Kalan(Yam & Raw banana in a thick coconut based sauce)

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If you are from North Kerala, then you might have heard of this dish. I will begin with explaining about this dish to those of you, who have never even heard the name of this dish, like DD 😛 The first time I was making sadya at home for Onam, I was listing down the dishes I wanted to make for the big feast. Kalan was for sure the No. 1 placeholder. Well, after making the dish, as a general practice, I gave some to DD for tasting and asked for his feedback. He tasted it but I could see confusion all over his face. I thought the dish hasn’t come out well and he is struggling to put it in ‘polite’ words. But then I realized that he was confused about what this dish was and since he had never had it before, he didn’t know what feedback to give 😀 LOL, that was hilarious. I realized then that this dish is not made in the southern part of Kerala from where he belongs. However, he said that the dish as such was really good and that definitely wasn’t to just keep my heart 😛

Well, having said that, even if you haven’t heard of this dish, this is a ‘must have’ dish in your Sadya Ila(Banana leaf). Kalan has been my favorite among all the other sadya vibhavangal(Dishes made for Onam). The other day, I served this dish to our friends who don’t belong to Kerala and I was pleasantly surprised that they absolutely loved the dish too.

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INGREDIENTS:

Raw banana/Pacha kaya(cubed) – 3/4 cup
Yam(cubed)/Chena(cubed) – 3/4 cup
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Turmeric powder – 3/4 tsp
Black Pepper powder – 1/4 tsp
Fenugreek powder – 2 pinch
(Dry roasted and powdered)
Yogurt/Curd(should be sour) – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli – 2 nos
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Oil(Coconut oil preferred) – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/2 tsp)
Rice flour(optional) – 2 tsp

To grind:-
Grated Coconut – 1 cup
Green chilli – 2-3 nos
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

METHOD:

1. In a saucepan or a steel/aluminium vessel, using very minimal water(about 3/4th cup), boil yam and raw banana. For this, first put cubed yam since it takes more time to boil. After about 5-6 mins, add cubed raw banana.
2. To this add red chilli powder, turmeric powder and half the amount of salt. Cover with a lid and let it boil in medium flame. Stir occasionally so the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the vessel. Add little water if it becomes too dry. The vegetables should become really soft so it can be mashed coarsely.
3. Meanwhile, in a blender/mixie, put all the ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind’ section and make it into a smooth paste.
4. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the ground coconut paste and stir well. Using a spoon, mash the vegetables coarsely.
5. Let it cook for 3-4 mins and then add yogurt and mix well. Add the remaining salt, cook for 2-3 mins and remove from the burner.
6. Now add the ground black pepper and roasted fenugreek powder and give it a mix.
7. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and when it splutters, add broken dry red chilli. Once the red chilli turns light brown, add curry leaves and garnish the prepared curry with this seasoning and give a mix.

Note: You must be wondering why I have put ‘Rice flour’ in the ingredients list and never used it. Kalan should be ideally a thick and rich gravy and not very loose. In case you accidentally add more water for boiling the vegetables or your yogurt is too thin and the curry looks watery, add the rice flour to thicken the gravy. You can add rice flour after you put the ground coconut paste and let it cook for 4-5 mins and then add the yogurt. Once you put yogurt, don’t cook for long and don’t cook in high flame else the yogurt will curdle. Also stir frequently after adding yogurt.

TIP: Now this is a Golden Secret recipe tip for you 🙂 If ever, for any of your south Indian cooking, you feel that your gravy is too thin and you want to thicken the gravy, add little rice flour and you will see the magic. Don’t worry, it doesn’t change the taste at all 🙂 This for sure was a very useful tip I got from my mom and it comes in very handy when something doesn’t go right!

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Avial(Mixed veggies in coconut based sauce)

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Another one of my Onam sadya favorites. Avial is a dish made of all possible vegetables. There is no restriction to which vegetable you could use or which one not to use. You can make avial with all your left-over vegetables and turn it into an amazing side dish that you can enjoy with rice. Having said that, I have listed few of the vegetables that are most commonly used for making this dish.

