Friday, 31 August 2012

Ripe Bananas and Coconut - "The Perfect Marriage" - Kuruku Kaalan


I realized something very amusing while I prepared Onasadya for the first time this year - Most of the dishes on the menu use similar ingredients and cooking methods and yet are unique in flavour and appearance! It’s amazing how slight alterations in the same ingredients can bring about such huge differences in flavors.

Kaalan is another proud entry, lined up in a Sadya, and again depending on regional differences, the consistency and ingredients of this dish vary from one place to the other. This dish is not just an integral part of the Kerala Sadya but can also be found in most Kerala homes as a dish consumed on a daily basis. The reason for the popularity of this dish is two-fold – Simplicity in preparation and it’s excellent shelf life. Kaalan can stay fresh for upto 2 weeks (I have heard that it’s flavors are enhanced as time passes) at room temperature if stored properly in good quality air-tight containers.


Though I wasn’t able to get this dish ready on the table during Onam, I tried my hand at it for the first time today. If I had known it was this simple, I definitely would have made it with the Sadya. :( That’s OK, there is always a next time! My mum prepares the most awesome Kaalan and I must say that my attempt at preparing it was quite good!

The slightly ripe bananas and the freshly grated coconut is a beautiful example of the celebration of cooking. This dish works amazingly well together and will definitely put you on top if prepared for family and friends. A sure winner, you guys HAVE to try this at home and it will leave you feeling blooming good. And so without further ado, I present to you the brilliant - Banana Kuruku Kaalan

Ingredients

Banana (1 and ¼ inch cubes) - 18 pieces (half ripe) (refer notes)
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 8 to 9 (adjust as per spice tolerance)
Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
Salt - to taste
Water - ½ cup
Curd/Yoghurt (sour; beaten) - 3 cups (make sure it's not too sour, but just enough)
Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Chilli powder - ½ tsp
Coconut (grated) - 1 cup
Cumin seeds/Jeera - a pinch
Coconut oil - 4 tsp
Mustard seeds - ½ tsp
Fenugreek seeds/Uluva - 1/8 tsp
Red chillies (each slit into 2 pieces) - 3 to 4


Method

Cook together banana pieces, slit green chillies, a few curry leaves and salt in water. Cook till the banana pieces are soft.

Mix curd with a pinch of salt, turmeric and chilli powder. Pour this mixture over the banana pieces. Keep aside.

Grind grated coconut along with cumin seeds into a fine paste. Keep aside.

Heat the coconut oil in an earthen-ware pan (chatty) or any other pan that is available and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and red chillies and fry these ingredients in turn. (That is; add each ingredient one by one, frying for a few seconds. Be careful not to burn the ingredients)

Now add the ground coconut mixture to the above seasoning and saut'e on a low flame till raw smell disappears and the masala is roasted well. Remove from flame and leave to cool.

Once the roasted coconut-masala has cooled completely, add this to the prepared curd-banana mixture and stir till combined well. Place the earthen-ware pan with the Kaalan on a low flame and keep stirring carefully till the Kaalan reaches the desired consistency. (refer notes) Switch off flame and stir continuously till it becomes cold.


Store the Kaalan in a porcelain jar and use when required. (refer notes)

Notes:

1. If the bananas are not ripe enough, you can add a little powdered jaggery to the Kaalan for that required sweetness, towards the end. Do not add too much but just enough.

2. I don't like my Kaalan too thick and hence took it off the flame when the gravy was slightly loose. But for those of you who prefer a thick consistency, keep stirring the curry carefully till it thickens. Stirring the curry is very crucial because it prevents the curd/yoghurt from curdling.

3. The Kaalan can be stored in an airtight porcelain jar for a few days at room temperature (you can refrigerate it if you want to) and used when required.

Hope you all had a fantastic Onam. We had a lovely Onasadya at a small restaurant here in Bangalore, thoroughly enjoyed it. Special thanks to my lovely hubby, Reju for treating me with that yummy Sadya. He is totally amazed by my mighty love for the "Sadya"! But don't worry Reju, I still love you more!!! :)

Recipe Courtesy: The Family Cook Book by Mrs. K.M. Mathew

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

"Onam Vannallo Ponnonam Vannallo..." - Pal Payasam


Let me start today’s post by wishing all my wonderful readers a Happy and Blessed Onam 2012.

I love Kerala at this time of the year where everyone is dressed in traditional Kerala attire of Kasavu/Kerala sarees, Pattu Paavaada (skirt and blouse), Mundu etc. That lovely blend of cream and gold is a treat to the eye. And today I bring you something sweet, the Pal Payasam.


Payasam or Kheer is essentially a rice pudding, which is a traditional South Indian sweet dish. It is made by boiling rice or broken wheat with milk and sugar, and flavored with cardamom, raisins, saffron, cashewnuts, pistachios or almonds. It is typically served during a meal or also consumed alone as a dessert.

Kheer is prepared in festivals, temples, and all special occasions. Payasa or Payasam (used in South India) or payesh (used in the Bengal region) are derived from the Sanskrit word "Payas" which also means "Milk". It is prepared using milk, rice, ghee, sugar/jaggery, khoya. Some also add a little bit of heavy cream or condensed milk to give it a more rich flavor. It is often garnished with slivered almonds, cashews, raisins and pistachios. It is an essential dish in many Hindu feasts and celebrations. While the dish is most often made with rice, it can also be made with other ingredients such as vermicelli.

