When we moved to Bangalore in the late seventies, we rented a small, cozy house on the West Of Chord Road where the houses were few and far in between. Windy and cold in the evenings, I used to spend them listening to songs on my trusted transistor, trying to turn out a passable dinner. My husband used to work late and my parents suggested we move to a secure flat.We informed our landlord, who sent prospective tenants only on Sundays .An early Monday morning, we picked up my relative who was visiting – from the station and my husband left for work.
The doorbell rang .I opened the door to see a well dressed, man who politely insisted that the landlord had given him permission to look over the house. No amount of reasoning would dissuade him. Put it down to youthful innocence – I allowed him in after taking his phone number.When he saw my cousin he left in haste seemingly in a hurry to get back.
In the evening try as we might we could not get the call through. It dawned on us that he might not have been who he claimed at all… as was confirmed by our landlord. The enormity of my folly dawned on me. Never open the door to a stranger !!!!
Avial is a colourful medley of vitamin-rich vegetables cooked in a curd and coconut sauce, enhancing the taste without taking away the natural flavour. No sadya is complete without this semi-dry preparation.The treatment of avial differs throughout the length and breadth of Kerala. In colloquial language we use avial to mean a mixture of many things.
Researching the origin of avial, I found many versions of it, the most plausible of them being – a very, very long time ago, a great person of foresight, seeing the leftovers of a sadya preparation gave instructions to the cooks to make a new dish with these vegetable peels and voila, the Prince of the Sadya was born.
AVIAL-KERALA MIXED VEGETABLE DISH
Preparation time: 30 minutes Serves – 6 Cook time: 20 minutes
- Yam (Chena) – 150 gms
- Raw banana – 1
- Drumstick (Muringakaya) – 1 (cut in 2″ length piece)
- Cucumber (Vellirika) – 150 gms
- Snake Gourd (Padavalanga) – 100 gms
- Carrot – 2 (small)
- Long string beans (Achinga payar) – 150gms
- Curds – 1/2 cup
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Coconut oil – 2 tbsp
- Curry leaves – 2 sprigs
- Chilli powder – a pinch
- Green chilly – 1 slit
Coarse coconut mixture
- Grated coconut – 1/2
- Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Green chillies – 1
- Curry leaves – A Few
- Small onion – 3 (optional)
- Clean vegetables and cut them length-wise about 2″ length and thinly slice it.
- Rub salt, turmeric and chilly powder into the vegetables and keep aside for 10 minutes.
- Add 1 tbsp oil in a pressure cooker. Add vegetables, a green chilly and a sprinkling of water .
- Cook the vegetables in the pressure cooker for about 3 mins, or till a whistle is heard. The pieces should be well cooked, but intact.
- Coarsely grind the scrapes of coconut, green chillies and cumin seeds in a little curd.
- Add the coconut mixture to the vegetables,on a low-medium flame, stirring all the time followed by the rest of the curd and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Before taking off the heat, garnish with the remaining coconut oil and the curry leaves. Close pan and put off the flame. Avial is ready.
Please Note that:
- Earlier, only the local vegetables, including jackfruit, were used; now later entrants like carrots,peas, green beans, aubergine, etc… are used except for a few like ladies finger which gets squishy.
- If you love spice, add more green chillies.
- Adding coconut oil and cooking vegetables in it (tip by a super cook) is a recent discovery , but it gave me a tastier version as it retains the flavour of the vegetables while water tends to dilute it.
- Alternatively, vegetables can be cooked in a thick bottomed pan; add water just enough to cook and proceed as above.
- Tamarind, curd or raw green mango can be used to provide sourness. When adding tamarind, add it with the vegetables to be cooked, and for mango – peel, slice or cut fine – and add to the vegetables.
Quick Tip: When baking, use an aluminium foil to line the pan,to prevent burnt-on stains.
Quick Snack: Nothing to beat the onion bhajji. Take a cup of besan in a bowl. Rub in to the besan ,onions – 1/2 cut fine, red chilly powder – 1 pinch, green chilly – 1/2 cut fine, curry leaves – cut small, coriander leaves – 1 sprig (cut small), hing -1/4 tsp and salt to taste. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir well so as to completely dissolve it without leaving any lumps. Keep aside for 10 mins. With a teaspoon, pour small batches of it in the hot oil and deep fry. Serve hot with tomato ketchup or chutney.