It's a rough counterpart of the kadhi made in the northern parts of India. Of course, every household has its own recipes, but most South Indians would agree on more/moar (buttermilk/yogurt, sourer the better), coconut, green chilies, and curry leaves as the star ingredients that give this dish the flavor, the tang, and the heat. Tastes wonderful with rice, and this is the dish that my daughter requests at least once whenever she's home.
1tbspoilcoconut oil is best if you have, any oil works
Chop the squash into cubes, boil in about 3/4 cup of water with a pinch of salt, and turmeric powder, about 7 minutes. It should be fork tender and not overcooked, check around 5 minutes
While the squash is cooking, soak the toor dhal, cumin, chilies in a blender jar, about 20 minutes in just a little bit of water
Add the coconut, curry leaves to the soaking ingredients and blend into a fine paste; if it's too dry, add a ladle of the yogurt to ease the blending
After the paste is blended smooth, I typically add the yogurt/buttermilk to the paste in the blender, and give it a good mix to form a smooth gravy
Add the salt to this mix, and pour it on top of the cooked vegetable, and let boil for a few minutes
It's important at this stage to not let it boil for too long, as the yogurt/coconut blend would curdle. Keep a ladle in the pot, keep the heat on low-medium, and keep stirring. When it looks like the gravy is about the boil over, mix it quickly, and turn the heat off. This is called a "kodhi" and my mom always told me not to let it come to the kodhi stage more than twice, and to take it off the heat at that point.
Take a small pan and heat the oil for tempering/seasoning
When hot, add the mustard seeds, hing, methi seeds and curry leaves if using, and when they splutter, pour over the gravy
Any dish with fresh coconut should not be cooked too long; make sure not to overcook the gravy and keep a watch on it. It takes just a few minutes for this to happen, and if you take your eyes off and it boils over, it would become a curdled mess. We need a smooth silky texture for this dish.
Chayote squash is the vegetable that's easily available anywhere; other good vegetables are cucumbers, ash gourd (white pumpkin), okra (to be sautéed and then used, no need to cook it in water). Vegetables that are water-based like cucumbers, ash gourd will cook in less time, so adjust cooking times. The vegetables in the gravy should be fork tender and still retain a bite to them and not be mush.
If my daughter is craving this dish, and I don't have any appropriate vegetable, I have made it as a plain gravy 🙂 Whatever works!
Serve this on hot steaming rice, with a side of potato fry (popular), or paruppu usili (healthy - scrambled cooked lentil, with vegetables - recipe to come soon).
More kuzhambu and paruppusili is a delicious combination, and important members of every festive tambrahm menu!
My sister has sometimes blended silky tofu in the place of coconut for a healthy, protein twist. I have tried it, and you can't taste the tofu!