Rice was known to the Romans, and possibly introduced to Europe as a food crop as early as the 8th or 10th century AD, and so the recipe for the popular English Rice Pudding is believed by some to be descended from Payasam/Kheer.


The South Indian version, payasam or payasa is an integral part of a traditional South Indian meal. The South Indian payasam also makes extensive use of jaggery and coconut milk in place of sugar and milk.

In a Kerala Sadya, payasam is served at the end of the hearty meal. Hot payasam served after a delicious and elaborate feast of rice, sambar and other dishes is relished by all Malayalees. Payasam is often served on the banana leaf itself and eaten along with bananas and pappad - "Pappadam-Pazham-Payasam". Sounds wierd?! Well, that's the right way of eating payasam at an Onam Sadya. In Malayalee or Kerala cuisine, there are several different kinds of payasam that can be prepared from a wide variety of fruits and starch bases, famous ones being: Chakka Pradhaman made from jackfruit pulp, Ada Pradhaman and  Palada Pradhaman made from flat ground rice chips, Parippu Pradhaman made from split green gram, Gothambu Payasam made from broken wheat, Semiya Payasam made from vermicelli, Mambazha Payasam made from fresh ripe mangoes etc...

Ingredients

Red Rice - 1/2 cup (refer notes)
Milk - 5 cups (refer notes)
Sugar - 1 and 1/4 cups
Cardamom (crushed) - 2 (or 2 pinches of cardamom powder)


Method

Wash and clean the red rice. Keep aside.

In a pressure cooker (refer notes), add the washed rice, milk, sugar and crushed cardamom. Mix well. Cover and cook at medium to low flame. (I cooked it for 7 to 8 minutes on medium flame and the rest of the cooking was done on sim) When the steam appears, place the pressure cooker weight on it and cook for about 40 mts (preferably avoiding any whistles) on a low flame.

At the end of 40 minutes, switch off flame and keep closed for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hrs. Open the lid of the pressure cooker and give it a good stir. Check for sugar and add if necessary. (you can add 2 pinches of cardamom powder if you did not add crushed cardamoms before. Combine well.). If you find the payasam too thick, dilute it by adding boiled milk. Serve warm or cold. (I love cold payasam. My hubby and I preferred it cold, but you can always have it warm too.)

This is not the authentic payasam but a quick and easy payasam. The traditional method of preparing payasam involves more time and effort. I love this recipe for it’s simplicity and awesome flavors.


Notes:

1. In case you don't have red rice, you can always use sona masoori or basmati rice in this recipe.

2. If you are using full fat milk, you can add 4 cups of milk + 1 cup of water.

3. Make sure you use a fairly large pressure cooker because the milk tends to ooze out while cooking.

What better way to welcome Maveli this Onam! An absolutely crack-a-lackin Pal Payasam just for you! Enjoy.....Have a great day and year ahead. God bless.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

"Akale Onam Pularumpol..." - Varutharachu Sambar


An Onasadya is incomplete without the freshly prepared spicy Sambar. It gives the whole meal a definition and lifts the Sadya to a new dimension.


Sambar or Sambhar is a dish that holds origin and a very important place in South Indian cuisine. It refers to a vegetable stew or chowder based on a broth made with tamarind paste and split pigeon peas and tempered with coconut oil, mustard seeds, red chillies and curry leaves. Each state in South India prepares it with a typical variation, adapted to it’s taste and environment. The origins of this dish are uncertain, although legend has that it originated in the kitchen of Thanjavur Marathas ruler Shahuji, during the 18th century from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.


Sambar is reflective of a broad and ancient tradition of lentil-based vegetable stews in Southern India. Malayalees all over love this dish and prepare it in different ways. (differs from one region to another)

Nowadays, a ready-made spice mix for Sambar (Sambar powder) is easily available in all stores and super markets. But back in our ancestral homes, this spice mix was freshly ground and prepared and the wonderful aroma produced from these ancient kitchens was simply heavenly!

Sambar makes use of a wide variety of vegetables or vegetable combinations. Some of the veggies used are: Drumstick, Pearl Onion, Potato, Yellow Cucumber, Winter Melon/Ash Gourd, Pumpkin, Carrot, Okra/Ladies Finger/Vendakka, Elephant Yam/Chena, Raw Banana, Tindora/Kovakka, Beans, Brinjal/Eggplant, Snake Gourd, Radish etc…Sambar is an excellent curry option for kiddies who usually pick on veggies on their plates.

I have always had this crazy romance with Sambar ever since I was young. My mum used to prepare this very often at home and we always ended up having big bowls of this delicious curry even before we started off on the main meal. The complexity of texture and flavour makes the dish what it is.

Today I have for you, Varutharachu Sambar - Sambar prepared with roasted coconut and a mixture of freshly ground spices.


