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.

 

 

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!