Happy Vishu! : Papaya Coconut Halwa (Vegan,Paleo)

   Happy Vishu to all those who celebrate – Vishu falls on the 14th of April this year. In Kerala, the start of the Zodiac New Year is celebrated as ‘Vishu’. It is believed that what one sees when one first opens one’s eyes on Vishu morning is an indication of what one can expect in the year to come. Thus on the morning of Vishu, ‘Vishukkani’ is prepared, which is an assortment of beautiful things – the image or idol of Lord Vishnu, beautiful flower arrangements and a panorama of vegetables and fruits to show abundance. Even gold jewelry and gold coins are displayed as part of the kani. It is said to be auspicious to open one’s eyes before the decorated ‘vishukkani’ on Vishu morning. And an elaborate and delicious sadya just like Onam is prepared in all Malayalee households for Vishu.

Although I don’t usually prepare an elaborate sadya for Vishu, I do make some sweet dish at least. This year that was hard too considering my dietary restrictions. But I am one not to be easily discouraged – I decided to make this Papaya halwa.  Traditionally this halwa is made using milk and rice flour along with ripened papaya. But since I am on a paleo diet, I came up with some alternative ingredients – coconut milk instead of regular milk and coconut flour instead of rice flour. The coconut flour gave it a wonderful texture. I also skipped the sugar and used maple syrup instead. The halwa came out delicious!

Mind you, this version is indeed an easy version of the traditional halwa since I cooked it only for about 30 minutes until I got the desired fudge consistency. But I remember my aunts in kerala making the traditional version of papaya halwa by cooking it over slow fire for at least a couple hours stirring constantly. The resulting halwa under the laborious process is of course even more tastier with all the sugars in it getting caramelized completely. But the result of this easy vegan version is not far behind either. So I hope you do get to try making this!

The celebration of Vishu signifies the importance of ‘making a good start’ and of asking for divine blessings before embarking on a new project. Hope all your dreams for the following year come true!

Papaya Coconut Halwa (vegan, paleo)
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian, kerala, fusion
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Papaya Halwa is a delectable dessert of Southern india and this version is a modified, vegan and paleo version of the traditional halwa using ripe papayas, coconut milk and coconut flour
Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 cups ripe Papaya pieces pureed in blender
  • ¼ tsp or pinch salt
  • ½ cup thick coconut milk or coconut cream
  • ¼ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour (or desiccated coconut powder
  • ½ cup water
  • Chopped nuts for garnish
Instructions
  1. Take a non stick frying pan or a wok style pan (kadai). Add the coconut oil and when hot, add the papaya puree to it. Add the salt and Cook on low heat stirring frequently for about 10 mins. You should begin to see the oil separating from sides.
  2. Next add the coconut milk and maple syrup and continue cooking on low heat stirring frequently. After about 10 mins, when you see the oil separating out again, add the coconut flour with the water to the papaya mixture. Stir very quickly to avoid forming any lumps and then continue to slow cook for another 5 mins stirring regularly until the mixture attaining a 'halwa' consistency - i.e. semisolid and smooth. Remove from heat. Serve garnished with the chopped nuts.
Notes
For AIP version: Skip the cardamom powder and the nuts

  

Carrot Cake Smoothie

Since my recent post on smoothies, many folks have continued to ask me for ideas on different combinations of veggies and fruits that I use. And so I thought of creating a new post for every smoothie that turns out to be really spectacular!  When it comes to food (and drinks), I always love to experiment! That breaks up the monotony – of both – the task of cooking/making it as well as eating/drinking it!  So every morning as I slide into my kitchen and get the blender out, I mentally survey all the fresh fruits I have on hand and the ones in the freezer and go about trying new combinations. One thing I like to do is to pair fruits with similar colors together – this gives a great color impact.  And that’s what I decided to do the other morning. I have also decided to make it a point to add at least one vegetable to my morning smoothie so that it becomes extra nutritious!