Ingredients

Split Pigeon Peas (toor dal) - 1/2 cup
Potato (cut into large cubes) - 2 (small)
Drumstick (cut into 2 inch pieces) - 1
Winter Melon/Kumbalanga (cut into medium sized cubes) - 2 cups
Carrot (cubed) - 2 (small)
Okra/Ladies Finger/Vendakka (cut into  1 and ½ inch pieces) – 5 to 6
Tomato (diced) - 1 (medium)
Tamarind – Size of a small lemon
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2
Pearl onions (whole or cut into half) – 12 to 15
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Coriander leaves/Cilantro (finely chopped) – 1 tbsp
Salt - to taste

To Roast and Grind

Coconut (grated) - 1/2 cup
Coriander seeds – 3 to 4 tsp
Dry Red chillies – 4 to 5
Asafoetida/Hing/Kaayam powder - 1/4 tsp
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) - 2
Curry leaves - a few
Fenugreek seeds/Uluva - 1/4 tsp
Split Urad dal/Uzhunnu parippu - 1 tsp
Chana dal/Kadala parippu - 1 tsp
Coconut oil – ½ to 1 tsp (refer notes)


For Seasoning

Coconut oil – 2 to 3 tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) – 2 to 3 (optional)
Dry Red chillies – 2 to 3
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

Method

Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup of warm water and extract its juice. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add fenugreek seeds. Fry till lightly browned and add the split urad dal and chana dal. Fry until they turn golden brown. Now add the asafoetida and fry for a few seconds till aroma comes through. Transfer this to a bowl and leave to cool. In the same pan, fry the coriander seeds and dry red chillies. Saut’e till they give out a nice aroma and raw smell disappears. Throw in the slit pearl onions, curry leaves and grated coconut and fry till the coconut turns brown (take care not to burn the coconut). Keep aside to cool. Grind to a powder in a mixer. Add a little water and grind to a fine paste.

Cook the pigeon peas/toor dal along with diced tomatoes in a pressure cooker adding enough water. Cook for 1 whistle. Open the lid of the pressure cooker when pressure has fully escaped and mash the dal-tomato mixture. Toss in the veggies - potato, pearl onion, winter melon, carrot, drumstick (refer notes) with turmeric powder (1/4 tsp), enough water and salt. Pressure cook for upto 1 whistle.

Meanwhile saut’e the okra pieces in a little oil until their slime disappears. Remove lid of the pressure cooker and add tamarind extract/juice into it. Throw in the sautéed okra pieces and a few curry leaves. Bring to a boil. Give it a good stir. Add the ground coconut paste and rest of the turmeric powder. Check for salt and add if necessary. Adjust the gravy according to your desired consistency. Cook for 6 to 7 minutes on a gentle simmer. Switch off flame.


Preparation of Seasoning

Heat coconut oil in a small pan and splutter mustard seeds. Add finely sliced pearl onions and fry till light brown. (if you are using them) Add the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. Pour over the prepared sambar. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Keep covered for at least 20 to 25 minutes before serving. Serve hot with rice and pappads.

Notes:

1. Coconut oil enhances the flavour of the curry and lifts it to a whole new level. For health benefits, I tend to use a lesser quantity of coconut oil in my cooking. I avoided using coconut oil while frying the spices and grated coconut for the ground mixture. I only added it while preparing the seasoning/tempering. Please feel free to add more if you like the flavor.

2. Don’t limit your use of veggies to those I have mentioned in the recipe. You can add whichever vegetables are available in your refrigerator.

"Ona Thappan Ezhunellum Nerathoru Thaalapoli..." - Sadya Parippu


With just one more day to go for Onam 2012, I can’t wait to eat the authentic Onam feast tomorrow at one of the restaurants in Bangalore. Crossing my fingers and toes for an awesome and sumptuous meal.


One of the most modest and humble entries on the Onasadya is the Parippu. Served with piping hot rice, a drop ghee and crisp pappads (pappadams), this dish is absolute bliss! It is one of the simplest dishes on the menu and it definitely helps adjust the palate to accommodate the following “explosion of flavors” from the myriad of dishes served on the banana leaf. Keralites generally prepare Parippu in different ways, sometimes with an onion-tomato base or a mixture of ground coconut or a touch of freshly squeezed coconut milk.


However when it comes to a Sadya, this dish is dressed up in it’s simplest form. Cooked with a hint of green chillies and ginger and seasoned with aromatic coconut oil and curry leaves, the Parippu is “Simplicity at it’s best”. Like any Sadya, this dish too has a variety of ways in which it can be cooked depending on each region and can be cooked with either Green Gram Lentils (moong dal) or Split Pigeon Pea (toor dal).

I don’t think I can ever imagine a Sadya without kickstarting it off with this yummy and nutritious dish.


Ingredients

Split Pigeon Pea (toor Dal) – ½ cup (refer notes)
Shallots/Pearl onions (finely sliced) – 6 to 7 (refer notes)
Garlic (finely chopped) – 2 cloves (refer notes)
Ginger (finely chopped) – 1 piece (small)
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) – 2
Water (just enough to immerse the dal) (refer notes)
Coconut oil/ghee – ½ to ¾ tbsp (refer notes)
Curry leaves – 1 to 2 sprigs

Method

Pressure cook the split pigeon pea/toor dal along with the pearl onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, a few curry leaves, a pinch of salt and water for 1 or 2 whistles. (adjust cooking time according to your pressure cooker) Open the lid of the pressure cooker after 3 to 4 minutes. Mash the dal lightly. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Pour in fresh coconut oil/ghee and crushed curry leaves. (crushed between your palms to enhance flavour) Cover and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with rice, a drop of flavourful ghee and crispy pappadams.


