April 10, 2014

Vishu Sadya

India welcomes the Spring season with great fervor which manifests itself as colorful festivals in the various parts of the country. In the south, the Malayalee New Year starts on the first day of the Malayalam month Medam, which is the astronomical New Year Day when the sun crosses the equator. This day is celebrated as Vishu by Malayalees. In the English calender, this usually falls on the 14th or 15th of April. The traditional rituals followed during the festival is believed to usher in another year of prosperity for all Malayalees.

We start early in the day with the 'Vishu Kani' (auspicious sight) and the belief is that by seeing auspicious things at the beginning of the year will ensure the rest of the year to be happy and bountiful. Thus the 'Vishu Kani' has over the years become a ritual arrangement of auspicious articles like 9 grains (nava-dhanyam), new clothes, gold, money, golden cucumber, mirror, the yellow 'konna' flowers (cassia fistula) and a holy text  (like Ramayana or Bhagavad Gita) in a bell metal vessel called 'uruli'. A lighted bell metal lamp called 'nilavilakku' is also placed alongside. Elders of the family distribute tokens of money to the children, servants and tenants. These tokens are called the 'vishu kaineetam' and are usually in the form of coins. People carry on this custom believing that in this way, their children will be blessed with prosperity in future. The families then celebrate the day with joyous abandon by bursting fire crackers after the vishu kani. While the men and the children engage in bursting crackers, the women start cooking a variety of delicacies for the day's lunch. The feast or the 'vishu sadya' is prepared by the women of the household and the whole family sits down to enjoy the vishu lunch together. The dishes are prepared from the vegetables and fruits that are abundant in the season like jackfruits, mangoes, pumpkins, a variety of gourds, and coconuts. 


Though we live outside of Kerala, we do celebrate all our festivals and Vishu is one we love to celebrate. We try to adhere to tradition as much as possible with the available local resources. Instead of 'Uruli' I keep my 'Vishu Kani' in a mahogany tray, and instead of the traditional yellow flowers or Konna, I use a local spring variety of flowers :-). I do the same with the 'vishu sadya' or the feast. I choose my vegetables and other ingredients based on local availability. Of course I stick to quick'n'healthy standards in picking the ingredients and the way I cook. The recipes shared here are not from a specific part of Kerala. My family is from the north of Kerala and my husband's family is from the south central Kerala. My recipes have influences from both, and have evolved a lot based on our taste and health preferences. The spread of dishes for the sadya is also a mix of both sides, so you get the best of both worlds :-). I love cooking them, and all three of us love eating them and finishing every morsel of the sadya :-). So go and try these out, they will make your day.

Parippu-Neyyu-Papadum: (Mung dal in coconut gravy w/ ghee & Papadum)




Ingredients: 
  • Split mung beans (Mung dal - Cheru parippu)  - 1/2 cup 
  • Shredded coconut  - 1/4 cup
  • Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp 
  • Green chilly - 2
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Sea salt  - as per taste
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
Directions: 
  • Dry roast mung dal on a hot pan for a few minutes till nice aroma comes.
  • Cook the roasted beans with 2 cups of water. 
  • Grind coconut with cumin seeds into fine paste and add to the cooked dal. 
  • Add turmeric powder, salt and green chillies slit into halves. 
  • Simmer on low flame for 4-5 minutes, switch off flame, drizzle coconut oil and curry leaves (if available)
  • Serve with rice, ghee and papadum. 

