Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Vegan

Kerala Banana Chips

Salt and sweet banana chipsAnyone who visits Kerala, mallu or non-mallu, does not leave without a bag of “benana chips.” Neighbors and office colleagues demand that the Kerala native who is disappearing for a holiday will not be allowed to come back without banana chips. Chips (wafers) in Kerala is synonymous with banana chips, immediately followed in popularity by the tapioca and jackfruit varieties. Banana chips are easy to make at home. When you buy chips from a bakery, you can never be sure of the oil they use and how much they have reused the oil. If raw plantains and coconut oil are available, making these irresistible wafers is just a matter of time and inclination. I am not a wafers fan but when made at home, I can’t stop munching on them. The below recipe makes roughly a kilo of chips. But you can even make smaller quantities.

Raw plantainPlantain is a cousin to banana, starchier, firmer, and low in sugar. They have a thicker skin and taste better and digest faster when cooked. To know the difference between a plantain and banana, click here. You need to be very careful while choosing plantains to make chips. They should be ripe but raw. Usually chips are round in shape, but at home we prefer “kaaya naalaaki varuthathu” (plantains cut into four). Whatever shape you choose, the thinner the slice, the crispier and better the wafer. The classic Kerala wafers are plain salted. You may add pepper powder or chilly powder to add spice to it.

Ingredients:
Raw plantains (mallu benanas) – 10
Coconut oil – 400 – 500 mL
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tbsp
Water – 1 cup

Remove the peelMethod:
Wash the plantains. Use a knife to remove the edges. Make vertical lines/cuts in the plantain. Nudge the edge gently and remove the peel. Don’t even think of discarding the peel. You can make delicious and healthy stir fry (thoran) out of it. Recipe to follow soon.

Use a knife to chop the plantain into thin round pieces. You can even make horizontal and vertical cuts on the plantain and then slice them to make smaller chips. Spread the pieces on a plate/paper.

Slice thin

Mix salt and turmeric in water and keep aside.

Sizzling plantain pieces

Pour oil into a thick iron vessel and keep it on medium flame. When the oil is almost at smoking point, add a batch of sliced plantain pieces into the hot oil. Do not overcrowd. You will notice the pieces sizzle a lot in the beginning. Use a skimmer to gently separate any pieces that may have stuck together. When the sizzling reduces, reduce the flame to slow and fry until the plantain pieces start turning brown. Be watchful as it can turn from brown to burnt in no time.

Sprinkle salted water

At this point, sprinkle a fistful of water mixed with turmeric and salt. The chips start sizzling once again until all the salt and turmeric is absorbed. When the sizzling stops, remove immediately using a skimmer. Spread on a kitchen towel to drain out excess oil.
Fry all the plantain pieces in a similar fashion. Store in airtight containers and use within a week or two.

Dals/OzhichuKootaan/Saaru, Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, South Indian, Vegan

Sprouted Horsegram Curry (Mulappicha Muthiracurry)

Horsegram curryOne of the best ways to include fiber in our diet is to eat whole grains and legumes. Sprouted legume immensely increases the nutritive value of the food. Horse gram is a legume that is high in iron and a good source of protein. It is a fairly good source of calcium as well. Horse gram aids weight loss.

For many years I stuck to the familiar diet that is made at home; sambar, rasam, avial, moloshyam (dal curry), and so on. Recently I have been trying to experiment and include new ingredients in my diet. This is good for a variety of reasons. Most hereditary diseases are passed on due to dietary and lifestyle habits in a family. I personally believe that when you include new items in your diet, it reduces your chances of developing certain hereditary conditions/diseases.

Here is an experiment with horse gram that I am very satisfied with. A simple sprouted horse gram curry.

Ingredients:
Horse gram – 1 cup
Water – as needed
Tamarind – 1/2 lime sized
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste

For grinding:
Coconut – 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds/Jeera/Jeerakam – 1/2 tsp
Shallot – 1
Urad dal – 1/2 tsp
Dry red chillies – 4-5

For tempering:
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Sprouted horsegramMethod:
Soak the horse gram in water for 6-8 hours. Drain the water and clean the horse gram. Remove all the non-viable ones. Keep the drained, wet horse gram covered in the same vessel for the next 8-12 hours. The sprouting time varies depending on the weather in your region. Wash the sprouted horse gram with clean water.

Pressure-cook the horse gram with water just enough to soak the sprouted horse gram. Horse gram is a tough legume and takes time to cook and needs cooking time of 2-3 whistles. After opening the pressure cooker lid, you can use a masher to mash some of the horse gram. This helps give a good gravy consistency to the curry. Add turmeric powder and salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Soak tamarind in warm water, extract tamarind juice, and add to the cooked horse gram.

Meanwhile, pour a drop of oil in a pan and add urad dal. Roast until golden. Break the dry red chillies into 2-3 pieces and add it to the roasted urad dal. Roast for less than a minute and turn off. Grind this along with the shallot, jeera, and coconut. Add this to the cooked horse gram. Mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes. When the curry starts boiling and bubbling, turn off the fire. In a pan, splutter mustard seeds in coconut oil. Add curry leaves to the spluttered mustard seeds, turn off the fire, and add to cooked horse gram curry. Serve with hot rice or roti.

