Just as people in Kerala and elsewhere are winding down their Onam Sadhya (feast), I want to feature a couple of must-haves for the traditional feast: Avial and Olan. Let’s start with Avial.
Avial is a rich, satisfying curry made of a medley of veggies, tangy yogurt, and loads of coconut! It is a dish that is a riot of colors: white, green, orange and textures! I mean, what’s not to like, right?? I can just sit down and eat bowls of this goodness sans any accompaniments…yes, it is that good! As Meenakshi Ammal (a pioneer Tamizh cook book author) said famously: Cook and see!!
There are many ways to make Avial. A lot of folks use the pressure cooker/ Instant Pot to steam cook the veggies and then make the curry. Heads up: Mine is more laborious! Because I like to cook each veggie separately and then marry them all at the very end because I am not a lover of mushy Avial! And the visual appeal of giving each veggie it’s space in the Avial medley is something else. So, do this when you have time. Prepping ahead of time is advisable!
- Pumpkin/Kaddu/Butternut Squash
- White pumpkin/Ash gourd/Winter Melon
- Green beans
- Broad beans
- Raw banana/Plantain
- Fresh grated Coconut
- Green chilies
- Coconut oil
- Curry leaves
- Tangy yogurt
Take 2 cups of tangy yogurt (a week old yogurt will work well, but if not, you can use Greek yogurt) and whisk well to a smooth consistency. Keep aside.
In the blender jar, add 1 cup of coconut + 4 green chilies (more if you like it spicy!)+ 3 tablespoons of yogurt + 3 tbsp of water. Grind to a smooth paste. (Add as little water as possible to make a thick paste).
Add the blended mixture to the yogurt. Keep aside.
Trim the ends of a fistful of green beans and broad beans and cut them in 2" long pieces to make 1/2 cup in total
Peel 2 medium size carrots, trim ends and cut them into 2" long pieces.
Peel 2 medium size potatoes and cut them into 2" long pieces.
Peel both pumpkins and cut them into thick long pieces to make 2 cups in total.
Cut up 1 long Japanese eggplant into 2" long pieces.
Trim 2 slender and tender drumsticks (moringa pods) and cut them up into 2" long pieces.
Peel 2 raw bananas/plantains and cut them into 2" long pieces.
Take 2 big pots and add 2 cups of water in each of them and heat them up till the water starts boiling.
In Pot 1, cook the following vegetables separately till they are al dente in the following sequence: Drumsticks, Carrots, Potatoes, Plantains. After each one is cooked, take them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them individually in a bowl.
In Pot 2, cooking the following vegetables separately till they are al dente in the following sequence. Please watch this pot carefully because these veggies cook quickly! Eggplants, White pumpkin, and finally Red Pumpkin. After each one is cooked take them out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and place them individually in a bowl.
Just when you are ready to serve, take a large flat bottomed pan and add 3 tbsp of coconut oil and allow it to warm up slightly on medium high heat.
Add 8-9 curry leaves.
Add the yogurt-coconut mixture.
Start adding the veggies in this sequence and with a flat wooden spoon, just stir the mixture after the addition of each vegetable: Drumsticks, Carrots, Potatoes, Plantains, White pumpkin, Red pumpkin and finally the eggplants. Mix everything very gently and allow to heat through and for the yogurt-coconut paste to coat each veggie and for the coconut oil to perfume the vegetables. Add salt to taste.
The mixture will be thickish and will start to bubble in about 4-5 minutes. Turn off the heat immediately.
Take out the Avial in a serving bowl and drizzle some coconut oil (uncooked) over the top.
Garnish with more curry leaves and pour immediately over steaming hot rice/quinoa/brown rice or any starch of your choice! Eat quickly and grab seconds because it is going to vanish rapidly!
Notes to the chef: Choice of vegetables to add to Avial is subjective. I didn't have yam on hand, but that is a real staple for this dish. Some folks add peas, but I am not a fan of peas in my Avial so I left it out. It is fine to add/delete whatever suits your needs!