Onam Festival & Avial

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Avial: An inseparable part of Onasadya

Onam, the biggest festival of Malayalis, falls tomorrow. For me, the day is all about food, family, friends and a lot of fun. Onasadhya, the Onam lunch, is the most delicious part about this festival of Kerala. It’s a feast, if enjoyed once, will be relished forever!

Legend goes that Onam is celebrated to invite the spirit of King Mahabali, a former king of Kerala in whose reign there was no unhappy person. Meals are strictly vegetarian on Onam and there are essentially 13 food items served on a banana leaf. There are pickles of various kinds, banana chips for crunch, fruits, chutneys, curries, side-dishes, buttermilk and two or three types of payasam (kheer/pudding). Rice is the main component of this elaborate meal.

We Malayalis don’t need a reason to celebrate Kerala cuisine but we look forward to Onam to enjoy a combination of deliciousness on this day. Here, I am sharing the recipe of Avial, a mixed vegetable side dish, without which any Onasadya is incomplete.

Kerala’s Avial 

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Packed with veggies, this Onam special Avial can be relished all round the year

Ingredients:

The following vegetables, peeled and sliced:
Elephant Foot Yam (Suran in Hindi) – 1 cup
Raw Plantain – 1 cup
Winter melon/Ash gourd – one cup
Snake gourd (padavalanga in Malayalam)
Carrot – 1
Beans – 1/2 cup
Drumstick – 1
Raw Mangoes (if available), half a piece

To be ground together:
Coconut, grated – 1 cup
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Garlic – 3-4 small cloves
Green chillies – 3

For seasoning:
Salt
Turmeric, a pinch
Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves, a handful
Curd (to be substituted for raw mangoes)

Method: 

In a deep pan, cook together yam and plantain with a little salt and turmeric. Once half done, add winter melon and other vegetables with some more salt and cook till soft but not mushy. Use very less water to cook but make sure it does not get overcooked. Each vegetable should hold its individual identity and taste.

Add the ground paste and cook for a few minutes. Add curd and remove switch off the flame.  Add coconut oil and curry leaves. Serve with rice and rasam.

 

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Sun-dried Green Chilly

The simplest of things can bring the most happiness. When it comes to food, it’s the simple recipes that are sometimes the most extraordinary!

Today’s post is about one such simple recipe that elevates the most bland food to greatness. Sun-dried curd chilly, which has different names in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh but similar recipes, is a delicacy that is served as a substitute for pickles in these states.

I find it hard to describe the delight when I bite into one of these fried chillies, accompanied by curd rice!

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Green chillies marinated in curd, dried in the sun and then deep-fried

Sun-dried  Curd Chilly

Ingredients:

250 gms green chillies (you can choose if you want them spicy or mild, according to your taste)

500 gms sour curd or yogurt

Salt to taste

Method:

Wash the chillies and wipe them individually. Spread them on a large plate or a paper and leave them to dry for a day. Once they have dried completely, slit each chilly from the stem to end. Keep the stem intact.

In a large bowl, add curd and salt. Marinate the chillies with this mixture and then leave them in the bowl overnight. The next day, spread the chillies onto a plate and leave them out in the sun till evening but keep the curd mixture in the fridge. The next day, add some of the curd mixture and leave the chillies out in the sun. Repeat this procedure on the third day. The chillies may take up to five days to dry completely. The dried chillies will take on a beautiful beige colour. Once done, store them in airtight containers.

To use the chilly as an accompaniment with meals, deep fry the required quantity till they turn nice, golden brown in colour. Enjoy the crunch with a simple meal of saambar rice or curd rice.

 

 

Kanji Payar: Ritualistic Rain Food

As rains beat down the parched earth last night, my city rejoiced with some ritualistic rain foods. In India, it’s amazing how one relates to rain food depending on the state or region they belong to.

For example, people in Gujarat start queuing up outside shops selling hot dalwadas at the first hint of rain. This crunchy deep-fried food is served with sliced onions and fried-salted green chillies along with a steaming cuppa masala chai.

If you are from the northern part of the country, I am sure the rains will make you crave for bhutta (corn on the cob) and spicy pakode.

