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Thiruvadirai Kali & Kootu

Yesterday was Thiruvadirai. Thiruvadirai is a festival celebrated in the Indian states of Tamilnadu & Kerela. This festival celebrates the dance form of Lord Shiva (Nataraja) and falls on the full moon day, on the Thiruvadirai star in the Tamil month of Marghazi. This festival is also known as Arudra Darisanam. According to ancient Indian scriptures, Arudra is the largest star. It is two-and-a-half-crore times bigger than the sun!!! Imagine that!! According to a Tamil scholar, Kandasami Mudaliar, if you place the Arudra where the sun is, it will extend beyond earth and almost touch Mars!!

Arudra is synonymous with a ‘Red flame’. This red flame also denotes the cosmic dance (Thandava) of Lord Shiva when he performs the functions of creation, protection, destruction, embodiment and release. To know more about this festival, please visit this LINK. It has wonderful details and stories that I may not be able to reproduce so beautifully. Thiruvadarai is celebrated in a very grand manner at Chidambaram, Tamilnadu.

Well of course, as all Indian festivals, Thiruvadirai also has some special food offerings that are made for Lord Shiva. We make Kali (a sweet made of rice and jaggery) and kootu (a savory mixed vegetable dish). Kali is made similarly in all the regions, while the kootu recipe varies from family to family. In my house, we make a kootu with coconut & green chillies, while at my mothers place toor dal and tamarind are also added. Whichever recipe is followed, you have to use a combination of 5, 7 or 11 vegetables. In India we usually use 7 vegetables, but here in the US, I don’t get all the veggies suitable for the kootu. So I make do with 5 and use whatever vegetables are available. The vegetables that are traditionally used for this kootu are: Kavatthu (karunai Kizhangu), Avarakkai (broad beans), Pushinikkai (ash gourd), pumpkin, vazhakkai (raw plantains), Mocchai (field beans), drumsticks, brinjal and sweet potato. As you can see below, I hardly found any of these!


Serves 3-4 people

Raw Rice – 1 cup
Moong Dal – 3 Tbsp
Grated Jaggery – 1 1/2 cups
Grated coconut (frozen or fresh) – 4 Tbsp
Cardamom powder – 1 tsp
Water – as required (use the ratio of 1 part rice:2 1/2 parts water)
Ghee – 1 Tbsp
Cashewnuts – 10-12 no.


  • Wash the rice and drain it in a colander. Then spread the rice on a kitchen towel to dry for about 30 minutes. The towel will absorb most of the moisture from the rice.
  • Then heat a pan and dry roast this rice, along with the moong dal until a light reddish-brown in color and aromatic. Cool slightly and pulse in a mixer/grinder so that the rice breaks into small grains, like rava. We are essentially making rice rava here. Be careful and use only small pulses, or you will end up with rice powder instead of rava. Reserve 1/4 cup of this rava.
  • Take the jaggery in a vessel (that can also fir in your pressure cooker) and add about a Tbsp of water and melt the jaggery. When the jaggery has dissolved, add in the 3/4 cup of rice rava and stir to prevent lumps. Add 2 cups of water to this and cook this until the rice absorbs the water. Then immediately transfer this vessel to the pressure cooker and cook for 3-4 whistles.

Note: Use water according to your own judgement. Each rice is different and the amount of water it takes can vary. Usually the ratio of 1: 2 1/2 works fine. But don’t worry, if you add a little more water than that, you will just end up with a slightly sticky Kali, which is still delicious to eat.

  • Meanwhile, heat ghee in a small kadai and fry the cashews until light golden brown.
  • Once you remove the Kali from the cooker, mix in the cashews with the ghee and the coconut. Your Kali is ready!

Tip: If you remove you Kali and see that it is waterlogged, don’t worry, just keep it back in the pressure cooker and cook it for another 3-4 whistles.

Kootu (Mixed Vegetable & Coconut curry)

Serves 3-4

Potato (peeled, 1 inch cubes) – 1 large
French beans (1 inch pieces) – 1/2 cup
Lima beans (frozen) – 1/2 cup
Carrots (1 inch pieces) – 1/2 cup
Cucumber (peeled, 1 inch cubes) – 1/2 cup
Grated Coconut (frozen or fresh) – 4 Tbsp
Green chilli/serrano pepper – 2-3 no.
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Salt – to taste
Rice rava (reserved from the above recipe) – 2-3 Tbsp

For tempering:

Oil – 1 tsp (preferably coconut)
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Urad dal – 2 tsp
Curry leaves – a sprig


  • Boil the potatoes until tender and keep aside.
  • Combine all the other vegetables and add about a cup of water and the turmeric powder in a pan. Cook until all the veggies are tender. Then add in the potatoes.
  • Grind the coconut and green chillies into a smooth paste and add to the vegetables along with the rice rava. Cook for 3-4 minutes and turn off the heat. Mix in half of the curry leaves. Just tear them with your hands and add in.
  • For tempering, heat oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, add in the urad dal and the remaining curry leaves, and saute for about 30 seconds. Add the tempering to the kootu.

Kootu is ready!

Really simple, isn’t it? The sweet kali pairs very well with the savory kootu!

You might also like:

Chakkara Pongal/Sakkarai Pongal (Rice-Jaggery Pudding)

Thandai – A Traditional Spiced Milk Beverage for Holi

Medu Vadai/Urad Dal Vada – Happy Pongal!

Uppu Seedai & Vella Seedai – Janmashtami Special

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