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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Simple, healthy Upma

I’ll eat some breakfast and then change the world!

It took me a long time in life to realize the importance of a good breakfast. And after that realization, I have been really good with planning my breakfast well in advance. So this morning, i decided to have the traditional South Indian breakfast–Upma or Upmaav as we call it in Kerala. Really quick and easy to make, Upma not only fills your appetite but is also highly nutritious. Whenever I have had a discussion about Upma (yes, i discuss Upma like other people discuss global issues :D), the most common question has been of how to make it soft without making it sticky. The answer lies in the method of making it in the traditional way, which you will find in my recipe below.

breakfast quote Upma

Ingredients:
200 gms of Semolina: The hero of this dish, semolina or rava is a coarse flour made out of durum wheat
2 cups of Water
4-5 sliced Shallots or Madras Onion
2 slit Green Chillies
A small piece of ginger, chopped
Mustard seeds
1 tsp of urad dal (split, skinless black gram)
2 tbsp Coconut oil
Curry leaves
Half a cup of shredded coconut for garnish
Salt to taste

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Upma served in a coconut shell

Method:

Roast the semolina in a non stick pan, making sure that it doesn’t turn brown. Keep aside.
In a pan, heat the oil, add mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add urad dal and saute till they turn golden. Then add the sliced shallots, chopped ginger, curry leaves, green chillies and saute till the shallots turn translucent. Add water and salt. Now, the consistency of your upma will depend on how much water you add. Generally, the proportion of water is the same as that of semolina. So, if you are using one cup of semolina, then add one cup of water and so on.

Once the water boils, add the semolina slowly while stirring continuously with the other hand. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or till the water absorbs the semolina. Once cooked, add shredded coconut and stir the upma before you turn the stove off. Simple, isn’t it?

 

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!

Puttu with Kadala curry

Puttu with Kadala Curry

I made a quick, three-day trip to Kerala two weeks ago with my husband. And I have decided to dedicate this post to Kerala’s local flavours. The thattukada or street-side eateries in Kochi are heaven for anybody who likes to savour authentic Kerala cuisine. However, once dusk falls, the streets of Kochi are so deserted, one would begin to wonder if people even live there. Coming from a city like Ahmedabad-where you can find women and men on the streets even around midnight-was a bit of a shock for me. I mean, I would not expect people from the villages in Kerala to be so open about staying out late but come on, this is a city that belongs to the most literate state in India. Besides being God’s own country and one of the most beautiful places on earth, Kerala has always been an exception in India in literacy, life expectancy, sex-ratio, and infant and maternal mortality. What I look forward to most while travelling is to try out local cuisines from the street eateries when I visit any place. Kerala being my native, I have always wanted to visit the thattukada and kallu shaap (toddy shop). This time around, my father-in-law seems to have known what I was secretly wishing for and so, out of impulse, one evening during my last visit, he said, “Let’s go and get some food packed from the thattukada for dinner”.  And off we went, driving in his white Merc to the best thattukada in town, which was almost half an hour from home.

It was around 8 pm and as expected, there were only men at the 3-4 tables laid outside the dhaba-like thattukada on the highway. It was a delight to see a variety of ethnic Kerala food right from paratta with kozhi porichathu (chicken roast), mathi (fish) karuvepila fry, nadan njandu (crab) olarthu, beef fry, thattu dosha, puttu and kadala curry to duck egg curry, kappa (tapioca) and pazaham pori (banana fritters). Phew! Drawing a list is reminding me of the tangy whiffs and the spicy taste of the food I devoured that day.  We packed a little bit of everything. As I do not eat meat, I ordered some puttu and mota curry for myself. The thattukada experience is something I will relish and cherish.

This morning, the image of steaming hot puttu and the spicy curry came to my mind when I was thinking of Sunday brunch. I had some pre-soaked kadala (chana or black gram) in the fridge and some freshly made puttu-podi from my mom. So, here goes the recipe for the most authentic, delicious Kerala style puttu-kadala, dedicated to the thattukadas of Kerala…

Puttu-Kadala curry

An authentic Kerala dish made out of steamed rice flour and bengal gram . A Malayali’s favourite breakfast

Ingredients:

Kadala curry

Ingredients

Black Chana, soaked overnight 200 gms

Grated Coconut 1/2 cup

Five Shallots or two small Onions

Tomato 1, medium sized

Curry leaves

Mustard seeds

Red Chilli powder

Coriander Powder

Turmeric powder

Pepper, crushed or whole

Salt

Coconut oil 1 tbsp

Method:

Pressure cook chana with salt and turmeric till soft. While chana is cooking, roast together the coconut, shallots, red chilli powder, coriander powder and pepper till brown. Grind it to a smooth paste along with the tomato and a teaspoon of cooked chana to get a thick consistency. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they crackle, add curry leaves and the masala mix. Add salt to taste and the chana. Kadala curry is usually a bit watery because it is served with puttu so you may add water at this stage. Mix well. Let it boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Puttu

Ingredients:

Coarse rice flour, roasted 2 cups (you can also buy red or white puttu flour from Kerala stores in your neighbourhood)

Salt 1 tsp

Water 1/4 cup

Grated coconut 1.5 cups

Method:

Before we proceed, puttu needs a special equipment, called puttu kuzhal or puttu-maker.   You can make puttu even if you do not have a puttu kuzhal. Just take the shell of a coconut that is already grated and proceed with the method.

Take the rice flour in a bowl, add salt and mix well. Add water, very little at a time to make a powdery, wet flour but not a dough. Adding more water will result in the puttu sticking to the equipment after steaming and less water will make the puttu too soft and come out in powder form. Time to fill the puttu in the kuzhal. Fill the base of the puttu maker (pot) with water and keep it on the gas stove to heat. The kuzhal or the tube part of the vessel has a chip at its base. To begin with the process, fill the tube with a small layer of coconut, then put a handful of the wet flour till half of the tube is filled. Add coconut again and fill the rest of the tube with flour. Once the water in the pot boils, fix the tube on the base with the cap on and steam for about 10 minutes on high flame. Once done, remove the tube from the pot and push the puttu out using a ladle or a knife. Serve steaming hot with kadala curry.

As I enjoyed my sumptuous brunch with a cup of frothy coffee, the memories of my trip to Kerala came alive, yet again…Image