The secret to get the perfect look and taste of avial is its consistency and the sourness. These are 2 main factors that will determine the taste of avial. Please note that your avial shouldn’t be too watery. Also, it should have a nice sour touch to it. Again, like any other Kerala special dish, this dish also seasoned with a ground coconut mixture. Surprised??? 😛

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INGREDIENTS:

Vegetables – 2 cups
(Any vegetable available can be used. I used apprx. equal amount of Raw banana, Yam, Drumstick, Long beans, Beans, Brinjal, Snake gourd, Carrot, Tindora/Kovakka
Tomato – 1 no. small sized
Raw Mango(should be sour) – half a mango
or
Yogurt – 1.5 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Curry leaves – 7-8 nos
Salt – to taste(apprx. 1/2 tsp or more)

To grind:-
Coconut – 1/2 cup
Shallots – 4-5 nos
Garlic – 1-2 pods
Curry leaves – 4-5 leaves
Green chilli – 2 nos
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp

METHOD:

1.Cut the vegetables lengthwise of similar length and size. In 1/2 cup water, put turmeric powder, chilli powder and half the salt. Boil all the vegetables.
Note: When you boil the vegetables, you have to be a little careful. All the vegetables need to be cooked evenly. So first put the vegetables that need more time to boil. For e.g. Drumstick and yam would take the most time. So put that first and after 5 mins put raw banana, carrot, long beans and beans. Again wait for 5 mins and then add all the other vegetables. Covering the lid will help the vegetables to cook faster.
2. Stir occasionally so that the vegetables don’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Add more water only if required. Avial shouldn’t be too watery. Note that the vegetables will also leave out some water while cooking.
3. Once the vegetables are half boiled, add sliced tomato and cut mango slices and curry leaves.
4. While the vegetables cook , grind the ingredients mentioned under ‘To grind’ section. Use water to grind it to a smooth paste(apprx. ¼ cup water or little over that).
5. Add this ground paste once the vegetables are cooked well. Mix well.
6. In medium-low flame, cook for 3-4 mins and stir occasionally.
7. In this recipe you need to add either raw mango or yogurt. I prefer the sourness that comes from raw mango. However, if you don’t have raw mango, add yogurt at this point and mix well.
8. Cook for another 2 mins and add remaining salt and garnish with coconut oil and give it a good mix.

Note: Avial should be a little sour. The sourness can be achieved by adding tomato, yogurt or raw mango. So either you can use yogurt and mango as per your liking. Usually, if it is summer and you get good sour mangoes, using mango will be a better choice.

Rasam

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Rasam is one of the easiest thing to make at home. Our generation is so used to the ready made powders available at stores. Of course it comes handy and yes, definitely it tastes good 😉 Its just about finding the right brand! Though I know the advantages of using ready made powders, I often find our generation in an ignorant state of not even know what basic ingredients go into making it. It makes me wonder. We got whatever we know today from our parents, they got it from theirs and so on. However, tomorrow, will we really have enough information to pass to our later generations!!

So, here is a small beginning. I would encourage all of us to try and know the main ingredients that go into making most dishes. The easiest dish to start with, probably is rasam. So here is a simple recipe of one of the most common, popular and healthy South Indian soup. I realized after interacting with other South Indians(non-Keralites) that there can be various varieties of rasam. However, in Kerala, there is only one type of rasam and here is the recipe for that. If you have a cold, put more pepper powder. Rasam helps in digestion too.

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INGREDIENTS:

Water – 4 cups
Tomato – 1 nos
Tamarind – 1 gooseberry size ball(soak in 1/2 cup warm water)
Red chilli powder – 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Asafetida powder – little over 1/4 tsp
Ginger – 1 inch size
Garlic – 5-6 pods
Curry leaves – 1 strand
Pepper powder – 1/3 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder(raw,not fried/roasted) – 1 1/4 tsp
Coriander leaves – 2 strands
Salt – to taste

For Tempering:-
Oil(Coconut/Canola/Veg) – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp
Dry red chilli – 1 nos
Curry leaves – 4-5 leaves

METHOD:

1. Squeeze the tamarind well and take the extract. Crush ginger and garlic using a mortar and pestle.
2. In water, boil thinly sliced tomato, tamarind water, crushed ginger and garlic, curry leaves, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, asafetida, pepper powder, cumin powder and salt. Let it boil well.
3. Then add coriander powder. Continue to boil for 7-8 mins. Remove from heat and garnish with chopped coriander leaves.
4. Temper it with some crackled mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dry red chilli and curry leaves. Use coconut oil for authentic ‘naadan’ taste.