Avial (Mixed vegetables cooked in a thick coconut gravy)



Ingredients:
  • Plantain or Indian yam or a combination - 1/2 cup 
  • Long beans or green beans - 1/2 cup
  • Snake gourd - 1 cup
  • Pumpkin or butternut squash or acorn squash  - 1/2 cup
  • Bottle gourd or ash gourd  or cucumber - 1 cup 
  • Carrot - 1/2 cup
  • Raw mango - 1/2 cup
  • Shredded coconut - 1 1/2 cups
  • Green chilly - 3-4
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Yogurt - 1/2 cup
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs - to drizzle 

Directions:

  • Wash and peel all vegetables and cut them into 1 1/2 inch long sticks. 
  • Start cooking long beans and plantains in 1/2 cup of water and turmeric powder. Cook covered. 
  • Once they are cooked half way thru add raw mango and squash and continue cooking on medium heat. Stir and keep an eye to make sure the vegetables do no burn.
  • Meanwhile grind coconut, cumin and green chillies to a coarse mixture. 
  • Once all veggies are 3/4th done, add remaining vegetables and salt and continue cooking.
  • Once vegetables are almost done (there should not be a lot of water remaining at this point), add the ground coconut mixture and yogurt. Stir well to coat all vegetables with the coconut-yogurt mixture. Cook uncovered on low flame for a 4-5 minutes more. 
  • Drizzle coconut oil on top and switch off flame. 
  • Serve warm, enjoy!

Olan (Taro and ash gourd cooked in coconut milk) 



Ingredients:
  • Chembu (Taro) - 1 medium
  • Ash gourd (kumbalanga) * 1 cup (slices) 
  • Green chilly - 2-3 
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Thick homemade coconut milk** - 1/2 cup
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 tsp

Directions:
  • Wash and peel the taro and slice into small slices. Wash and peel ash gourd into small slices. Slit green chilly.
  • Start cooking taro with 1/2 cup of water and green chilly.
  • Once taro 3/4th cooked, add the ash gourd slices and cook till all vegetables are done well. It will take only 5-10 minutes for the whole process. Only very little water will remain at this point. Keep an eye on it and keep stirring once every minute of so. 
  • Once vegetables are cooked well, add the thick coconut milk and salt and simmer on low heat for 1-2 minutes. 
  • Switch off flame and drizzle coconut oil.
  • Serve warm. Enjoy!!

* This can also be made with bottle gourd (churakka), Vellarikka (cuccumber) etc.
** Thick coconut milk is actually first milk that is obtained by squeezing freshly grated coconut. Since I don't have the luxury of getting good fresh coconuts where I live, I depend on organic dehydrated coconut. I make my coconut milk from that and keep it refrigerated for 30 minutes so that thick coconut milk separates on top. Get coconut milk recipe here. 



Kurukku Kalan (Plantain cooked in reduced coconut-yogurt gravy) 



Ingredients: 
  • Plantain * - 1
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Homemade organic yogurt - 1 cup
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Black pepper - 1 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
For tempering:
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1 -2
Directions:
  • Wash and peel the plantain. Cut into cubes. 
  • Cook the plantain cubes with turmeric powder and salt and 1/2 cup of water. 
  • Meanwhile grind the coconut, cumin seeds and black pepper to a well (not coarse or not too fine).
  • Once the plantain is cooked well and water in evaporated completely, add the ground coconut and yogurt and simmer on low flame till gravy is thickened well. Keep stirring continuously to avoid burning. Kurukku kalan literally means 'reduced' kalan (Kalan is a thinner version of the yogurt based dish) 
  • For tempering - heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds, when they pop add fenugreek seeds and red chilly and saute till fenugreek is red. Garnish over the kurukku kalan and serve warm. 
* This can be made with plantains (raw or ripe), or Indian yam (elephant foot yam) or a combination of plantain and yam. 




Pachady/Perakku (Raw mango salad in coconut-yogurt dressing)




Ingredients:
  • Raw mango - 1 cup (finely chopped)
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Green chilly - 1-2 
  • Homemade organic yogurt - 3/4 cup
For tempering:
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilly 1-2
Directions:
  • Peel and chop mango into very fine. Add salt and keep aside for 5-10 minutes.
  • Grind shredded coconut, green chilly and mustard seeds to a not-so-fine paste. Add it to chopped mango along with yogurt and mix well. Pachady/perakku is ready, you can serve this as it is or optionally add a tempering. 
  • For tempering, heat coconut oil and mustard seeds and red chilly. When mustard seeds pop, switch off and garnish over the pachady/perakku. 



