Tips for hosting a Kerala sadya at home

Since Vishu, the zodiac new year celebrated by Keralans is just around the corner, I thought doing this post now might be useful for some of my followers. I have been consulted a few times regarding tips on cooking a ‘sadya’ meal at home.  Having been cooking sadya meals every Onam (and sometimes for Vishu too) for the past 18 years in our US home does qualify me for advising folks I guess. We usually host an average of 3-4 families. I get a lot of questions from new cooks all the time! “Chechi, help!” ‘How many dishes to cook?’ ‘How much quantity to cook’ ‘Will there be enough food?’ ‘I have never cooked for so many people’ ‘Will all the food be fresh for the sadya?’  And so on and so forth. Well, my response is always the same – “Take a deep breath. Don’t worry. Its all about planning and once the plan is perfect, execution will be a breeze!”  I guess all my years leading projects at work has also helped me to execute successful sadyas 🙂  Plus I did have the best resources available to me – my husband and I together make a great team 🙂 So before embarking on this particularly adventurous mission, my strong recommendation to you is to first enlist your spouse’s or family members’ support! It will be much needed!

These are some steps that I follow for hosting a successful sadya whether it is for Onam or Vishu or just any other day when you feel like having a sadya meal.

  1. Create a Menu:  Take a pen and paper and scribble down the menu items.  I prefer pen and paper to doing it electronically since paper makes it easy to scratch off things while still letting you see what changes you have made. Just my personal preference but you can use a notepad on your phone or computer as well. Write down the different dishes you would like to make.  Sambhar and Avial I think fall in the ‘must-have’ category meaning they absolutely need to be on the sadya menu or else you won’t have a sadya! Another ‘must have’ are pappadums! After that, come all other lentil or bean type curries – let’s call this ‘Other curries’ – like erisseri, parippu, moru kootan, green mango curry, potato stew etc. I like to include at least two from this category.  Next would be ‘dry vegetable dishes’ like cabbage thoran or green beans thoran or kadala and kaaya thoran etc.  A fourth category would be all spicy and tangy ‘pickle type’ curries called as ‘thodu curries’ – these include paavakka varatharachu curry, pearl onion curry(Ulli curry), Pulli inji (ginger curry). Another very important ‘must-have’ item of the sadya is the ‘Paayasam’. Which paayasam to make?.  Although it is traditional to make two varieties of Payasam, I would recommend doing only one since not only is it time consuming to make two different payasams but after the heavy sadya, in my experience, folks generally will not have room for two different payasams and so it becomes a waste of effort. Decide which one you want to make. ‘Paladda’ is always the easy one and everyone loves that so its a safe bet. If you are ambitious enough to make Parrippu paayasam then so be it – you just need to plan adequately for it.

Here’s what a sample menu would look like. Other than the ‘Must-haves’, you can      pick one or two from each category

SAMPLE MENU
Main Dishes (Must-haves) Other Curries: Vegetable side dishes: Spicy and tangy (Thodu) curries:
Sambhaar Erishery Cabbage thoran Pulli Inji
Avial Mooru Kootan Kadala kaaya koottu Paavakka varatharachu
Paayasam Pacchadi Paavakka thoran Ulli curry
Pappaddum Rasam Manga curry
Parrippu curry Manga Pickle
Potato curry Lime pickle

2. Decide how much quantity to cook for each dish:  This depends on your final count. hence get a final count of people sufficiently in advance. Once you have the final count, divide by 4 (for the 4 categories of dishes you have) and that’s how many people you should cook each dish for. The logic behind this is that since you have so many dishes, you don’t need to make huge quantity of each dish.  For deciding the quantity of rice, I take the total headcount and take about 25% off – again the logic being that having a variety of dishes means that folks get full without eating too much rice. So if I have a head count of 20 people and say in general we cook about 1/2 cup of rice(uncooked) for 1 person for a regular meal, which would mean cooking 10 cups of rice, but for the sadya 75% of 10 i.e.  7.5 cups of uncooked rice should be sufficient. For doing all the above, if you are going to be following some recipes from your favorite sites, then make sure you print all of them first and then prepare the grocery list.

3. Plan the grocery shopping: Prepare the grocery list based on 1 and 2 above. And do the shopping sufficiently in advance -at least 2-3 days before the sadya weekend. Include all other ancillary items like plantain chips, plantain leaves, small bananas and any ready made pickles. Make sure you check the quantity of rice you have in your pantry and add to the list if you are short.

