I am sure you will agree that there is no food more comforting than a warm bowl of soup. In my house they are welcome on any nights but especially on cold, wintery nights. Although spring is here, last weekend ended up being chilly. As I was wondering what to cook for dinner on sunday night, I noticed that there were a lot of different vegetables leftover in the refrigerator. So what better meal than a soup to be able to use all of them?
I make this ‘fridge clean up’ soup quite a lot. And usually it is on sunday nights. Best part about soups is that you can create variations by just changing the combination of vegetables and the spices used. Before I went paleo, I used to make Minestrone soup all the time where I would add vegetables to the beans and use tomatoes to make the typical Italian favorite. So now I decided to make some changes – since I wasn’t going to add the beans, I decided to add in more of the starchy vegetables like turnip and taro root. And I used my favorite substitute for tomatoes – cranberries! The soup turned out fabulous. The family ate it with some whole grain bread while I had mine with a small piece of boiled yucca on the side. Yes and that’s how I got the idea of adding the grated yucca on top! I couldn’t resist – the grated yucca looked so much like grated mozzarella! But tasted so much better 🙂 Yum!
Avial (pronounced as Aveeh-ial) is a delicious and sumptuous mixed vegetable dish that is essentially very simple to make (if you follow the directions carefully!) I would say the only complicated part of this dish is the use of many different vegetables and the different cooking times that they require. Avial is made with a mix of hard vegetables like green(raw) plantain, chembu (taro root), suran (elephant’s foot) etc. as well as soft vegetables like white pumpkin (bhopla), green beans, carrots, eggplant etc. Avial is an absolute must in any sadya. Sadya is a traditional vegetarian feast and is served at weddings, festivals like Onam and Vishu and any other auspicious functions. As I mentioned before, the only challenging part in making avial is to make sure all the different vegetables are cooked to proper consistency (and not overcooked) otherwise the avial will not taste good.
Because of the many different vegetables used in this dish, it is a very healthy and also a very satiating dish. Hence you can just serve it with rotis or any other bread for a complete meal. Since I am on a Paleo diet of late, I make Avial almost every week. Avial along with grilled fish is a perfect paleo meal!
Take a big cooking pot which is wide and has a tight-fitting lid. First add the hard vegetables (green plantain and arabi) along with 2 cups of water and the salt and cook uncovered for about a minute till the water starts boiling and then cover and cook on medium flame for about 3-4 minutes till the vegetables are a little soft.
Next add the medium hard veggies like green beans and carrots and cook covered for another 2 minutes. Now open and stir and if there is not much water left, then add about ¼ cup more water
If there is still sufficient water to cook the other remaining veggies, then DO NOT add any more water.
Next add the soft vegetables - eggplant/zucchini, white pumpkin,pumpkin and the onions. Also add the turmeric, green chillies and the piece of tamarind at this point and again cover and cook for another two minutes.
Now open and stir to make sure the veggies are not sticking to the bottom of the pot. Put the stove off at this point.
Now, we need to make the coconut masala. For that take the grated coconut in a blender or a grinder and add the cumin seeds and the garlic(if adding) to it. Add ½ cup of warm water to this and grind to a fine paste. Add the yoghurt and blend again till smooth. Add this paste to the pot with the vegetables and stir slowly and carefully trying not to mash the vegetables too much. Now put the pot back on the stove turning the heat to low and cook for about 1 minute (DO NOT cook longer ) and turn the stove off.
Immediately add the fresh curry leaves and the coconut oil and mix lightly. Avial is ready and you can eat it with plain cooked rice or with rotis.
The way the vegetables are cooked is very important - use just the right amount of water to cook them or else the avial will become watery. By the time all the vegetables are cooked, there should not be any water left (the cooked vegetables should be still identifiable individually and not mashed).You can use any combination of vegetables but make sure to stagger them for cooking based on above. I use kokum(special kind of tamarind found in western india to give a sour taste but if your yoghurt is sour enough, you need not use any tamarind. Or you can also use raw/green mango pieces if you have them instead of the tamarind. Or if you don't have any of the above , use lemon juice.