So I decided to go with carrots this time. Papayas seem to be a perfect pairing with the carrots in terms of the color. And then banana and avocado for the creaminess! Yum.  As I started making it, I thought of ‘Carrot cake’ and so decided to add some spice to it – a bit of fresh ginger and then pumpkin spice!  I also had a bot of coconut cream left so I added that too towards the end but even without that the smoothie came out absolutely delicious! Such a beautiful and colorful way to start the day 🙂

Linking this healthy smoothie recipe to Plant-Based Potluck Party Link Up and Saucy Saturday

Carrot Cake Smoothie
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, Snack
Cuisine: International
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1-2
 
A delicious blend of carrots with papaya,banana and avocado with a dash of coconut cream and spiced with ginger and pumpkin pie spice
Ingredients
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 cup ripe papaya, chopped
  • ½ of a ripe avocado
  • ½ of a banana
  • about a ½ inch by ½ inch piece of fresh ginger (or 1 tsp dry ginger powder)
  • ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or all spice)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 tbsp coconut milk (or coconut cram) - optional
Instructions
  1. Place all the ingredients in a high power blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Pour into a tall serving glass.

Sweet Fried Plantains

Some will say plantains, bananas …what’s the difference? Well, both of them belong to the Banana family however there are some differences. Plantains are starchier, contain less sugar than bananas and are much more versatile as a cooking ingredient – you can make both savory and sweet dishes with them. Both Green plantains as well as ripe yellow plantains are used widely in south indian and south american cuisines . Unlike bananas, plantains are typically cooked before consumption.

In terms of nutritional value, both bananas and plantains are equally good with some differences.  Both are high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Bananas however have higher antioxidants as compared to plantains.  But plantains have less sugar and low on the glycemic index scale and hence good for diabetic patients.  For some folks though, plantains can cause flatulence or gas.

Since starting my Paleo diet 3 months ago, I have been having mostly smoothies for breakfast. But once in a while if I am really hungry and if I was lucky to have found a ripe plantain at the grocers, then I make ‘fried plantains’.  Plantains are allowed on the Paleo diet because of the benefits mentioned above.

Plantains, both green and the ripe yellow ones are very common in Kerala cuisine.  Come to think of it, Kerala might be the only state in India where plantains are grown abundantly.  Plantain chips , which are nothing but green plantains peeled and thinly sliced and deep fried in coconut oil, are one of the specialty food items of Kerala.  Plantain fritters are also a very common keralan food! And steamed ripe plantains are always an accompaniment to  breakfast in the Malayalee household.

I have posted recipe for Kerala plantain fritters before.  Today I just wanted to post this simple dish of fried plantains made by cooking them and pan frying them. I first had these in a resort when we  were vacationing in Cancun.  So this is really the Mexican way of making ripe plantains I think (not sure). Only variation I have done here is that I have used coconut oil to fry them and added maple syrup instead of refined sugar.  This dish is so easy to make but is so tasty and makes a delicious and nutritious paleo breakfast!

Pan fried Plantains
Author: 
Recipe type: Breakfast, anytime snack
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2 servings
 
Ripe plantains cooked and then lightly fried in coconut oil and served warm topped with maple syrup
Ingredients
  • 1 Ripe plantain ( should be really yellow or black)
  • 1 tbsp Coconut oil for frying
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
Instructions
  1. Place a cooking pot half filed with water and heat till the water begins to boil. Cut the plantain into two halves and place in the boiling water. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the plantains are fully cooked and soft to touch.
  2. Alternatively, you can steam the plantains in a steamer until soft.
  3. Once cooked, peel the plantains and slice them into ½ inch thick rounds.
  4. Heat a non stick cooking pan adding the coconut oil. When hot, add the plantain pieces (you may need to do so in batches) and lightly fry them flipping them once until they turn crispy on both sides (About 1 minute on each side)
  5. Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle maple syrup on top!
Notes
Make sure you use only ripe yellow skinned plantains. If they are still pale yellow and seem hard, place them in a brown paper bag for a couple days before using!