Upperi/Thoran (Long beans stir fried with coconut) 



Ingredients: 
  • Long beans - 2 cups (chopped fine) 
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp 
  • Urud dal - 1 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1 -2

Directions
  • Wash and trim the long beans. Chop very fine. Chop green chillies.
  • Heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds, and when they pop, add  urud dal and red chilly and saute till urud dal turns slightly red. 
  • Add green chopped green chillies and chopped long beans, stir well. Add 1/4 cup of water and turmeric powder and cook covered on medium flame.
  • Once beans are almost done, add salt and continue cooking uncovered stirring so that any remaining moisture is absorbed. 
  • Add shredded coconut and switch off. 
  • Serve warm, enjoy! 


Erissery (Pumpkin cooked with roasted coconut & spiced with black pepper)


Ingredients:
  • Butternut squash * - 1 1/2 cups (cubed)
  • Black pepper -1 tsp 
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Sea salt as per taste
  • Shredded coconut - 3/4 cup
  • Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
  • Coconur oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Urud dal - 1 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1-2
Directions:
  • Peel and cube squash, start cooking squash with 1/4 cup of water, turmeric and freshly crushed black pepper.
  • Meanwhile grind 1/2 cup of coconut along with cumin seeds and set aside.
  • Run the remaining 1/4 cup of coconut in the blender to corasely grind to get sort of a coconut meal, set aside.
  • Once the squash is 3/4th done add ground coconut-cumin mixture and salt. Continue cooking on very low heat till squash is cooled well and water is almost completely absorbed. Switch off the flame.
  • Heat coconut oil and add mustard seeds, red chilly and urud dal. When mustard seeds pop, add coarse ground coconut and keep stirring on low-medium heat till coconut is slightly red. 
  • Garnish on the erissery. Serve warm, enjoy !!
* This can be made with pumpkin, Indian yams, raw jackfruit etc. I make it with different kinds of winter squashes.



Naranga Curry (Lemon Pickle)



Ingredients:
For pickle:
  • Lemon - 2
  • Fresh ginger root - about an inch
  • Green chilly - 2
  • Sea salt - 1 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds -1 tsp
  • Asaphoetida - 1/2 tsp
  • Red chilly - 7-8 (powdered in coffee grinder or just directly use red chilly powder)
To make tamarind juice :
  • Tamarind - 1 tsp (skin, seeds removed)
  • Filtered water -  1/2 cup
  • Sea salt as per taste
  • Coconut palm sugar - 1/4 tsp
For tempering:
  • Cold pressed sesame oil - 1 Tbs
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1-2 (broken into small pieces)
Directions:
For Pickle:
  • Wash and pat dry the lemons, chop into small pieces. Add finely chopped ginger and chopped green chillies. Add sea salt and mix well. Keep aside on your counter top for 24 hours.
  • Dry roast fenugreek seeds till they turn red and powder them using a coffee grinder.
  • After sitting for 24 hours, the lemon should be soft enough to make the pickle. Add fenugreek powder, asaphoetida, red chilly powder and mix well.
For Tamarind juice:
  • Soak the tamarind in water for 10 minutes. Mash with a spoon or with your hands to take out the tamarind extract. Pass it thru a sieve or just pass it thru your finger.
  • Boil the tamarind extract with salt and coconut palm sugar. Reduce and simmer for about 5-10 minutes or until it is reduced to half. Let it cool.
  • Add the cold tamarind juice to the pickle and mix well.
For Tempering:
  • Heat sesame oil and add mustard seeds, when the pop, add fenugreek seeds and red chillies. When fenugreek seeds turn red, garnish over the pickle.
  • Transfer to an air tight glass jar and store. Can be stored on the counter top for a couple of days or keep refrigerated for a week or so. Enjoy!!



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