Notes:

1. I used split pigeon peas to cook this dish. These lentils don’t need too much water to cook. You can also use green gram lentils (moong dal) to prepare this dish. If you are using green gram lentils, make sure you add atleast 1 and ½ cups of water for ½ cup of the lentils to make sure the lentils are cooked well and ensure the right consistency.

2. When you are preparing the Parippu for Sadya, you can avoid the use of garlic and pearl onions. Of course, adding it will do no harm!

3. You can add either fresh coconut oil or ghee at the end. But I prefer the use of coconut oil because the dish is served with ghee anyway.

4. This dish has a semi-thick consistency. So make sure you adjust the gravy consistency accordingly.

5. To make it healthier, you can add winter melon or ash gourd or yellow cucumber cubes (1 big piece of any 1 of the veggies)  to the cooked dal and cook it for another 2 whistles or till veggie is cooked. For an authentic Onasadya, this is not added.

I hope you enjoyed the recipe. I’m sure you now understand why I said this dish is definitely “Simplicity at it’s best”. Enjoy!

Monday, 27 August 2012

"Onathumbikal Paadum Puzhayoram..." - Masala Kootu Curry


With just two more days to go for the special festival of Onam, most of you must be busy with Onam celebrations at your apartment complexes, clubs, schools and colleges. I love all the colour that Onam has to offer in every way, be it magnificent floral carpets, (pookalam) colourful Onam games such Pulikali and of course the much-loved grand and vibrant Onam Sadya!

The Kerala Sadya is very diverse and differs from one place to another. Each district in Kerala boasts of it’s own famous version of certain dishes on this grand spread. But I have to say that each of these versions are gobsmackingly delicious.


Today’s dish, the irrestible Kootukari or Kootu curry.

Kootu curry is yet another prominent dish in the Sadya of Kerala, South India. This dish is a combo of one or more veggies cooked with black chickpeas and red cow peas and flavoured with the irresistible aroma of freshly roasted grated coconut. And as I mentioned earlier each place in Kerala has it’s own version of certain dishes of the Sadya. The Northern part of Kerala prepares a sweet version of this same curry. But today, I have for you the Masala Kootu Curry.


No Sadya is complete without the famous Kootu curry. I absolutely am in love with this dish and don’t need a Sadya to gobble it all up, a simple and tasty sambar and steaming hot rice is just perfect!

So here you go, Masala Kootu Curry, just for you!


Ingredients

Raw Banana (diced) - 2 (small)
Yam/Chena (diced) - 1 and 1/2 cups
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 3 to 4
Black Chickpeas/Kaala Chana/Karuthu Kadala (soaked overnight) - 3/4 cup
Red Cow Peas/Black Eyed Beans/Vanpayar (optional) - 1/4 cup
Grated coconut – 1 and ½ to 2 cups
Chilly powder – ½ tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – ½ tsp
Salt - to taste

For Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 tbsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Dry Red chillies - 3 to 4
Mustard seeds - ½ tsp


Method

Cook the Black chickpeas in a pressure cooker with adequate water and salt and cook upto 5 whistles. (cooking time differs from one pressure cooker to another, so adjust accordingly) Make sure the chickpeas is cooked well but holds it’s shape and is not mashed up. Drain water (if there is any excess water) and keep aside.

Cook the red cow peas (if you are using this in your dish) in a pressure cooker with enough water and salt for 4 to 5 whistles. (adjust cooking time according to your pressure cooker; again make sure it is cooked well but holds it's shape)

Cook the raw banana and yam cubes along with turmeric powder, chilly powder, green chillies, curry leaves, enough water and salt. Cook until they are done and the water evaporates completely. Throw in the garam masala powder, cumin powder, cooked chickpeas and red cow peas. Combine well.

Heat a non-stick pan and roast the grated coconut until it turns brown (be careful not to burn it). Crush it slightly (optional) with your hands and add to the cooked vegetable mixture. Check for salt at this time and adjust accordingly.

Preparation of Seasoning

In a small pan, heat coconut oil and splutter mustards. Fry the dry red chillies and curry leaves for a few seconds. (make sure not to burn the ingredients) Pour over the prepared Kootu curry. Keep covered for 10 minutes. Serve hot with rice.


Yum Yum Yum!!! :)

Notes:

1. You can also use winter melon in this recipe.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

"Uthrada Poonilave Va" - Olan


To be a vegetarian in India is very easy, not the least because of the variety of veggies and greens you find here. South Indian cooking is quite partial to the use of fruits of the earth, having endured centuries of the caste system, where, vegetarian Brahmins, occupied the pride of place atop.


Nostalgia definitely hit me while I prepared this yummy dish to go with my special Onam spread as my loving mom prepared this quite often back home and I wanted to go back to the comfort of my mom’s wonderful cooking. And thus I turned to this simple but deeply satisfying traditional stew made with yellow cucumber. It’s a mild stew, that is tamely spiced with green chillies and has very fresh flavors incorporated into it allowing the flavour of the vegetable to come through.

So over to today’s dish: The Olan.