Ada Pradhaman

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Any Kerala Sadya/Feast is incomplete without a payasam/kheer. Semiya/Vermicelli or rice payasams are more common variety which you can find in most part of India. But as the name suggests, Ada Pradhaman is the king of all payasams and if I am not wrong, a signature dish you will find only in Kerala 🙂 So you might ask, what does it mean afterall!! Well, Ada is nothing but thin flat rice cake. That’s the best definition I can come up with. In olden days, everyone used to make Ada at home. Though I am not very sure about the recipe now, I am sure it is an easy thing to prepare 😛 Traditionally it is made by steaming the batter/flour wrapped in a banana leaf. But these days, its easier to buy it from the grocery stores. You should be able to find this in the same section as Vermicelli. So now you know what Ada is. Pradhaman in Malayalam means ‘the First’ or ‘Foremost in position’. So it translates to being the foremost among payasams.

And the good part about Ada Pradhaman is that it is healthier than its counterparts 🙂 The reason being, it doesn’t contain sugar at all. The sweetness of this payasam comes from Jaggery. For those of you who are not sure about the health benefits of jaggery, let me brief you with some of them. Jaggery is, so to say, unrefined sugar and is the best sweetening agent. It helps in digestion and also purifies blood. That’s enough reasons to make this wonderful and yummy payasam. I was never a fan of brown payasams, but after knowing the health benefits of jaggery, I am sure that going forward, I am going to make these more than the good looking ‘white’ ones 😛

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INGREDIENTS:

Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Jaggery(dark brown) – 230 gms
Ada – 200 gms or 1 cup
Coconut milk(thick) – 300 ml
Ghee – 3 tbsp
Cashew – 2 tbsp
Raisins – 2 tbsp
Cardamom powder – 3/4 tsp
Dry ginger powder(optional) – ¼ tsp
Cumin powder(optional) – ¼ tsp
Coconut slices/thenga kothu(optional) – 1 tbsp

METHOD:

1. Bring 2 cups water to boil. Add 1-2 tsp of ghee to the water. This will prevent ada from sticking to each other. Add ada and boil it in medium high flame till the ada gets soft. Stir occassionally. It will take about 15-20 mins for the ada to cook well. I had crushed the ada using a pestle and mortar to make it look uneven and small. That is just my preference. You can use the ada as is.
2. Running cold water over the cooked ada also ensures that ada doesn’t stick to each other. Drain and keep aside for using later.
3. Meanwhile, heat ghee in a sauce pan. Add half sliced cashews and sauté till they become light brown. At this time add the raisins and fry till raisins are blotted. If you are using coconut slices, fry the coconut slices till it turns brown. Transfer the fried cashews, raisins and coconut slices to a plate for using at a later time.
4. In the same sauce pan, melt jaggery using some water(apprx. 8 cups). Taste the water to decide how sweet you want your ada pradhaman to be. If you want it sweeter, add more jaggery(20-30 gms)
5. Once jaggery melts, add thick coconut milk to it and stir well. Once you pour the coconut milk, cook in medium flame and stir often. Otherwise the coconut milk might split.
6. Add the cooked ada to it and stir well. Add cardamom powder, cumin powder and dry ginger powder now(I used only cardamom powder). Bring it to a thick consistency by stirring frequently for about 10 mins.
7. Once done, add the fried coconut slices, cashews and raisins. Serve hot/chilled.