Khichuri with Ilish Maach during monsoon have a special place in the heart of Bengalis while Keralites (at least the ones I know) wait for monsoon to make the humble and nutritious kanji-payar (rice porridge with moong dal).

Yes, you guessed it right. This post is about Kanji-Payar, which is like a warm hug during cold, rainy nights. But most of all, this post is about a dear friend of mine, a non-Keralite, who loves this comfort food of Keralites and can have it all around the year.

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Vinay Umarji, whom I met about eight years ago, has been like the kanji-payar in my life. Boring usually 😀 but an indispensable part of my life. He is the kanji payar that I need after I have had a series of wrong food choice.

He is quite goofy, like Mr. Bean but smart and highly intelligent. Of course there are things that I dislike about him but the good in him overpowers the irritating things about him. The most irritating thing about him is that he repeats everything you say! But one quality (among many) for which I have high regards for him is that he really doesn’t bother what people think or say about him. He is a perfectionist when it comes to work and no, he hasn’t paid me yet to say all these good things about him.

I had been wanting to dedicate a post to him for years now but the right moment came today: When I shared exciting news about my life with him and he had the same exciting news to share with me about his life! At first I thought he was just trying to irritate me by repeating what I said! Moving on to the recipe for kanji payar…

Kanji Payar

For kanji:

Wash one cup Kerala red rice and cook it in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water for at least 4 whistles. Once done, season it with salt.

For payar:

image1 (9)Soak whole moong dal in water for at least 4 hours or overnight. In a pressure cooker, cook the dal with a pinch of turmeric and salt to taste. Blend one cup shredded coconut, a pinch of cumin, three shallots, four or five small garlic cloves and some water to  make a paste. Add this mixture to the boiled moong dal and cook till the first boil. Switch off the stove and add a tempering of mustard seeds, 2 split red chilly and curry leaves in coconut oil.

Enjoy the steaming bowl of kanji payar while you watch the rains.

 

 

World’s largest potluck party!

Foodaholics In Ahmedabad is attempting to break the Guinness World Records for the Largest Potluck Party on Sunday, December 20, 2015.

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So, if you are in Ahmedabad and are a foodie, you just cannot miss this awesome event.

‘Foodaholics in Ahmedabad’ (FiA) is a Facebook community, founded by Rohan bhatt & Esha Shah. The group hosts 33,000 active members who indulge in discussions, suggestions, exhibitions and debates pertaining to food both, virtually and during various food events conducted by the group. The group helps glorify food as a culture, recipe and knowledge amidst like-minded people. Lot of the members recommend and refer numerous food joints as well as share experiences.

Registration for the event is really simple and can be found on the FiA page on Facebook. The best part about this ‘participant-only’ event is that each registered participant has to take six portions only, of food which is made or store-bought. The food can be anything—from dry snacks to mocktails and from chai-tea to complicated dishes—all your choice!

I will be making these coconut laddoos! YLHF3889

Hope to see you at this record-breaking event this Sunday morning 🙂

 

 

Shallot-red chilli chutney with Dosa

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Dosa  is a staple food in southern India and a very popular dish across India. Each state of south India—Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka—have a different accompaniment that is eaten with dosa. Much like the accompaniment is different, the dish is pronounced differently in different regions of the country. While we Malayalis call it ‘dosha’, people in Tamil Nadu call it ‘dosai’, in Gujarat it’s called ‘dhonsa’ while in some north Indian states, it is called a ‘dosa’.

It’s basically a crepe made out of fermented batter from rice and black lentils (urad dal) and had as a breakfast in South India. Today’s post, however, is not on the dosa but on the accompaniments or the side dishes that dosas are usually eaten with in India. While Saambaar is an ideal accompaniment, there are various chutneys that are served along with the humble dosa. Among the most commonly served chutneys are coconut chutney (with green chillies or red chillies), onion chutney, onion-tomato chutney, tomato chutney, gunpowder (made with urad dal, chana dal, hing and curry leaves  with a generous pouring of coconut oil), red chilly-coconut oil chutney, etc.

The all-time favourite accompaniment that’s always served with dosa or idli is the simple and spicy raw shallot chutney, a recipe that I picked from my grandmother-in-law. A gem of a person, Ammumma—as we call her, is very inspiring in the way she lives her life. She has a solid determination, takes good care of her health, goes for regular walks, has no fear travelling alone to different cities and is strict when it comes to her diet. She is fond of traditional food and we can go on discussing food for hours together. Here, I am dedicating my post to our cool, modernly traditional, dear Ammumma.

