Posted on | August 24, 2010 | 17 Comments |
If you follow my photo blog, you might already know that I made a mini-Sadya for the grand Kerala festival Onam yesterday. Avial is an integral part of the traditional Kerala Sadya line-up. I don’t know why I make Avial only when there is a sadya, it is one of the easiest vegetable dishes to make. It is so easy, that there is a legend that this dish was invented by Bhima (a prince from Hindu Mythology) who had to pretend to be a cook during his thirteenth year of living in exile. Bhima, who was born in the lap of luxury, obviously didn’t know how to cook anything, so he just chopped up all the vegetables he could find in the kitchen, boiled them and topped with grated coconut. That’s how the Avial was born!
Great story, but I think a more likely story is that it was invented by some resourceful Malayali woman whose good-for-nothing husband forgot to bring home groceries one night as he had an extra bottle of toddy from the local toddy shop that night. She had to scout for all the bits and pieces of leftover vegetables in the kitchen and make up something tasty and filling for her young son who needed all the energy to study for his exams. After all, he was going to be her ticket out of this hellhole, once he gets that coveted Government job. So she had to make sure he gets his nutrients, and that is how Avial was born!
But I digress! Let’s get back to the recipe, shall we? I feel that Avial is Kerala’s version of Ratatouille. It really is a bunch of random vegetables cut up to the same size and shape, layered and cooked. In this version, the vegetables are mixed with crushed coconut and spices and some kind of souring agent – mango, tamarind or yogurt. Most people I know use green mangoes in avial, but personally I hate mangoes in Avial. Yogurt is my preferred souring agent, I have never made it any other way! The vegetables used also vary depending on the availability and personal preferences, but I feel that drumstick is a must have vegetable in Avial. I found fresh drumsticks at the Indian store this time, I’ve always had to settle for the frozen variety before. If you can’t find drumsticks, don’t worry, it tastes pretty good even otherwise. I have listed the vegetables I used, but feel free to use anything else that you can find- like zucchini, squash, yard long beans, yam etc.
- 1 drumstick
- 2 carrots
- 1 large white potato
- 1 green plantain
- 1 snake gourd
- a few green beans
- 1 eggplant
- 6 green chilies, slit (or to taste)
- 1/2 tsp red chili powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 3/4th cup fresh/frozen grated coconut
- 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/4 cup sliced shallots
- a few curry leaves
- 2 tbsp oil (coconut oil is the best, I used olive oil, oh the blasphemy )
- 1/2 cup thick yogurt
Split the drumsticks in half and cut into 1” pieces. Peel the carrots, potatoes and plantain and cut into thin 1” long pieces. Cut the snake gourd and eggplant also into the same size and shape. Break the edges of the green beans and cut into the same size. Split the green chilies in half.
Arrange all the vegetables in a large pan, add the chili powder, turmeric powder, salt and split the green chilies. Add 1 tbsp water and 1 tbsp oil. Cover and cook on very low heat till the vegetables are tender. The vegetables should give out some liquid, but check the pan occasionally to make sure there is enough liquid to cook the veggies.
While the vegetables are getting cooked, place the grated coconut, shallots and cumin seeds in a food processor and process it for a few seconds to make a coarse mixture.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add the coconut mixture, curry leaves and the remaining tbsp of oil to the pan, mix gently and cover and cook on low heat for 4 more minutes.
Stir in the yogurt and let it gently heat through for a minute or so. Remove from the heat and serve warm.
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