Note: 1. If you want your ada pradhaman to be dark brown, use only half the quantity of coconut milk and instead use water. The more you add white(coconut milk or milk), the more it gets lighter in color. Quite obvious huh??!! 😉

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Puli Inji

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Puli in my native language means Tamarind or sour. In this context, it means tamarind. Inji means Ginger. So now you know what Puli Inji could possibly mean. It gets a perfect blend of sweetness from jaggery, sourness from tamarind and its fair amount of hot and spicy touch from Ginger. This is another placeholder in the ‘Sadya Ila’ (Feasts in Kerala are served in banana leaf and Ila means leaf) along side other pickles during Onam. Though it is served in a very minimal quantity(less than a tsp), an onam sadya is incomplete without puli inji.

You will find various versions of this item going from south to north Kerala. Towards the south, it is called Inji Puli or Inji curry. There might be slight variation in taste too. The difference could be in the proportion of ginger and tamarind used or in the consistency of the item. Well I know that I have got my perfect proportion for Puli Inji and that is given below 😛 My friend suggested me to mention that it has a good shelf life. You can store it in the refrigerator and it will stay fresh for 3-4 weeks.

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INGREDIENTS:

Ginger(grated) – 1/4 cup
Jaggery – 1 cube (30 gms)
Concentrated tamarind paste – 2 tbsp
Green chilli – 3 nos
Mustard seeds – ¼ tsp
Red chilli powder – ¼ tsp
Asafetida – ¼ tsp
Curry leaves – 8-9 leaves
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste (apprx. ½ tsp)

METHOD:

1. Heat coconut oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds to it. Once it splutters, add grated ginger and chopped green chillies. Also add the curry leaves.
2. Fry ginger till it looses its moisture and becomes light brown.
3. Now add the tamarind paste and jaggery. Pour ½ cup water and melt the jaggery. Saute occasionally. Add more water if required.
4. Once jaggery melts, add red chilli powder, asafetida and salt.
5. Continue to cook in medium heat till it reaches the right consistency. It should be a thick paste and not watery.

Note: If you are not using tamarind concentrate, you would have to soak 2 gooseberry sized tamarind balls in 1 cup warm water. Squeeze the tamarind well and use this tamarind water. In this case, you will not have to add extra water to melt jaggery. Also, you will have to cook it longer to get it to the right consistency.

Carrot thoran(Stir fry)

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Any meal in Kerala is incomplete without a vegetable stir fry. There are 2 most popular types of these stir fries. It could be ‘Thoran’, which is basically veggie seasoned with a coconut ground mixture. The other is called ‘Mizhukkupurattiyathu’/’Mizhukkuparatti’. This is a more simple style of preparation which doesn’t use any kind of spices. I will post the recipe of one of those in the coming days.

Here I have made carrot thoran. One of the easiest and fastest recipes. Thoran is usually made with vegetables like carrot, beans, long beans, cabbage, okra, beetroot etc. Now that is also because these are mostly the vegetables that are commonly available in Kerala/India. There are very slight variations when using different vegetables. For instance, beet and carrot is grated and the other vegetables are chopped finely. Similarly, when using cabbage, you also put ginger and turmeric powder. Anyway, after coming here, I have made thoran using grated broccoli and asparagus too. They also taste equally good 🙂

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INGREDIENTS:

Carrot – 2 nos.
Mustard seeds – 1/4 tsp
Coconut oil – 1 tbsp
Salt – to taste(apprx. ¼ tsp)

To grind:-
Grated coconut – 1/3 cup
Shallots – 5 nos
Garlic – 2 medium pods
Green chilli – 2 nos
Curry leaves – 8-10 leaves
Cumin seeds – 1/4 tsp

METHOD:

1. Grate carrot and keep aside. In a pan, heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds splutter, add grated carrot to it.
2. Sprinkle some water on the carrot. Also add salt at this time. Cover and cook till carrot is soft.
3. Meanwhile, grind all the ingredients in the ‘To grind’ section in a mixie/blender using very little water(about 1 tbsp). The ground mixture should be mostly dry and not watery.
4. Once carrot becomes slightly soft, add the ground mixture to it and mix well.
5. Allow it to cook for another 5 mins and remove from stove.