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Breakfast, Chutneys/Thogayals/Dips/Podis, Dosas, Everyday Simple Recipes, Pickles, South Indian, Tiffin

Milaga Podi (Dry Chutney Powder)

There are two items that you will definitely find in every South Indian household – curd and milaga podi (dry chutney powder or gun powder as non-Southies call it). Podi is potent gun powder that can make any food item tasty! It is a must-have in every household as it has a good shelf life and can accompany most food items such as dosa, idli, and even rice. Lazy to grate coconut and grind a chutney? All you need to do is take few spoons of podi, mix some oil in it and serve along with the dosa or idli. You wont even miss the juicy coconut chutney! Podi is also a safe bet when you are packing food for long bus/train journeys.

dosa and idli served with podi and chutney

Every household has their own secret recipe for podi and it tastes different in every house. When in school, I used to taste podi from my friends’ lunch boxes and each of them would taste different. Podi would differ in texture, taste, and visual appeal. Grainy, powdery, spicy, orange, greenish black, they come in all varieties. Recently, I tried MTR chutney powder (they market podi by that name) and I quite liked the taste of it. Unlike authentic Tamil Nadu style podi, this one is tangy. I believe tamarind is an ingredient in that recipe. Though I liked the MTR taste, being the conservative types when it comes to food, I prefer the authentic spicy taste without any tanginess.
This recipe is a mix of 2-3 different types of podis that I have had.

Ingredients:
Black gram/urad dal/uzhunnu parippu (white or black) – 1 cup
Bengal gram/chana dal/kadala parippu (optional) – 1/4 cup
Raw rice (optional) – 1/4 cup
Dried red chilly – 10
Black pepper (optional) – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – 6-7 stalks
Asafoetida – size of a marble/2 tsp
Sesame seeds/Til/ellu (white or black) – 2 tbsp
Salt – as required

ingredients for gun powder

Method:
In a heavy bottomed pan (preferably iron), dry roast the grains one after the other until the grains turn red. First roast black gram. Then roast chana dal, followed by rice. Okay, I cheated! I roasted chana dal, kept it aside and then roasted the raw rice and black gram together. That works. When the black gram and rice are half done, add red chilies, black pepper, asafoetida, and curry leaves. If you are using asafoetida powder, you can add it towards the end of the roasting exercise. Turn off the fire and then add the sesame seeds and salt. Keep aside and let it cool down a bit.

While the roasted grains are still warm, dry grind them in a mixer. You can choose to make it powdery or grainy as per your preference. Store in a dry air tight jar. Will stay good for 3-4 months.

Gun powder

Choice of oil to be mixed with podi is a personal preference. Podi is served along with sesame seed oil (til oil/ellenna/nallenna) in most parts of Tamil Nadu. No points for guessing the oil that Keralites prefer!

Idlis and dosas soaked in spicy podi are a rage in restaurants these days. Whether you have a chutney and sambhar to go along with it or not, a well-made podi can up the taste quotient of even a poorly made idli/dosa.

Everyday Simple Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Side Dishes, South Indian, Vegan

Colocasia Stem (Thaalu) Avial

A quick post about colocasia stem avial on demand.

Ingredients:

Ingredients

Tender Colocasia stems – 200 gms
Long beans (payar/chowli) – 100 gms
Raw banana – 100 gms
Raw papaya – 100 gms
Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
Red chilly powder – 1 tsp
Salt – as needed
Tamarind – size of lemon
Water – 1/2 glass
Coconut – 1/2
Shallot – 1-2
Jeera – 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – 2 stalks

Method:

Wash and clean the vegetables. Peel the colocasia stem, raw banana, and Papaya and cut into slender 1-1/2 inch long pieces. The colocasia stems are porous and reduce after cooking. So cut them slightly more thicker than the other vegetables. Remove the edges of the long beans and cut them to 1-1/2 inch long pieces. Put the cut vegetables in a cooking pot and place it on fire. Add Turmeric and chilly powder and half a glass of water. Stir and close the pot with a lid. Stir occasionally to ensure vegetables do not stick to the bottom. Cook in medium fire.

Meanwhile, soak the tamarind in 2 tsp of water and extract the juice. Grate half a coconut and grind the coconut along with one shallot and jeera to make a fine paste. Keep aside.

When the vegetables are tender and cooked, add the tamarind extract. At times colocasia stems tend to cause itching. Adding tamarind juice removes this itch. Mix well and cook for a minute. Add the ground coconut paste. Stir well and cook for 2 mins. Remove from fire. Add salt as needed and then sprinkle curry leaves and then add coconut oil. I cannot describe the aroma that will fill your kitchen when you add the curry leaves and coconut oil to this warm avial. You need to experience it. Anything that smells great tastes great too!

