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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