Olan is yet another inevitable dish on the traditional Sadya menu. This dish is very subtle in flavour and avoids the use of any spices or masala. The mildly sweet coconut milk, crushed curry leaves and aromatic coconut oil gives this dish a spectacular clean fresh flavour. It’s unique taste and aroma makes an Onam Sadya complete. Veggies like pumpkin, yard long beans/Achinga Payar, Winter Melon, Ash Gourd and Yellow Cucumber are commonly used in this recipe. Today I have prepared Olan with yellow cucumber. Here goes the recipe.

Ingredients

Yellow Cucumber/Vellarikka (peeled and cubed evenly) - 250 gms
Red Cow Peas/Black-Eyed Beans/Vanpayar - 1/4 cup
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2 to 3
Coconut milk (semi-thick) - 1 cup
Coconut milk (thick) - 1/4 cup
Salt - to taste
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Coconut oil - 2 tsp (refer notes)


Method

Soak the beans in water for 10 to 15 minutes. (optional) Drain and pressure cook this along with enough salt and water. (refer notes) Cook till done. (3 to 5 whistles approximately) Drain (if there is any excess water) and keep aside.

Cook the yellow cucumber cubes (refer notes) with green chillies, salt, adequate water, (about 1/2 cup) and curry leaves.

Once the cucumber cubes are cooked, (be careful not to overcook them, it should hold it's shape) add the cooked beans along with the semi-thick coconut milk. Mix well and bring to a boil. Adjust gravy to get the right consistency. Make sure the Olan is not too watery. Now pour in the thick coconut milk, crushed curry leaves (crushed between your palms to release more flavor), coconut oil and remove from heat. Mix well and cover with lid for 15 minutes. (this helps to incorporate flavors better) Serve hot/warm with rice. It was yummy. Ah! Bliss!


Notes:

1. I did not add too much coconut oil. Feel free to adjust the quantity of oil used. The more the tastier.

2. It is not necessary to soak the Red Cow peas before cooking it. You can directly pressure cook it. The cooking time differs from one pressure cooker to another. Also, be sure to add more water while cooking it because the beans doubles in size once cooked.

3. Make sure the yellow cucumber is cut into evenly sized cubes to ensure proper cooking.

We had this as a side to our Onam Sadya. You can always include this as a dish in your daily meal. It works really well with the right food combinations.

Thanks very much to all my readers for your appreciation.

Friday, 24 August 2012

"Poopattum Aarpuviliyumaayi Onam Varavaayi" - Beetroot Pachadi


Continuing with my Onasadya special series, I have yet another delectable treat for you.


Ever since I got pregnant, loads of people have been telling me to eat beetroot regularly because of all it's natural goodness and nutrition. As you all already know, I love any veggie in any form. But the beets; they trumped me! I have detested beets (I know that's a very strong word to use, bud sadly is true) since I was a wee little one. I don't like their colour (they look like they are bleeding!) or their taste, which to me is just isn't there. But last week, I tried my hand at Beetroot Pachadi and here came the evidence of transformation. I was amazed at how good these roots were that heretofore I could not palate suddenly became something I could nosh on!


Today's recipe is the Beetroot Pachadi. Pachadi, refers to a traditional South Indian side-dish. Broadly translated, it refers to food which has been pounded. The definition of the word pachadi is different among different South Indian regions. But in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, pachadi is eaten fresh and typically made of finely chopped boiled veggies cooked with coconut, green or red chillies and tempered in oil with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Curd/yogurt based pachadi can be made of any vegetable, although beetroot, cucumbers, squash, mango, bitter gourd or pineapple are common. Pachadi is commonly eaten with rice and a lentil curry.

So, inspired by the Onasadya, I made this lovely Beetroot Pachadi. Beets being naturally steeped in sugar just bloomed in the cooking process. They were sweet and crunchy and they turn from blood red to a beautiful and magical pink colour when mixed with the yoghurt and coconut, which is so much more welcoming. Fresh beets clubbed with freshly grated coconut is just perfect and not in the least overpowering! A delicious accompaniment to go with your yummy Sadya.

Here is the recipe.

Ingredients

Beetroot (peeled & grated/chopped finely) - 1 (medium) (refer notes)
Green chillies (finely chopped) - 2
Yoghurt - 1/2 cup
Salt - to taste

For Grinding

Coconut (grated) - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds - 1/4 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp

For Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 to 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dry Red chilli - 1 to 2
Curry leaves - 1 sprig


Method

Heat oil in a pan and add the grated/chopped beetroot, green chillies, adequate salt and a little water. (just enough to cook the beetroot) Cook until done. (cover and cook for a minute or two and then cook on an open flame) Keep aside. (do not throw away the excess water if any)

Grind the coconut along with cumin seeds to a fine paste adding a touch of water, if necessary, in a mixer. Once this paste is ground as desired, add the mustard seeds and give it a twist or two till it blends in. (you can either run the mixer while doing this or simply crush the mustard seeds using a mortar and pestle) Add this ground mixture to the cooked beetroot and place it back on the flame. Cook the beetroot-coconut mixture for a few minutes till raw smell disappears. Switch off flame and leave aside to cool. Once the mixture has cooled enough, add the yoghurt and mix till combined well. Check for salt and adjust if necessary.

