Kuttu – Curried Vegetables with Lentils

Kuttu is a vegetarian dish originating from Southern India. It is another example of a relatively easy to make curry dish that can use vegetables commonly grown in the UK.

This recipe is intended to be served with rice as a main course as the basis of a complete meal or as a starter for a slightly larger number of people.

The quantities here are sufficient for 4 to 6 people as a side dish or starter, 4 maximum as a main course. Adjust the number of dried red chillis in the final fry to taste, two gives a moderate heat, three or more can be quite hot. Start with one or two small ones if in doubt.

Preparation and cooking time about 45 minutes or less. Difficulty – easy!


  • 750ml water (25 fl oz)
  • 500g (1lb) of vegetables, chose from peppers, green or runner beans, peas, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, courgettes, aubergines, onions, pumpkin or similar. Potatoes and tomatoes are not really suitable but we have occasionally used them. Leaf vegetables such as spinach or cabbage do not work well although white cabbage sliced thickly is ok. If you want to experiment, try adding a banana.
  • 125g (4.5 oz) red Lentils
  • 30ml (2 tablespoons) cooking oil, if you have it, use peanut oil
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • 25g (1oz) of desiccated coconut
  • 2 slices of ginger about 2mm thick (optional)
  • 2 – 4 fresh or frozen green chillis remove the seeds for a milder dish
  • 1 teaspoon of salt – adjust to taste
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons of tamarind, lemon or lime juice (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander (or perhaps parsley) as a garnish (optional)

For the spice fry:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, again, if you have peanut oil, use this
  • 2 whole dried red chillis, adjust quantity to taste
  • 4 – 6 curry leaves, the larger the quantity, the stronger the flavour
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • A pinch (1/4 teaspoon) of ground asafoetida. Note that the small jars sold in some supermarkets are not pure and have been heavily diluted with turmeric and possibly ground rice. If you have this type then increase the quantity. If you cannot get any at all, use a crushed clove of garlic.


First wash, pick over and cook the lentils in 500ml of the water together with the turmeric and ginger if used in a large pan. Bring to the boil carefully and do not cover as they quite often attempt to boil over. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover carefully, cook until the lentils “bloom”, i.e. they become soft and expand. Make sure that they do not stick to the pan. Lentil cooking time is usually about 15 minutes.

Wash, prepare and cut the vegetables into pieces about 1cm (1/2″) cube.

In another pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and when hot add cumin seeds and desiccated coconut. Fry gently until the coconut starts taking on a light brown colour.

Now add the vegetables and the water taking care that the hot oil does not splash. Add the vegetables in the order of cooking time, longest first. Add the salt.

Cook, covered, gently until the vegetables are just under cooked by about 5 minutes – you have to judge.

Add the lentils and carry on cooking gently, stirring occasionally.

While the vegetables are in the final stages of cooking, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan until fairly hot, almost smoking. Add the mustard seeds, asafoetida (or garlic) and dried chillis. When the mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the heat and quickly pour the fried mixture over the lentil and vegetables taking great care not to get splashed with the hot oil. Stir once, cover the pan and turn off the heat.

Stir in the tamarind, lemon or lime juice just before serving if used.

Add the coriander garnish if used.

Serving Suggestion:

This dish is substantial enough to form the main part of a meal. Serve together with rice or bread. It can also be served as a side dish or starter.

Kuttu should not be frozen. It can be prepared in advance but does not keep well for long. It should be kept in a fridge if not served immediately.

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