Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kotla - From the family of Pathrode

There are many variations of pathrode, a deservedly well celebrated recipe from India. While the basic concept of rolling the masala ingredients into the leaf and steaming it remains same, the actual taste would be dramatically different depending on the recipe you followed. Food is an acquired taste and much as I like the sweetish patra from Gujarat or the coriander-jeera flavored Pathrode from Mangalore region, the below recipe has been a favorite. Give it a try and let me know how you liked it.

We call this Kotla at home :-). The first time I tasted it was at akka's home when she got married. I still remember the large scale preparation of the dish, the smells coming from the kitchen, general chaos around the kitchen, laughter and excitement of eating a new dish with family. It has been many years and my BIL makes this almost every time we visit and I am invariably reminded of the first time I ate the dish.  I will update this post with some pictures from the original kitchen when I visit next.

When I first came to US and didn't find colocasia/Taro leaves, I did use Collard and spinach as substitutes. See variations for spinach use. Well, now I do get Taro leaves in an Asian food mart close by and make the delicious Kotla frequently at home.

There are different varieties of Taro leaves and some are known to cause slight irritation in the throat. I have not had problems with the leaves brought from stores so far, however something to note if you are allergic.

What do you need to make Kotla?
4-5 Taro leaves - gently wash, cut the stem and pat them dry
1 cup of black gram/uddina bele/uddi pappu/urad dal
3/4 cup of white sesame seeds/ellu/nuvvulu
1/2 Tsp fenugreek seeds/menthya/menthilu
6-7 green chilies broken into 2 pieces (Adjust the amount based on your spice tolerance)
1 large red onion - cut into big chunks
key lime size tamarind
1 Tsp oil
1 and 1/2 cups of idli rava - wash it, drain it and let it just soak for 30 mins in that washed wetness
Salt (Suggested: 1.5 Tbsp, adjust to taste)
1 cup grated coconut (if using frozen, bring it to room temperature so it doesn't curdle when you grind it) + 2 Tsp coconut to garnish
Kotla ingredients fried and ready to go the blender
Seasoning Ingredients:
2 Tsp oil
1 Tsp mustard seeds/saasive/aavaalu
1 Tsp Bengal gram dal/kadle bele/senaga pappu/chana dal
1 red chili broken into small pieces
2-4 curry leaves

How do you make Kotla?
  1. Toast black gram dal in a pan (without oil) on medium heat until it starts to change color, keep stirring to prevent it from blackening.
  2. Add the sesame seeds and stir for a couple of minutes until you hear sesame crackling and urad turning golden brown.
  3. Keep this aside.
  4. In the same pan, add a Tsp of oil and let it become hot, put the broken green chilies and toast for a minute or two until they start to blister. 
  5. Add the chopped onion and fry for 2 minutes until you see very slight sweating of the onions. This step is optional and you can proceed to the next step and use raw onions for grinding.
  6. Switch off the stove, add the tamarind and let it all come to the room temperature.
  7. Once it has cooled, grind this with salt and coconut to a thick chutney consistency by adding water.
  8. Taste the chutney at this stage, it needs to be slightly on the spicy side as further mixing with the Taro leaf and idli rava will substantially bring down the spice level. Adjust salt, chilies or tamarind if needed.
  9. Keep aside a small cup of this chutney for serving on the side later.
  10. Squeeze handfuls of the wet idli rava to remove extra water content and add it to the remaining ground mixture and mix it well.
Chutney ready to be mixed with idli rava
Preparing Kotla
Spread the Taro leaf on a flat surface and take handfuls of masala (step 10 above) at a time and spread it thinly all over the leaf, choose a smaller leaf than your first one, spread it on top and repeat with the masala spread. You can do upto 3 layers before it becomes too big and lengthens the cooking time. I usually do 2 alternate layers of leaf & masala before topping it off with another leaf.
Spread the masala on the leaf
Now carefully roll the leaf with the masala from one end to the other. The leaves I got were big to go into my cooker vessel and so I cut them right in the middle to fit into the container.
Rolled up kotla
Steam it like you would the regular idlis for about 30 minutes (no weight), switch off & let it cool. When you push a knife through the steamed kotla, it should come out clean which indicates that it has cooked well. 
Cut to fit the container, ready to be steamed

Preparing seasoning/Vaggarane
Heat the oil in a pan, add mustard seeds, kadale bele, red chilies and the curry leaves. Mustard seeds crackle and the dal turns golden brown. Switch off the stove. Keep this aside, this is to be served on top in the plate. My daughter calls this 'khatum, khatum' for the sound it makes while eating :-). 

How do you serve Kotla?
Once the steam is gone from the pressure cooker, take the Kotla out and cut them into bite sized pieces. These can be served right away or you can pan fry them in a Tsp of oil to crisp it up a little bit.
Kotla pieces stir fried in the pan
Serve it with a topping of the seasoning and garnish with coconut (both my daughter and nephew love to eat it with loads of coconut on top) for flavor and a side of the chutney.  We had ours with some home made yogurt/curd.

  1. If you do not find Taro leaves, don't fret, you can use Collard leaves just as well.
  2. If Collard leaves are not available, use spinach - chop up the spinach leaves and mix it into the masala in step 10, make small balls and put it in your idli plates, steam it. 20 minutes of steaming will suffice in this case.
  3. If you do not like lot of dals in the seasoning, you can reduce the amount or make vaggarane with only mustard, curry leaves and red chilies before crisping up the kotla pieces. I serve it on top just before eating so it doesn't become soggy. 
  1. Dal needs to be fried on low to medium heat so it cooks completely from inside and there is no raw smell or taste in the dish
  2. Adding tamarind to the hot pan, softens it for easy grinding, you can alternatively soak it in warm water and grind it or use tamarind paste
  3. Letting the fried mixture come to the room temperature before grinding is important, it brings out the flavors in Indian masalas,  also this is a safer way to handle any unwanted blender/mixer explosions and hot spray deposits on the cook :-)
  4. If you plan to make it for break fast, you can get prep with all steps upto making of the chutney the previous evening and store chutney in the fridge overnight. 
PS: I realized that my pictures are not great on this one, will update it the next time I make kotla.

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