of vegetables is entirely up to you. I can imagine this being delicious with kohlrabi or some cubed pumpkin even.
1 tsp black mustard
5 byadagi chillies
2 tsp raw rice soaked in water for 10 minutes and then drained
¼ tsp turmeric
1 cup coconut
1 chayote squash, peeled, fibrous core removed, and cut into 1-inch dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch discs
1 cup green beans, strung and cut into 1-inch sections
1/2 cup peas (frozen is fine, though fresh are wonderful if you can get them)
¼ cup cooked togribele (toovar dhal)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp skin-on peanuts
pinch of asafetida
In a blender (using a small jar if you have it), grind together all the masala ingredients except for the coconut, to get them smooth. Then add the grated coconut and grind again, adding a little water if need be, till you have a smooth paste.
Add the vegetables, the ground masala, the cooked dhal, and a teaspoon of salt to a kadhai or other high-sided pan along with enough water just to cover. Cook over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender to the tip of a knife. If the mixture gets too thick or begins to stick to the pan at any point, add more water.
In a small pan, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil till it begins to shimmer.
Add the mustard seeds and, when they begin to sizzle, toss in the peanuts and stir them around till they’re aromatic. Turn off the heat and add a pinch of asafetida. Stir to mix well and then pour the hot oil over the kootu. Mix well, check and adjust salt as needed and serve hot with rice or billi rotti or akki rotti.