Preparation of Seasoning

Heat coconut oil in pan and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. (be careful not to burn any of the ingredients) Switch off flame and pour this seasoning over the prepared beetroot pachadi. Mix well and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:

1. You can grate or chop up the beets in the food processor. I followed this method because it makes it so simple.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

"Thithai Thaka Thaitho" - Bitter Gourd/Paavakka Theeyal


I'm sure most of you have already started preparations for a grand Onasadya and the celebration as a whole. Mums must be busy-bees entertaining the little kiddos at home who are having an absolute bash with Onam holidays going on. Well for us in Bangalore, the home-made Onasadya session is already over and I can't wait to eat an authentic yummy Sadya made by a professional Sadya caterer. I don't think I have ever missed an Onasadya till now. I am always excited when I have to go for an Onam meal because to me that is one of the tastiest meals you can ever get.

Though I did say I cooked up an Onasadya, I must admit I did not prepare all the dishes you will find in an authentic spread. It was more a mini Sadya than a grand Onasadya! I still have more to go and hopefully will add more dishes to the Sadya list in the coming months. I also had a great time with cousins over the weekend and together we enjoyed a second round of Sadya. The greatest part about cooking food is sharing it with the people you love and the smile on their faces after they have finished the meal is so worth it! A special thank you to my awesome hubby, Reju (who also helped me organize this spread) and lovely cousins Naveen, Tania, Shon and Lisha who so politely devoured the whole meal. I was so thrilled to see the huge green banana leaves licked perfectly clean!


Today I decided to share with you the next Sadya side-dish that I prepared, the Paavakka Theeyal. Theeyal is yet another typical Kerala dish made with roasted coconut. It can be prepared with a host of vegetables like pearl onions, eggplant, yam, drumstick, snake gourd, long beans, raw cashew, bitter gourd and many others. And today I have for you, Bitter Gourd Theeyal/Paavakka Theeyal.

Bitter gourd cooked in a delicious tangy and roasted coconutty sauce is sure to be a great hit and is an absolute die-for. Do add this to your Sadya menu and you will not regret it for sure.

Ingredients

Bitter gourd/Paavakka (finely sliced) - 2 (medium)
Pearl onions/kunjulli (finely sliced) - ¼ to ½ cup
Coconut (grated) - 1 and ½ cups to 2 cups (refer notes)
Chilly powder - 2 tsp 
Coriander powder - 2 to 3 tsp
Turmeric powder - ½ tsp
Fenugreek powder - ½ tsp
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 3 to 4
Curry leaves - 1 to 2 sprigs
Tamarind - size of a lemon
Salt - to taste 
Coconut oil - as required

For the Seasoning

Coconut oil - 1 and ½ tsp
Mustard seeds - ¼ tsp
Curry leaves - a few
Dry Red chillies – 2


Method

Soak tamarind in 1/4 cup of lukewarm water. Extract its juice and set aside.

Fry the grated coconut in a pan till it becomes golden brown (be careful not to burn it), stirring continuously at medium heat. Lower the heat and add the spice powders – chilli, coriander, turmeric and fenugreek powders and stir for a few seconds. Make sure not to burn them as this will result in bitterness and loss of flavour. Leave to cool. Grind to a very fine paste without adding water. (if it’s really difficult to grind, you can add a little bit of the tamarind extract) Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan and add the sliced bitter gourd, pearl onions, green chillies and few curry leaves and saut’e (on a medium flame) until the bitter gourd is half done or until raw taste disappears. Add the tamarind extract, enough water (just to cover the bitter gourd pieces) and salt. Bring to a boil. Once it starts boiling add the ground coconut paste and mix till combined well. Lower the heat and cook until the bitter gourd is fully done and the gravy thickens.


Preparation of Seasoning

In a small pan, heat coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the dry red chillies and curry leaves and fry for a few seconds. (make sure you don’t burn any of the ingredients) Pour this mixture over the curry. Combine well. Cover with lid and set aside for 15 minutes. Serve hot with rice.

Notes:

1. You can always adjust the quantity of coconut used. But remember coconut enhances the flavor of the dish.

2. Bitter gourd can be replaced with any of the following veggies: Eggplant/Vazhuthananga, Snake Gourd/Padavalanga, Pearl Onions/Kunjulli, Drumstick/Muringakka, Elephant Yam/Chena etc…

3. If you are preparing snake gourd, drumstick or elephant yam theeyal, you don’t need to saut’e these veggies in oil. Just cook the pieces in enough water, sliced pearl onions, turmeric powder, salt, tamarind extract, curry leaves etc… and add the ground coconut paste. When done, pour the seasoning over the curry.

4. You can avoid pearl onions if you are preparing it for Sadya. (I added it because I love the flavor of pearl onions)

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

"Maveli Nadu Vaneedum Kalam"... Cabbage Thoran


Preparing a traditional Onasadya may seem like an ordeal to many. But to be honest, it is not. All it requires is proper planning and organizing. For those of you who have adequate help to chop up and help in the cooking process, preparing an Onasadya is a piece of cake. But for those of you who have to prepare everything alone from scratch (including chopping, washing up etc...), it is good to plan your Onam meal in advance. A few simple steps if followed correctly will result in a delicious Onasadya. I follow these simple steps always (be it Onam or not) which has made my life easier.

