Onam Festival & Avial

Processed with MOLDIV
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 

Processed with MOLDIV
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.

 

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.

image1 (8)

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.

 

 

Shallot-red chilli chutney with Dosa

Processed with Moldiv
Processed with Moldiv

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