March 13, 2011

Knol-Khol Kootu (Kohlrabi With Spiced Coconut Paste) And A Giveaway!

Everybody has their share of likes and dislike when it comes to food and it’s no different with us. Occasionally, it happens that all three of us do not like a particular vegetable and so it rarely (if ever) gets bought, cooked or eaten. Beetroot, mushrooms, Ivy Gourd/ Indian Gherkin (Tendli/ Kovakkai), Chayote (Chow-chow/ Bangalore Kathrikkai), Bottle Gourd (Doodhi/ Lauki) and Kohlrabi (Knol-Kohl) are the ones that come to mind immediately.

Ever since I started writing this food blog, and became interested in photography, I have started looking at vegetables differently. I’m not saying we like the “disliked” ones any better but I sometimes buy them in small quantities to find if they prove more exciting through the lens of my camera or perhaps disguised in some dish where no one suspects them of existing!

I have a friendly neighbourhood vegetable lady who provides fodder for my “strange” vegetable adventures by bringing me some of these aforementioned vegetables right to my door, fresh from the fields where they’re grown. My vegetable lady is a nice person but she is shrewd and knows I can sometimes be a bit of a soft touch.

Last week my vegetable lady’s basket seemed to have sprouted a profuse head of interesting variety of green leaves; that’s how it looked to me when I looked down the stairway to see her climbing the stairs with her basket balanced on her head! Apart from the usual spinach, coriander, amaranth and fenugreek leaves, some of the green turned out to be Daikon Radish (mooli) tops and Kohlrabi (Knol-Khol) leaves, both of which are in season now.

It could have been the fact that they were freshly picked from the farm a few hours earlier, but I rather think what made the Knol-Khol irresistible was their strange Kraken-like appearance.

You know how it is. Sometimes, you find something that is sort of repulsive to look at yet it holds a strange fascination that you keep turning back to look at it? Well, that sums it up with the Kohlrabi and me that day.

My vegetable lady took one look at my face and decided that this was one of the days she could mow me down with her sales pitch. She ended up persuading me that I was in for a terrific deal since she was now giving me 4 of those things for the price of 2 that she initially quoted. She also assured me, “Khoob bare asa” meaning that the Knol-Khol were very good!!

Let’s just say that I buckled to my fascination with the vegetable, her sales techniques, and then spent the better part of the morning wondering just how to take a decent picture of the Kohlrabi. If you are new to this vegetable, the name Kohlrabi comes from German for “Kohl”meaning cabbage and “Rabi” meaning turnip. It does look like a hybrid of the two with turnip-like shape and the leaf arrangement is somewhat like that of a cabbage if you stretch your imagination a bit.

The Kohlrabi is actually the stem part of the vegetable and I understand the leaves of the young/ tender vegetable can be used in salads. I had no idea how to cook Kohlrabi but it now turns out that there are at least a hundred (maybe I am exaggerating) different ways of cooking it.

A strategy that mostly work for me with a vegetable that is new to us, or not much liked by anyone, is to cook it such that it is disguised either in taste or appearance or both if possible. So I cooked the Kohlrabi into a “kootu”, which is a Palakkad Iyer style of preparing certain vegetables (mostly of the gourd family) with lentils and a spicy coconut gravy. It worked!

I think I might have to take Kohlrabi off that list of “unmentionable” vegetables, and you might just be seeing a lot more of this vegetable here, in my virtual kitchen.
Knol-Khol Kootu (Kohlrabi With Spiced Coconut Paste)


1/4 cup Bengal gram lentils (chana dal)

2 tsp cumin seeds

2 to 3 green chillies (adjust as required)

1/2 cup freshly grated coconut, loosely packed

3 medium to big sized knol-kohl (kohlrabi), chopped into 3/4” cubes

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 sprig curry leaves

salt to taste

1 1/2 tsp oil

1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 tsp black gram lentils (urad dal)

1/2 to 1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)


Soak the Bengal gram lentils (chana dal) in about 1/2 a cup of water for about half an hour. Drain the water and keep aside.

In a small pan, roast the cumin seeds over, low heat until it gives off an aroma. Do not brown. Grind this with the green chillies and coconut with just enough water to a smooth paste. You can add the cumin seeds as they are, but roasting them gives the “curry” a better flavour and taste. Keep this paste aside.

