Friday, February 03, 2012

An American Does Aviyal

Sapteengla (Chop-teen-gla)? Have you eaten?

Little did I realize until my trip to India, which spanned the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, did I realize that one of the dishes I make regularly, aviyal, is actually a Keralite dish.

This has everything in it that I love about Kerala (well, minus the seafood they are so very famous for); but flavor wise, it's all in there: curry leaf, coconut, and chile.

Tho my mode might be different than a traditional recipe, it was one of the first dishes I fed my mother-in-law, who promptly informed me she had nothing more to teach me in the kitchen.

This is a dish that is traditionally served with addai, which is pancake of sorts made from a mixture of several different pulses/legumes which is ground, and unlike dosas, addai batter does not need to be fermented, and can be used immediately. (Tho to be honest, I think the batter sets up better if you let it sit a bit.)

Now for the ingredients I used for today's aviyal:

First, the "sauce".

Into a blender I put:

1 Cup plain yogurt
1/4 tsp cumin seeds (not toasted)
The stems of 1 bunch of cilantro
1 big pinch of salt
1/4 Cup dessicated, shredded coconut (unsweetened)

I grind this until everything is incorporated and the "sauce" (or whatever this is called!) is a vibrant green. Set aside until ready.

Then the veggies:

1 russet potato, peeled and diced
1 dozen tindal (they look like little cucumbers), sliced into 1/4 inch thick disks
1 handful of shredded carrot (I had a bag on hand I've been using in salads)
1 handful green peas (I use frozen)
1/2 Zucchini, cubed.

First, I boil the potatoes in salted water with about 1/2 tsp of turmeric. Once the potatoes are fork tender, I add everything else and let simmer until tender. In the meantime, get the "tadka" or savory garnish-y thing started. Drain veggies, but reserve the cooking fluid, you might need it!


In a large skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and temper:

12 Curry leaves (dry or fresh)
1 green (I used red, but these recipes always call for green), chile (I cut mine into fine rings)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (see what I did there? unroasted gets ground in the sauce; more gets tempered in the oil--I love the taste)
A pinch (or a few shakes, if you like it) Asafatoeida (or Hing as it's known in Hindi; or Perungaya in Tamil)

Let seeds and leaves and chile splutter and fry in the oil until fragrant.

At this point, add the boiled veggies to the tadka and stir to cook about two minutes or so. Don't brown, but keep stirring, trying not to mash up the veggies too much. Cook for another minute or two. If things look too dry or starts to stick to the skillet, add a tablespoon or two of the cooking fluid, stirring the veggies well.

The end result is not a curry where veggies are swimming in gravy, but more a fragrant veggie "mush" (not mashed, but you can still make out the individual veggies). So if your veggies look a bit soupy or more wet than not, cook a minute or two more until excess water cooks off.

Serve warm or hot with addai, or with other dishes such as a Travancore styled chicken curry or a Curry Meen.

So very glad to have eaten this very dish IN Kerala, and even gladder to know that my version is a reasonable facsimile thereof!

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