Serve with rice and sambar or moru 🙂

Palakkad style Sambar(with coconut)

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To some of you, it might sound little weird. Never heard of Sambar with coconut right? Well, that is the way we prepare sambar in our home town. Although I might have eaten this kind of sambar, almost all my life, I hadn’t realized the fact that mom prepares sambar in a different way than others until 3 years back. All credit to my total ignorance to cooking and the ingredients that make a delicious dish 😉

One day, I saw that mom was making some masala for Sambar and it had coconut. That is when I realized that she doesn’t use store bought sambar powder. Then that day, I felt a major difference in the taste too 😀 I immediately jotted down the ingredients that go in to make the masala from her. But I didn’t try it until Onam (A festival celebrated by people of Kerala) of 2011. Ever since, when I invite someone at home and I plan to make a Kerala meal, my Palakkadan Sambar holds an undisputed place in the menu. There is a reason for it too. So far, if there is one dish of mine, that every single person who has had it, has acknowledged me to be an expert of, that would be my Sambar, hands down 🙂 So here goes the recipe for the yummy Palakkad Sambar.

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INGREDIENTS:
Note: Cup used for measurement is US measurement cup, 1 cup = 237 ml

Toor dal(yellow dal) – 1 cup
Grated coconut – heaped 1/2 cup
Shallots – 5 or 6 nos
Fenugreek seeds – 8-10 nos(little less than 1/4 tsp)
Asafoetida – 1/2 inch piece or 1/2 tsp
Tamarind – 2 inch piece
(If you are using tamarind extract – 1/2 tsp)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chilli powder – 1.5 tsp
Coriander powder – 3 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – 2 strands
Coriander leaves – 3 strands
Dry red chilli – 2 nos
Oil – 1 tbsp
Cut mixed vegetables(Carrots, Drumstick, Okra, Brinjal, Beans, Potato, Raw banana etc are the vegetables you could use) – roughly 1.25 cups
Tomato – 1 nos
Salt – to taste (apprx. 3/4 tsp)

METHOD:

1. Soak toor dal in water for sometime, say 30 mins. Boil it in cooker and give 3 whistles. Keep aside for using later. Mash the cooked dal to form a thick smooth paste.
(For those who do not know how much quantity of water to use to boil the dal, use 1:1.5 ration of dal vs water)
2. Soak the tamarind in warm water. Keep aside for use later.
3. In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil. Keep medium heat and add the fenugreek seeds and asafoetida and let it fry well. Asafoetida will become white/grey in color once it fries. If you are using asafoetida powder, it should become light brown.
4. Add coconut and shallots to the pan. Keep stirring it occasionally as you fry these. Fry till coconut becomes light brown and shallots loose its crunchiness.
5. To this add coriander powder and 1 tsp red chilli powder. Fry for few seconds till a nice aroma of the fried masala is released. Frying it for longer will burn the red chilli powder.
6. Now once this mixture cools down, grind it to a fine thick paste using water as required.
7. In a sauce pan or a steel vessel, boil 4 cups of water. Put the vegetables, remaining(1/2 tsp) of red chilli powder, turmeric powder and 1 strand of curry leaves to the boiled water and let it cook.
Note: Put vegetables that need more time to boil first(like drumstick, yam or carrot; followed by the ones that need lesser time when compared(like brinjal, okra etc)
8. Once the vegetables are half done, add sliced tomatoes and let it boil.
9. Once the vegetables are cooked, add the tamarind extract to it.
10. Once it boils well, add the boiled toor dal and mix well. Let it boil well too.
11. Now add the ground coconut masala and salt. Mix well and let it boil for sometime. You can add water to bring the gravy to the consistency you prefer.
12. Once it boils, keep aside and prepare the tempering.
13. In a pan, heat the remaining oil. Add mustard seeds, let it splutter. Then add broken red chillies and curry leaves to it. Switch off the stove and add this tempering to the sambar.
14. Garnish with some chopped coriander leaves and delicious palakkad sambar is ready.

Serve with rice or idli or dosa.

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