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Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Palakkad Iyer Recipes, Side Dishes, South Indian

Avial

A healthy concoction of vegetables in mildly flavored coconut gravy, a stew of sorts, a must-have for feasts.

Avial

vegetablesIngredients:
Assorted vegetables cut in 1-1-/2 inch size – 500 gm
Water – 1/2 cup
Curd* – 1 cup
Curry Leaves – 2 stalks
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp

* In case any of these ingredients are unavailable, check the alternate ingredients section for other options.

To grindTo grind:
Grated coconut – one cup
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Green chilies – 3 or 4
Shallots – 1-2 (optional)

*Alternatives:
You can add tamarind pulp instead of curd.

VegetablesMethod:
You can use any vegetable for avial. Avial itself means an assortment/mixture of various things. Yet, the traditional avial uses only native Kerala vegetables and does not use vegetables like potato, capsicum etc. So try to use ‘traditional vegetables’ to get the conventional taste. Traditionally used vegetables for avial are ash gourd, malabar cucumber, drum sticks, elephant yam, carrot, raw banana, pumpkin, long beans, snake gourd, bottle gourd. Wash, peel, and then cut the vegetables of same length of 1 to 1-½ inch pieces.

In a wok add ½ cup of water and add the cut vegetables. Ensure that the water is just enough for the vegetables to get cooked, not too much and not less. Add a pinch of turmeric powder. Close with a lid and cook in medium flame until all the vegetables are cooked. Stir occasionally. Add salt.

While the vegetables are cooking, in a mixer, grind the grated coconut, green chilies, cumin seeds, and shallots. Grind coarsely. Add the ground paste to the cooked vegetables and let it simmer for 2 minutes.

Add curry leaves. Turn off the fire. Beat the curd and add it to the cooked vegetables. Mix well and add 1 tbsp coconut oil mix. Avial is ready to be served.

Notes:
Avial can be eaten along with rice and sambar. It is a wholesome dish and can be eaten as a salad also.

Trivia:
Here is an interesting story about the origin of avial. Bheema, the strongest of the of Pandava brothers, worked as a cook in the Virata kingdom during the one year that Pandavas spent in disguise. The king of Virata did not like wasting a thing. Once, during one of his trips to the royal kitchen, the king noticed that there were small bits and pieces of various vegetables lying around even after all the cooking was complete. The king ordered that these vegetables should not be wasted and should be put to better use. Bheema then cooked all the leftover vegetables together and added some leftover coconut, curd and the rest is history! The inevitable item of every good sadya was thus born in the royal kitchen. It is a much loved dish and is commonly found in restaurants. But seldom will you find the original taste of avial there. Try an authentic sadya avial and then you will know.

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Festival Recipes, Kerala Recipes, Snacks, South Indian, Sweets, Vegan

Sharkara Varattti (Jaggery-coated Banana Chips)

Mildly spiced sweet chips synonymous with Onam, an indispensable item in sadya (feast).

Sweet and salted banana chips

IngredientsIngredients:
Raw plantains (large) – 5 Nos
Jaggery (Sharkkara/achu vellam) – 10 Nos (2 pieces of jaggery per plantain)
Cardamom (Elakkai, elaichi) – 5 nos
Dry ginger powder (soonth, chukku) – 1 tbsp
Coconut oil – 250 gm
Sugar – 2-3 tbsp
Water – enough to immerse the plantains

Raw plantains

Preparation Time: 30 mins.
Cooking Time: 30 mins.

Sliced raw plantainMethod:
Peel the skin of the plantains and put them in water. Peeling will become easier if you make 3 or 4 vertical cuts on the plantain peel. Keep the plantains immersed in water for around half an hour. Drain the water and pat dry the plantains. While holding the plantain vertically, cut the middle splitting the plantain into two long pieces and then cut into quarter inch sized pieces.

Deep fried raw plantain piecesHeat oil in a wide pan (preferably uruli, brass vessel). Bring it to boil. Put the plantain pieces into the boiling oil. You need to stir them continuously the first minute to keep them from sticking to each other. Cook in medium to low fire until the pieces start turning brown. If the pieces are not properly cooked/crisp, the chips will be soggy. So have patience to cook the pieces until they are crisp. Remove the pieces from the oil using a strainer and spread them on tissue paper to absorb excess oil. Keep aside.

Dissolve jaggery in water and bring this to a boil. When the boil settles down and the mixture becomes thick (one-string consistency), add the fried plantain pieces and keep stirring. You can be sure that the consistency is right if you see thin jaggery threads forming while you stir the fried plantain pieces. Add powdered cardamom and dry ginger powder and mix well. After a minute or so, sprinkle the sugar and stir well. Like magic, you will see the wet and sticky jaggery syrup turning dry and the pieces separating. Voila, it’s ready!

DSC00065

Trivia:
This is preparation unique to Kerala. Sharkara varatti is a must for wedding feasts and all types of feasts. I have noticed that it is very popular even among non-keralites. Try it and you will know why.

To those of you who are wondering how different a plantain is from a banana, click here.

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