This is a delightful dish made with beetroot cooked with freshly ground spices to form a gravy that is delicious with rice or poppadom. It is really easy to make, especially if you have pre prepared the spice mix.
Vathal Kuzhambu is a dish that is prepared with Vathal (dried vegetables) like Mangai Vathal (Raw Mango), Sundakai Vathal (Turkey Berry), Manathakkali Vathal (Black Night Shade), or with fresh vegetables such as Eggplant, Beetroot or Okra. It is often made with sambar powder, but it is best to avoid using purchased sambar powder for this recipe – prepare the spices fresh for this recipe by roasting and grinding spices to make vathakuzhambu podi.
0.5 large beetroot, peeled and diced
1 lime-sized piece tamarind
10 – 12 curry leaves
1 tspn Vathakuzhambu podi, or to taste (see instructions below)
sea salt to taste
0.5 tspn brown mustard seeds
pinch asafoetida powder
0.25 tspn fenugreek
2 Indian dried red chillies
0.5 tspn toor dal
1 Tblspn ghee or Indian sesame oil
1 Tblspn Indian chilli powder
0.5 tspn black pepper corns
1 tspn turmeric powder
1 tspn toor dal
1 tspn urad dal
1 tspn channa dal
Heat a pan and saute each of the ingredients separately (except the chilli powder) until they darken in colour and are aromatic. Do not burn them. When cool, grind them to a powder and mix with the chilli powder. Set aside.
Extract the tamarind pulp by soaking the tamarind in hot water for 15 mins, then straining – push the pulp through the sieve and discard the seeds and fibres. Retain the water and pulp.
Add 1 cup water to the tamarind pulp in a heavy pan with some salt. Set aside.
Heat the ghee or oil in a kadhai or other pan and add the mustard seeds. Allow them to pop. Add the dried chillies, fenugreek seeds, toor dal and asafoetida powder. Allow the dal to darken to golden brown and pour the oil and spices onto the tamarind water.
Now bring the tamarind water to a simmer and add a few pinched curry leaves. Boil the mixture well, then add the beetroot pieces with 1 tspn of the vatrakuzhambu spice mix. Top the water up to just cover the beetroot.
Simmer until the mixture thickens a little, adding additional water as necessary. The beetroot might take some time to cook.
If you want a thicker consistency, mix a teaspoon of rice flour or chickpea flour with a tablespoon of water and add it to the kuzhambu. Bring it to a simmer again while stirring.
Garnish with curry leaves and serve with rice and fried appalams.