4. Stagger the cooking – Begin cooking in advance: 3-4 days before you can make the pickles or tangy curries like the paavaka curry or inji puli since they don’t spoil and keep well. 2-3 days before you can make moru kootan or mango curry etc.  1 day before you can make sambhaar, erisseri and payasam and also finish all the prep work for all the rest of the dishes. For example, finish chopping all vegetables for avial which is best when prepared the morning of the sadya. All thorns with fresh coconut should also be prepared on the morning of the sadya. You can fry the papadums the previous day but make sure to keep them in airtight containers to prevent them from getting soggy.  Create a project plan one week before the sadya so you don’t forget any important steps.  The plan need not be detailed but would look something like this :

Sample project plan:

  • Weekend 1 week before sadya/ 3-4 days before sadya day – Grocery shopping,
  • Thursday – Moru kootan, Pachadi, Inji Puli,
  • Friday – Chopping all vegetables for avial and sambhaar, make sambhaar, make payasam, fry papadums
  • Saturday(Day of sadya): Cook rice, avial,cabbage thoran

5. Ask for help: After completing steps 1-3, take a step back and do a reality check. See how you feel about executing the plan. If this is your first time doing something like this and if you don’t have enough help at home (for example having young kids etc), then consider delegating some tasks to some of your expected guests. Chances are some of your guests may call you in advance offering to help and if you are feeling overwhelmed then that would be a perfect time for you to ask for some help. You can outsource tasks like grocery shopping – either all or some items, ask them to cook one dish or just request if they could stop by early that day in the morning before the sadya – a set of hands always helps, right?

Hope these tips are helpful! What are some tricks you use for hosting a sadya at your home? I would love to know! Happy Feasting – Have a spectacular sadya this Vishu!

Spicy Egg Roast (Kerala Mutta Roast)

Egg Roast

IMG_0947You may wonder ‘Egg roast’? …now, what in the world is that? Well if you like your eggs spicy, you will just love this! This recipe is indigenous to Kerala where it is called ‘Mutta(egg) roast’. This is a dish often paired with Vella appams (rice hoppers or pancakes) or with Idiyappam (which are steamed rice noodles).  This is an easy recipe …well for those of you who do know how to ‘hard boil’ eggs ! LOL 🙂  So you hard boil your eggs, saute them a little bit with some spices and then make a spicy and tangy onion masala and drop your eggs into that and serve! hmm…sounds mouthwatering, right? I love eggs because they are so versatile – you could half-fry or do a sunny side up,scramble them up or do an omelette.! Omelette reminds me of a lovely hearty omelette that Angie of the Novice Gardener recently made – do check that out!.  And then continuing with the humble eggs’ multiple uses – you could make frittata or quiche adding a lot of veggies into those and make it really wholesome.!  And then finally you can make this spicy egg roast!

While we are on the topic of eggs, until a few years ago, eggs had earned a bad reputation for raising cholesterol levels. But in 2000, the American Dietary Association gave the green light for healthy adults to enjoy eggs once again! 1. Of course as is the case with everything else, moderation is key everywhere. Hey! eggs are good..eggs are fun..eggs are good for everyone! 🙂

I normally make this egg roast as a side dish with rice.  But sometimes I make it as an accompaniment to Idiyappams (steamed homemade rice noodles)! You could also just have it with some nice fresh bread. I will post the recipe for Idiyappam separately shortly! For now I am bringing the Mutta roast and Idiyappam to Angie’s for the Friday Fiesta! 🙂

Spicy Egg Roast (Kerala Mutta Roast)

  • Servings: about 4 servings when served with bread/rice
  • Time: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: EASY
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 hard boiled eggs
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper pow
  • 1 tsp fennel powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt 1/2 tsp
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 3 large red onions, thinly sliced
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli pow (use less for mildly spicy)
  • 2 tbsp coriander pow
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise (omit if you want less spicy)
  • 1 small tomato, about 1/2 cup chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1/2 -1 cup water

Method:

1. In a small bowl, mix the salt, turmeric, fennel powder and the black pepper powder. Make slits on the eggs and then rub the dry spice mix onto the eggs.

2. Take a medium size heating pan and add about 1 tsp coconut oil and saute the eggs lightly for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

3. Take a medium size wok or non stick cooking pot and heat the coconut oil in it.  Then add the onions and saute on medium heat for about 2 minutes. Then add the salt, curry leaves, ginger, garlic, the green chillies and continue sauteing for another 4-6 minutes on low to medium heat until the onions are really transluscent and soft. Then add the spices – turmeric, coriander powder red chilli powder and saute for 1 minute. Then tomatoes too and continue cooking for another couple minutes until the tomatoes turn soft.

