Saturday, September 10, 2011

Onam Special

Onam is the ‘Harvest Festival’ of the state of Kerala in South India. Celebrated over a period of 10 days, it marks the return of King Mahabali. People decorate their front yards with elaborate flower patterns to welcome the king. To learn more about Onam check out
Onam also provides an exquisite culinary experience, especially on the 10th day, when everyone makes a sumptuous feast, a sadhya. Though not too big, we also made a sadhya and invited one of our friends for dinner. Here are a few of the dishes that we enjoyed yesterday.  I have left out the usual sambar and cabbage ‘upperi’ (sabzi). 
Kootu Curry
Yam (cut into medium pieces) – 1 cup
Raw plantain (cut into medium pieces) – 1 cup
Cooked black channa – 1-1 ½ cups
Tamarind extract – 2 tbsps
Grated Coconut – ¼ cup + 1-1 ½ tsp (for garnish)
Red chillies – 2-3 (more or less according to your taste)
Cumin seeds – 1 tbsp
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Kootu curry is part of the traditional Kerala sadhya. 
Soak the black channa overnight and boil in the cooker for at least 3 whistles. Once the pressure has released in the cooker, remove the channa. Use the excess water to cook the yam and plantain. Add a little turmeric powder and salt while cooking the vegetables. Once the vegetables are tender, add the channa and boil for a few more minutes. Add the tamarind extract. Meanwhile, grind the grated coconut, red chillies and cumin seeds to make a smooth paste. Add this to the cooked mixture and let it simmer for a few minutes. In a small pan, take the grated coconut for garnish and roast till dark brown. Add this to the dish and serve with rice. Works well with chapathis too.
Manga (mango) Pachadi
Pachadi can be made with various vegetables/fruits like okra, bitter gourd, pineapple, ripe mangoes etc with ground coconut and mustard. This recipe is made with raw mangoes.
Grated raw mango – ½ cup
Grated coconut – 2 tbsps
Green chillies – 2 (more or less according to your taste)
Mustard seeds – 1 tbsp (you can reduce it a bit if you do not like the strong taste of ground mustard)
Curd – 3-4 tbsps
Red chillies - 2
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves
Salt to taste
Add curd to the grated mango and keep aside. Grind the coconut, mustard and green chillies to make a smooth paste. Add to the mango mixture and add salt. Season with red chillies, mustard and curry leaves.

This is one of my favourites among the various dishes from Kerala. 
Yam (cut into small pieces) – 1 cup
Curd (preferably sour) – 1 cup
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Grated coconut – 3/4th cup (more if the curd is very sour)
Green chillies – 2-3 (more or less according to your taste)
Pepper powder – 2 tsps
Mustard seeds – 2 tsps
Red chillies – 2-3
Curry leaves
Asafoetida powder – a pinch
Cook the yam with a little water, turmeric powder and pepper powder in a cooker. Once it is nicely cooked, add the curd and salt and let the mixture simmer till the entire extra liquid is gone. Meanwhile grind the coconut and green chillies into a paste and keep aside. Add this to the cooked yam along with the asafoetida powder and mix well. Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they start spluttering, add the red chillies and curry leaves and season the yam mixture. Your kaalan is ready.

Pacha Manga Curry (Simple Mango Pickle)
Raw mango (cut finely) – 1
Asafoetida powder – 1 tsp
Chilli powder to taste
Mustard seeds – 2 tsps
Curry leaves
Salt to taste
Add chilli powder and salt to the cut mangoes. In a pan heat oil and add the mustard seeds. As they splutter add the curry leaves. Turn off the heat and add the asafoetida. Pour this seasoning over the mangoes and mix well. This pickle will not last long, so please refrigerate and consume within 2-3 days. 
Aval/Rice flakes Payasam
No ‘sadhya’ is complete without a payasam (sweet dish). So here is what we had.
Aval – 1 cup
Milk – 2 litres (approx)
Sugar – 2 cups
Cardamom powder – 2 tsps
Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 tsp
Add ghee to a pan and toast the aval till it is crispy (shouldn't change colour). Keep tossing to make sure it doesn’t burn. Keep aside. Heat the milk in a thick bottomed vessel, I used a cooker. Add the toasted aval and keep stirring. Once the aval has cooked well (it will become soft) add the sugar and continue stirring. Do keep an eye on the milk, else it will boil over/burn. Keep simmering till the milk thickens and reduces. The whole process will take some time, at least 30 minutes, so please be patient. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Keep stirring or else the milk will form a layer on top. Once it has cooled a bit, add the cardamom powder and savour!
Make your own Kerala sadhya and enjoy. Bon Appétit!


  1. Excellent culinary work. Keep going strong and probably you will be starting the restaurant of your dreams.