1. The first step in the planning process is to make a List of ingredients needed to cook up the yummy spread. Write down all the ingredients (both fresh and dry) and  stock up your pantry and refrigerator through the week. (atleast a week before you plan to cook your meal) Going through each of the recipes you plan to cook will be a good idea to help you prepare your ingredient checklist perfectly.

2. The next most important step is the Mise en place which means "everything in place". Setting up or preparing the necessary ingredients is very crucial in this whole process. This could include organizing and arranging the ingredients like measuring out the ingredients, grinding of spices, grating of coconut, (you would need lots of coconut as it is pretty much used in every item prepared in a Sadya) washing and chopping of veggies, peeling of onions and garlic and ginger, par cooking certain items etc.... These partially prepared ingredients can then be stored in freezer and refrigerator-safe ziploc bags or containers (you can label them if you want to avoid confusion) and placed in the freezer or refrigerator. Preparing the mise en place ahead of time allows you to cook without having to stop and assemble items, which is desirable especially in recipes with time constraints.

3. Once the above steps are carried out efficiently, cooking up all the dishes is a piece of cake.

I share the above steps with you because following them definitely helps when you need to cook for guests or many people. It helps reduce the burden on you. And as I always say, being an amateur cook, my knife skills which include perfect cutting and speed are not too strong. Hence planning and organizing is key to my everyday cooking.


Today I have for you the second dish of this special Onam edition, Cabbage Upperi or Thoran. Thoran or Upperi is a typical Kerala cuisine dish. This popular and common dish is usually prepared to be eaten along with steamed rice and curry. It is an essential part of the Sadya along with other dishes.

Thoran is a dry dish traditionally made out of finely chopped vegetables such as  beans, carrot, raw papaya, unripe jackfruit, spinach and lots more. The chopped veggie is mixed with grated coconut, chillies, mustard seeds, curry leaves, pearl onions, garlic, turmeric etc (the traditional style of cooking did not use onions or garlic, but presently they are also added) ... and briefly stirred in a pan over a hot flame.

So here is today's special recipe, the Cabbage Thoran. I hope you enjoy it. Have fun and happy planning for a sumptuous Onasadya! :)


Ingredients

Cabbage (finely chopped) - 1 (small)
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli - 1
Turmeric - a pinch
Salt - to taste
Oil - as required
Rice or Urad dal - a few grains

For Grinding or Crushing

Grated Coconut - 4 to 5 tbsp
Shallots/Pearl Onions - 5 to 6
Garlic - 3 cloves
Green chillies - 1 to 2 (adjust as per spice tolerance)
Curry leaves - a few


Method

Grind or crush all the ingredients listed under "For Grinding or Crushing" into a coarse mixture. Keep aside.

Heat oil in wok. Once the oil heats up, add a few grains of rice or urad dal and saut'e till lightly browned. Now splutter mustard seeds. Throw in the red chilli and fry for a few seconds. Add the finely chopped cabbage leaves and saut'e on medium heat till veggie reduces in quantity. (1 minute approx.) Toss in the coarsely ground or crushed coconut mixture along with adequate salt, turmeric powder and curry leaves and mix lightly. Bring the cabbage mixture to the centre of the wok and cover and cook on high flame till steam comes. Turn the flame to sim and let it remain for another minute or two. (or till veggie is cooked) Be careful not to burn the vegetable. Then remove lid and stir to combine all the ingredients well. Check for salt at this time and adjust if necessary. Keep saut'eing till cabbage is done. Switch off flame and serve hot.

Notes:

1. I did not add any water while cooking the cabbage as the water released from the veggie was enough to cook the dish. But if you think you need to, add a splash of water and not more than that.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

"Poove Poli Poove" - The Aviyal


Onam also known as Vamana Jayanthi is a Hindu festival and the state festival of Kerala celebrated by the people of Kerala. The festival commemorates the Vamana avatar of Vishnu and the subsequent homecoming of the legendary emperor Mahabali. It falls during the Malayalam month of Chingam (August-September) and lasts for 10 long days. Onam brings out the best of Kerala culture and tradition. Intricately decorated Pookalam, sumptuous Onasadya, breathtaking Snake Boat Race, and the exotic and graceful Kaikottikali dance are some of the most remarkable features of Onam - the harvest festival of Kerala.

The beauty of the festival lies in it's secular fabric. People of all religions, castes and communities celebrate the festival with equal joy and verve. This beautiful festival also helps to create an atmosphere of peace and brotherhood by way of various team sports and other events organized on the day.

I grew up in an apartment complex (where my parents continue to stay) where we celebrated almost all festivals. And Onam was one of our favorites. I still remember very fondly the late nights with all the aunties and friends at the apartment, very busy at work preparing a beautiful and colorful floral carpet. (Pookalam) One of the most marvelous facets of Onam is the unfolding of its rich and well-established culture. We see not just glimpses but a whole gamut of it in the ten-day-long carnival. Pulikali, Kaikottikali, Kummattikalli, Kathakali, Thumbi Thullal besides several other folk arts and traditions can be seen on one platform called Onam.