Steam or cook the cubed kohlrabi in the microwave until done. If you don’t want to steam cook or microwave the kohlrabi, follow this procedure.
Take a largish pan and heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the black gram lentils (urad dal) and stir fry till they turn golden. Then add the cubed kohlrabi, the drained Bengal gram lentils (chana dal), turmeric powder, curry leaves, salt and a cup of water. Bring this to a boil, turn down the heat and cook till the kohlrabi is done.

If you have steam cooked or microwaved the kohlrabi like I do, then follow this procedure. As above, take a largish pan and heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the black gram lentils (urad dal) and stir fry till they turn golden.
Add the cooked kohlrabi, the drained Bengal gram lentils (chana dal), turmeric powder, curry leaves, salt and sprinkle a little water. Stir everything together, and cook for a couple of minutes on medium heat.

Whichever method you used to cook the kohlrabi, from here the method of cooking is the same. Add the spicy coconut paste and mix well. If the vegetable-coconut paste looks very dry, add about 1/8th (or a little more, if necessary) of a cup of water and cook for another couple of minutes till it comes together. The “kootu” should have the finished consistency of vegetable coated with a thick gravy and should not be watery.

Transfer the kootu to a serving dish and add the coconut oil (if using), then cover the dish and let it sit for about 15 minutes to allow the flavour of the coconut oil to develop. Remove the lid, mix in the coconut oil and serve hot with rice, as a side dish.

This recipe serves 4.
The Cook Book Giveaway

Sometime back, I had mentioned that I would be doing a giveaway for my readers in India. I’m keeping that promise and here it is.
Sellers Publishing have been kind enough, as always, to sent me a copy each of 500 Italian Dishes by Valentina Sforza and 500 Asian Dishes by Gillie Basan to give away to the readers of this blog.

500 Italian Dishes: The Only Compendium of Italian Dishes You'll Ever Need by Valentina Sforza

Another book from the 500 Series, the book has all the features of books in this series including well written and simple recipes with variations on the basic recipes. The recipes are divided into various chapters which are colour coded for easy use and accompanied by beautiful photographs.

The author also includes an introduction on basic ingredients used in Italian cooking, with an emphasis on fresh and seasonal produce. She also includes instructions for preparing basic stock and fresh pasta. The recipes in this book are divided into a First Course Pasta, A First Course of Gnocchi, Risottos and Pizzas, Vegetables, A Second Course of Fish & Seafood, A Second Course of Meat, Poultry & Game, and Desserts.

Valentina Sforza, descended from the famous Renaissance Sforza family and an expert on Italian gastronomy, teaches at several cooking schools in London where she lives. She also a caterer, writer and consultant.

500 Asian Dishes: The Only Compendium of Asian Dishes You'll Ever Need by Ghillie Basan

One more book from the 500 Series, with all the attractive features of books in this series.
This particular book presents a wide variety of recipes from Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia& Singapore. The book includes an introduction to the cuisines covered in the book as well as the ingredients used in them.

The book includes an introduction to the ingredients used in Asian cooking as well as sauces and dips, and recipes for soups, rice, noodles, spring rolls, meat and fish, vegetables and desserts.

The author of the book, Ghillie Basan is an internationally acclaimed cook and food writer. A Cordon Bleu Diploma holder with a degree in social anthropology, she has written over 20 books and many articles on food and travel.

If you would like a chance at winning one of these books, please leave a comment at this post telling me if you have cooked Kohlrabi before and which way you like it best. Please make sure your comment includes a link or e-mail id where I can contact you should win.
Please also include in your comment, the name of the Indian city where you would like the book to be shipped should you win. This will make picking the commenters for the random number generator easy for me. If you do not leave the name of the city in your comment, you will be ineligible for the giveaway.

This giveaway is open till the midnight of the 20th of March, 2011.
Please note that this giveaway is open only to residents of India. If you do have a shipping address in India you are most welcome to enter the giveaway.
I will randomly pick two commenters who will each win one of these two books. I will announce the winners around the 24th/ 25th of this month. Good luck!