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Recipes | Mixed vegetable curry in freshly ground spices aka ‘Gobbi Kootu’ with coconut rice – Tradition is to feed the fire

14 January 2015 4 Comments

healthy vegetarian recipes, lemon rice

Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” ~ G. Mahler

Not so long ago, Sankranti to me was all about flying kites and gorging on some delectable winter specialties.

Yes, I could not think beyond my crunchy revadis, gajak, til ladoos, Gajar halwa and sinful Panjiri when the festival of Lohri or Makar sankranti approached in mid January.

It was only after my marriage and settling down in South India I came to know that Sankranti is more than our kite flying frenzy and throwing puffed rice in bonfire.

Though this festival of harvest called Makar Sankranti or Lohri or Pongal is celebrated in different ways all across India, the spirit remains the same.  It is a way to thank our mother nature and celebrate its bounty.

Pongal is a four days festival in South India. It is celebrated as Bhogi pongal, Thai pongal, Mattu pongal and Kaanum pongal in Tamil Nadu.

The festival is celebrated with much funfair and religious fervor in villages than in the cities. Cows & bulls are decorated and worshiped. People light wood fire and cook Sakkarai Pongal (a sweet dish) in earthen pots outside their houses and share it with friends and family.

In cities the best that we could do is to clean our homes, make colourful patterns or Rangoli at doorsteps and cook Pongal on our gas stoves.

Every Pongal my Mil  (mother-in-law) takes out her special heavy brass pots (passed on to her by her MIL) and cleans it using thick tamarind paste. She smears the pots with sandalwood paste and ties the fresh turmeric plant around it.

The embellished pot is used to cook a delicious sweet using new rice and lentil with jaggery which is offered to God.

She also prepares a special Sambhar or ‘Gobbi Kootu’ as she calls it on Pongal day. She uses an interesting combination of certain winter root vegetables but she has no idea what does the name ‘Gobbi‘ refers to.

Anyways…whats there in a name when the recipe is so very finger-licking good… 🙂

1. ‘Gobbi Kootu’ or Mixed vegetable curry in freshly ground spices 

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

This recipe of  ‘Gobbi Kootu‘ is almost similar to Kadamba Sambhar  or Arachivita kootu in which a freshly ground spice paste with coconut is added to mixed vegetables and boiled to make curry.

Gobbi kootu is often paired with tangy lemon rice, coconut rice and lots of deep fried homemade poppadoms (papad).

This recipe is handed over to my MIL by her paternal grandmother from Tanjavur region of Tamil Nadu.

My sisters, cousins, mother and grandmother would eagerly wait for Pongal and would enthusiastically take part in the festive preparation at my ancestral home. We would pluck flowers and make garlands, paint and decorate our cows and spend hours giggling & making large patterns of ‘Rangoli’ with natural colours outside our house.” 

“We used to prep about 10 Kg. of vegetables during festive days to make this Gobbi Kootu which was then served to all the workers at our farm with lemon rice, coconut rice and Sakkarai pongal” recalls my mother-in-law fondly.

I remember the saying “When a tradition gathers enough strength to go on for centuries, you don’t just turn it off one day.

She still follows the tradition of cooking this delectable Gobbi Kootu recipe on festive days. Normally cooked lentil is also added to the kootu recipe but she avoids it in her recipe. “The ground lentil powder added in paste replaces the cooked lentil” says she. I like her recipe as it is much lighter on stomach.

Traditionally any local grown vegetables are preferred for this recipe but I love my vibrant carrots.

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe


(serve 4)

  • 3 cups chopped Vegetables*
  • 2 tsp. tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Water

To roast and grind;

  • 3 tbsp. grated coconut
  • 3 tsp Bengal gram
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp black gram
  • 3 dry red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds


  • 2 tbsp. oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • A pinch of asafetida powder
  • Curry leaves

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

Method; Wash and dice the vegetables for the recipe. Any of the following vegetables can be used for this recipe;

  • Beans
  • Drumstick
  • Pumpkin
  • Turnip (salgam)
  • Brinjal
  • Yam (suran)
  • Raw banana
  • Sweet potato (ratalu)
  • Ash gourd (white pumpkin)
  • Chayote (chow-chow)
  • Colocasia (arbi)

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

Dry roast Bengal gram and black gram in a wok or kadai till it  turns golden brown in colour. Take the gram out in a plate and add coriander seeds, cumin and peppercorn in the same wok and roast for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.

Add grated coconut, red chilies, and fenugreek seeds in the wok and keep roasting for 2 more minutes.

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

Grind all the dry roasted ingredients into fine powder.

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

Add a little water to make a fine paste.

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe

Steaming or pressure cooking makes the cooking easy and quick. Root vegetables will take more time to cook. Do not pressure cook drumsticks as they will split open and become mushy.

Alternatively boil the chopped vegetables in a large pan filled with 4-5 cups of water. Add tamarind paste, turmeric powder, salt in the pan and keep boiling till the vegetables become soft to touch.

Add the ground paste in the pan and let the Kootu simmer for 2-3 minutes on low heat.

Heat oil in the wok and crackle mustard seeds in it. Add curry leaves, asafoetida powder and pour this tempering over the  Gobbi Kootu.

Take the pan off the heat and serve the hot vegetable Gobbi Kootu with plain rice, lemon rice or coconut rice.

2. Coconut rice

coconut rice with mixed vegetable sambhar recipe


(serve 2)

  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • Salt to taste


  • 2 tsp. oil
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. black gram
  • 1 tsp Bengal gram
  • A pinch of asafetida powder
  • Few cashewnuts
  • Curry leaves

Method; Spread cooked rice in a large plate and let it cool. Add salt and sugar in rice and combine well.

Heat oil in a wok or kadai and crackle mustard seeds in it.

Add Bengal gram (channa dal), black gram (urad dal), broken red chilies, grated coconut, cashew nuts and fry till they turn golden brown in colour.

Add asafoeitda powder, curry leaves and pour this tempering over the cooked rice and combine well.

Serve this scrumptious coconut rice with Gobbi Kootu.

Check the English & Hindi names of various foods and ingredients used in this recipe in the glossary, here.


  1. Normally onion and garlic are avoided in festive cooking.
  2. I avoid adding cooked lentil or Daal to the recipe as the addition of extra lentil makes it too heavy on stomach.
  3. Use more vegetables if you wish to savor the recipe as an accompaniment.
  4. Add fewer vegetables and increase the liquid quantity to serve it as a gravy dish similar to lentil curry or Sambhar.
  5. Grind extra paste (spices and coconut) for Gobbi kootu and refrigerate, it stays good for a week or more. You can sue the same to make Sambhar or any Indian curry with vegetables of your choice.

Grinding the spices takes a little extra time but then festivals are the times to show your love towards your near and dear ones. And what best way than to cook a scrumptious feast for them 🙂

Festive greetings to all!


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  • Anusha said:

    I loved that quote about Tradition, Sanjeeta. Happy sankranti to you and the kootu s so very similar to the thalagam that we make. Delectable is not enough to describe this post

  • Shiny said:

    Hi Sanjeeta,

    Such a wonderful recipe. The curry you mentioned resembles varutharacha sambhar that is normally served in north kerala (Malabar). However, was just wondering when should the coconut be added?

    Nice clicks as usual.


  • sanjeeta kk (author) said:

    @Shiny, It is already mentioned in the Kootu recipe. Coconut rice recipe is updated.

  • mjskitchen said:

    What a fabulous post Sanjeeta! Beautiful pictures and information! Love, love, love the rice!
    mjskitchen recently posted..Carne Adovada EnchiladasMy Profile

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