Personally for me, the Onasadya is the highlight of the festival, the most delicious part of the grand festival called Onam. It is considered to be the most elaborate and grand meal prepared by any civilisation or cultures in the world. It's a feast which if enjoyed once is relished for years. Onasadya is prepared on the last day of Onam, called Thiruvonam. Legend goes that Mahabali who was so attached to his people requested Gods to allow him to visit Kerala every year. People of Kerala wish to convey that they are enjoying the same age of prosperity as was witnessed during the reign of King Mahabali by preparing a grand Onasadya. Rich and the poor, everybody prepares Onasadya in a grand fashion as people of Kerala are extremely devotional and passionate when it comes to the sadya. So much so that, it has lead to saying, 'Kaanam Vittum Onam Unnanam', which means - men go to the extent of selling all their possessions for one Onam Sadya.

The Meal

Rice is the essential ingredient of this Nine Course Strictly Vegetarian Meal. All together there are 11 essential dishes which are prepared for an Onasadya. Number of dishes may at times also go upto 13. Onasadya is so elaborate a meal that it is called meals, even though it is consumed in one sitting. Onasadya is consumed with hands, there is no concept of spoon or fork here.

A traditional Onasadya comprises of different varieties of curries, Upperies –stir fried veggies, Pappadams/pappads, Uppilittathu - pickles of various kinds, Chammanthi - the chutney, Payasams and Prathamans or puddings of various descriptions. Fruits and digestives are also part of the meal.

The food has to be served on a tender Banana leaf, laid with the end to the left. The meal is traditionally served on a mat laid on the floor. A strict order of serving the dishes one after the other is obeyed. Besides, there are clear directions as to what will be served in which part of the banana leaf. (I haven't followed this method as I didn't know which dish went where!) These days Onadaya has toned down a little due to the urban and hectic living style. Earlier, Onasadya used to be even more elaborate. There were about 64 mandatory dishes - eight varieties each of the eight dishes! At that time three banana leaves were served one under the other to accommodate all the dishes. How exactly they were accommodated in the tummy is definitely food for thought!


Today, I have for you one of the most special dishes of the Onasadya (and my favourite dish), the Aviyal. Aviyal is a mixture of vegetables, coconut, souring agents such as raw mangoes, tamarind extract or curd, seasoned with coconut oil and curry leaves. It is an extremely healthy and nutritious dish since it contains a whole lot of vegetables. Veggies most commonly used in aviyal are raw green plantain/ethakka, elephant yam/chena, cucumber/vellarikka, winter melon/ash gourd/kumbalanga and drumstick/muringakka. You can also use vegetables like achinga payar/yard long beans, carrot, tindora/kovakka, beans, brinjal, chembu, jack fruit seeds etc. You can use 4-5 vegetables among these but plantain and yam are the most important vegetables in this dish. This dish is easy to prepare but the vegetables need to be cooked to perfection, sourness just right and the grated coconut needs to be crushed/ground perfectly to get a delicious aviyal. The coconut oil and crushed curry leaves added at the end gives the dish a beautiful aroma and taste. The use of coconut oil and curry leaves cannot be compromised on.

So, here is today's Onam special vibhavam (dish), the Aviyal.


Ingredients

Vegetables - 3 cups (refer notes)
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Green chillies (slit lengthwise) - 3 to 4
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Sour Yoghurt - 1/4 cup (refer notes)
Grated Coconut - 1 to 1/4 cup
Shallots/Pearl onions - 5 to 6
Cumin seeds - 1/2 to 3/4 tsp
Curry leaves - 2 to 3 sprigs (refer notes)
Coconut oil - 1 to 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste


Method

Cut the veggies into long thin slices. (preferably all the veggies should be of same size for easy cooking and a better visual appeal) Cover and cook the vegetables, curry leaves, chilli powder, turmeric powder and adequate salt in enough water. (refer notes) Be careful not to add too much water to avoid veggies getting overcooked. If overcooked, the aviyal will end up all mushy and watery.

Grind coconut along with shallots/pearl onions, green chillies, cumin seeds, a few curry leaves and 1 tbsp of yoghurt.

Add the ground mixture to the cooked veggies and mix till combined well. (be careful not to break the veggies) Cover and cook for a few minutes till the raw taste of coconut disappears. Add sour yoghurt and mix well. Check for salt and adjust at this time. Cook without lid till steam appears. (1 or 2 minutes approx.) Switch off flame. Add the fresh coconut oil and crushed curry leaves. (crush the curry leaves between your palms to release more flavour and fragrance) Cover with lid and keep aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot with rice.


Notes:

1. You can use any veggies you like. These are the vegetables I used: raw plantain, elephant yam (chena), winter melon/ash gourd/cucumber (kumblanga/vellarikka), drumstick, carrot, potato, beans. You can also use fresh farm veggies like colocasia/Taro/Arbi (chembu), brinjal etc...

2. You can also use raw mango instead of sour youghurt. Add sliced raw mango depending on the sourness. (about 1/2 to 1 whole mango) Raw mango slices should be added when the vegetables are half cooked. Once the mangoes go in, cover and cook till veggies are fully done.

3. Curry leaves and coconut oil are a very integral part of this dish. More the better.

4. Yam can be cooked separately if it involves more cooking time. You can pressure cook the yam slices with a pinch of chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt or just as it is. This cooked yam can be added to the rest of the cooked veggies just before adding the ground coconut mixture.
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