4.Then finally add some water depending upon how thick you want your curry. if you really want it a little on the dry side, add little water. Then add the vinegar and stir and take off from heat.

5. Drop the spiced eggs into the masala and serve!

IMG_0944

 

IMG_0945

 

IMG_0938 IMG_0940 IMG_0942
IMG_0946 IMG_0949

IMG_0952

 

 

Vegetable Stew (Kerala Style)

Vegetable Stew(Kerala Style)
Vegetable Stew(Kerala Style)

Coconuts grow in abundance in Kerala and hence coconut milk , grated coconut and coconut oil are widely used in Kerala cuisine. One vegetable dish that uses coconut milk  and no red chilli powder and is therefore white in color is ‘vegetable stew’. The stew usually is made out of vegetables like potatoes , carrots and peas and goes well with Vellappams( white rice pancakes with a soft spongy center and a lacy crispy edge).  The non-vegetarian version of stew is usually made with mutton (lamb) and is a favorite of the Syrian Christians.You can eat this stew with any kind of bread too. They taste good with rotis or pooris too. The sauce is a coconut milk sauce infused with whole spices like cloves, cinnamon and black pepper.  The whole spices make the sauce mildly spicy and the coconut milk imparts a sweet and rich flavor.  The final garnish is a simple drizzling of coconut oil and fresh curry leaves.  You could also add cashew nuts toasted in ghee  and or raisins to make it extra rich. Hmmm…just yumm!

This is a quite simple recipe with the only slightly cumbersome part being getting the fresh coconut milk. Although now that I use fresh frozen grated coconut(and don’t have to grate coconut from a fresh coconut!), I don’t think it’s a huge chore anymore.  You can make this using canned coconut milk too but make sure to get a good brand that does not have a rancid smell.

This recipe will make about 3-4 servings as a side dish
Time Taken:  About 30 minutes
Ingredients :
3 medium size Potatoes (chopped into 1/2 inch cubes)
1/2 cup Peas    
1/4 cup Carrot(cut into 1/4 inch small cubes)
1 large Onion cut into thin slices
3 green chillies (cut length-wise)  Use 2 if you want it mildly spicy
4 whole cloves         
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick 
5-6 whole black peppercorns 
1 tsp fresh ginger, thinly chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
Thick coconut milk,(fresh or canned) 1 1/2 cup -
see method for extracting fresh coconut milk below
a sprig of fresh curry leaves (about 6-8 leaves)
1 tbsp coconut oil

Method:

If using freshly grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut) for making the coconut milk, follow the procedure below and extract the milk and keep aside.

Cut the potatoes and carrots into cubes. Cut the onion into thin long slices. In a medium size cooking pot, add the potatoes, carrots,peas and onions along with the cut green chillies and ginger. Add the whole black pepper,cloves and the cinnamon. Add about 1/2 cup water and salt.

IMG_3271IMG_3272

Bring the water to a boil and immediately cover the pot with a lid. Cook on a medium flame for around 5-7 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked. At this point there should not be much water left. Turn the heat off. IMG_3274

Now add the coconut milk and mix slowly and cook on low flame for  about 1-2 minutes until you can see tiny bubbles beginning to appear in the milk. Immediately turn the heat off  and add curry leaves and the coconut oil. (Do not let the coconut milk boil or it will curdle.)

IMG_3275

IMG_3277

Serve hot with vellappams or rotis or pooris.

For extracting thick fresh coconut milk: 

Blend 1 cup grated fresh or  frozen fresh grated coconut (that has been thawed beforehand) with 1 cup warm water in a food processor or a blender  for about 2-3 minutes and then strain using a large strainer to extract coconut milk. Add the extracted coconut meat back into the processor and again blend using another 1/2 cup of warm water to get more coconut milk. Discard the coconut meat. You should get about 1 1/2 cups of coconut milk.

If using canned coconut milk, I recommend using ‘Thai’brand canned coconut milk, which has a better taste as compared to other canned coconut milk products.

Notes:

If you dislike having whole spices in your final dish, you could use a bouquet garni to add the whole spices. That way they can be safely discarded before serving. Either way take care to avoid the whole spices when you eat!

Link up your recipe of the week