Shallot-red chilli chutney with Dosa

Ingredients:

Shallots-8-10 nos

Red chilli powder-2 teaspoons

Coconut Oil-2 tablespoons

Water – 1 spoon

Salt to taste

Method: In a traditional mortar and pestle, crush the shallots. If you do not have a mortar and pestle, just use a stone or simply grate the shallots. DO NOT use a mixer to crush the shallots or it will take away the juices and the taste. Do not make a paste but crush enough to make it smooth. Add salt, red chilli and pour a spoonful of water

Appam and Kerala style Egg Curry

image1Appam and Egg Curry

We all seek change— from same old routines, those mundane tasks, saturated jobs and sometimes, a boring life that we find ourselves unknowingly in.

I was in a rut, too, since more than a year. What was once a ‘dream job’ was slowly becoming a nightmare because of all the negativity surrounding it. The day I had to drag myself to my workplace was the day I decided to free myself from the shackles of a “glamorous” yet dissatisfying job. Once I decided to move on, so many doors opened up for me. A fortnight into my new job and I am so glad I chose the door that held the most potential for a bright future, a world outside that door which trusts my capabilities, a door that gives me the liberty to dream, create and explore.

Life is so much different now, in a happy sort of way. I had read somewhere that your present is everything you have thought of in the past. And when I think of it, it is so true. I have had this thought many times in the past. Of being associated with my current organization, of working with my current colleagues and of working out of my present work premises.

I dedicate this post and the recipe to my current state of bliss, as a way to thank the Universe for having conspired in my favour J _/_

This dish, one of my favourites from Kerala, has the capacity to take you to that perfect state of happiness, oblivious of anything else. Appam is usually had in Kerala for breakfast but you can savour these feather light appams with delicious egg gravy for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just make sure you give it enough time to ferment. Happy cooking J

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Egg curry (Kerala style mutta curry)

Ingredients:

 Eggs: 4 nos.

Red onion: 2 medium, chopped

Tomatoes: 2 medium, chopped

Ginger paste: 1 tsp

Green chillies: 3 (use more/less according to your heat quotient)

Coconut Oil – 1 tbsp

Curry leaves – 8 to 10

Whole spices like Cinnamon (small stick), Cloves (2) and bay leaf (1)

Egg masala or Garam masala powder – 1 tsp

Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp

Crushed black pepper – 1/2 tsp

Coconut Milk – 1 cup

Salt

Method:

Boil the eggs for 12 minutes. Remove shells and keep aside.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat oil and add the whole spices and the curry leaves.

Add the chopped onions, ginger paste and the green chillies. Saute well for a couple of minutes till the onions turn light golden brown in color. Add turmeric and tomatoes and cook till tomatoes turn soft. Add a little water to mash the tomatoes and then add the garam masala. Saute for ten seconds and then add the coconut milk. Once it starts to simmer, add eggs (slit into two or whole) to the gravy. Add salt and crushed black pepper and stir well. Remove from heat and serve hot with appam.


Appam (Pancake made of Rice and Coconut)

 Ingredients:

 Rice (preferably the boiled rice variety that South Indians use): 1 cup

Shredded/Dessicated coconut: 2 cups

Yeast: ½ tsp

Sugar (optional): 3 tsp

Milk(optional): 3 tsp
Salt

Method:

Soak rice and shredded coconut in water for about 6-8 hours. Once the rice has softened, blend it with sugar and salt till it is a smooth flowing, batter-like consistency. Add yeast and blend for a minute. Leave the batter covered overnight so that the batter rises.

Once the batter ferments, you can add about three teaspoons of milk. Heat an appam chatti (pan) and pour a ladle full of batter in the centre. You may need to add a teaspoon of oil if you are not using a non-stick appam chatti. Now, lift the pan from the sides and tilt it on all sides so that the batter spreads around like a crisp dosa on the sides, yet has a thick, soft centre.

Close the lid and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. The appam needs to be cooked only on one side. Serve hot with egg curry or vegetable stew or chicken curry. Yum!