This dish, the Green Bean Paruppu Usili (or Puttu), typifies the lentil scramble types of Sth India.Parts 1 and 2 of Meenakshi Ammal’s Cook and See contain crumbles in the Curry/Poriyal sections. It is useful to understand her lentil crumble recipe types.
Amma presents 3 types of crumble, although at least one of them (dal-coconut) is less a crumble and more a delicious dal-veg sauté.
This dish is made from lentils/dal soaked and coarsely ground, then the textured paste is steamed, and the resulting cooked lentil paste is crumbled and briefly sauted, with or without some accompanying vegetables. The lentil crumble is delicious and can be eaten alone, and with briefly boiled or steamed vegetables.
Ammal uses toor dal, although other dals can be used.
Puttu is often made without vegetables, although it can be made with vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, beans, cluster beans, Indian Broad Beans, cauliflower, potato and banana flower. Sauteed onions may also be added with the vegetables.
There is some confusion about whether Puttu with vegetables remains a Puttu, or becomes a Usili. When it is made with vegetables it may be called an Usili, but some/many will continue to refer to it as a Puttu. My Indian foody soul sister Srivalli from Cooking 4 All Seasons explains that puttu is a “scrambled” or “crumbled” dish in TamBrahmin cuisine. In Kerala, however, and Sri Lanka too, it is a layered mixture of rice batter and coconut usually cooked in a cylinder, but can be cooked as balls and then crumbled. In Tamil Nadu, often there is a fine line between usili and puttu dishes, and in some parts of Tamil Nadu people generally refer to Usili as Puttu.
This Paruppu Puttu is made from steamed ground lentils and spices.
Ammal also says that drumstick leaves or fenugreek leaves can be mixed with the lentil paste before it is steamed.
Note that this is not the steamed rice batter Puttu of Kerala or the sweet puttus of Tamil Nadu.
Apart from Indian meals, this lentil crumble is delicious and endlessly useful. With vegetables it makes a nice side dish, almost salad, with any meal. I have added the crumble to pasta sauces, scattering it over the top of the dish for an excellent appearance and flavour addition. I think the crumble could be added to baked vegetable dishes, would love to hear if you try this.
The next type of crumble that Ammal presents is made from the soaked, coarsely ground lentils. However, they are not steamed, but just sauteed along with spices and the vegetables. In this way the lentils lose any water content and become crumbly during the stirfrying or saute process.
It can be made with vegetables such as yams, cluster beans, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli and plantains (green banana). Try this one, a Pea Sundal, made with a bengal gram flour paste sauteed with the vegetables.
Dal-Coconut Curry Sauté
The last type par-cooks toor dal, and then stirfries or sautes the half cooked mushy dal with the vegetables, spices and coconut for a delicious, tropical dish. Ammal makes the point that if you are using coconut in a lentil crumble dish, then par cooked toor dal should be used.
Vegetables that can be used include banana blossom, carrot, bitter gourd, cauliflower, green beans, raw bananas and Indian Banana Peels.
Try this one, a carrot, coconut, dal poriyal.
As usual, comments and corrections are welcomed.