 

 

Steamed Yucca Coconut Cake (Kappa Puttu)

One of the reasons I find the Paleo diet not only ‘doable’ but in fact, enjoyable is due to the fact that it allows me to go back to my Keralan roots! And yes pun intended there. You see root vegetables are the only starches allowed in Paleo and in AIP (autoimmune protocol).  These root vegetables include sweet potatoes, yams, celeriac root, turnip root, horseradish root, yucca, plantains and taro root.  Sweet potatoes and yams I love love love.  So no issues there and then yucca, plantains and taro root (called as arabi in Hindi) being very common in Kerala cuisine, these are all comfort foods for me. Plus I have so many Keralan recipes to draw from – which gives me so many ideas for new ‘Paleo meals’ for myself.

Puttu or Pittu is a very staple Keralan breakfast food. It is also popular in srilanka and Tamil nadu. It is sort of a steamed cake made with rice flour and coconut.  It is really a very healthy and nutritious breakfast dish since it is steamed and is eaten with a curry so no sugar involved! It is funny that growing up I never liked Puttu!  Whenever amma made Puttu for breakfast, I would sulk. Puttu is usually eaten with Kadala (black gram) curry or some other lentil curry.  I totally hated that combination and would grudgingly eat the Puttu with some sugar sprinkled on top!  Fortunately or unfortunately, my husband nurtured the same ‘not so warm’ feelings for Puttu as I did and so after marriage we never made Puttu at home 🙂 Many years ago when my mom had visited us, she had got a small Puttu Kodam for me. Puttu Kodam is an utensil used to steam the Puttu and looks like this.  Since I had no desire at that time to make Puttu , I sent it back with her!

And now last month as I was talking with my aunt in Kerala about my Paleo diet and how I don’t eat any rice or any grains, she suggested that I try making Kappa Puttu i.e. Puttu made with Yucca (cassava or tapioca) and coconut. She suggested grating raw Yucca and then making the Puttu. However, that seemed too tedious for me and luckily I came across a recipe which used boiled yucca and rice flour.  I tried to use the same method to try making puttu using a ‘make shift’ steamer cum puttu maker assembled using a cooking pot and a large sieve that fit on top of the pot.  I skipped the rice flour and used coconut flour instead.

The Puttu came out fabulous and was really a breeze to make. I ate it with kozhuva curry (anchovy coconut curry).  You could also have with any other curry or just mixed with a ripe banana. Yum.!

In case you are not familiar with yucca or cassava, here’s a picture. It’s a but hard to cut but you need to chop them the same way you chop sweet potato or yams by giving it a hard whack and then breaking it apart using your hands. Peeling the skin is also easier when you use a similar technique. Once you have it cut into pieces, you can either steam them or cook it with some water and salt.  In this recipe, I am using boiled kappa and hence you need to do this step beforehand.

Steamed Yucca Coconut Cake (Kappa Puttu)
Author: 
Recipe type: MAIN COURSE; Breakfast
Cuisine: Kerala
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Yucca Puttu is a steamed cake made with yucca and coconut. This has a loose crumbly consistency and tastes wonderful with fish curry or any other spicy curry!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup boiled yucca(tapioca/cassava/kappa) pieces
  • ½ cup rice flour (or coconut flour for paleo version)
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ cup freshly grated coconut (or fresh frozen grated coconut)
  • extra grated coconut for topping
Instructions
  1. In a food processor, add the boiled kappa (yucca /cassava) pieces. Also add the flour (rice or coconut flour depending upon what you are using and the salt and pulse for a few seconds (10-15 secs)till you get a coarse, crumbly mixture. Do NOT over mix otherwise you will get a big lump.
  2. Now if you have a puttu maker, pack this mixture into the puttu maker mould and steam.
  3. If you do not have a puttu maker, heat water in a cooking pot (water should fill about ¼ of the pot). Place a steamer vessel (or a sieve) on top of this pot and place the kappa mixture as a thin layer on this steamer/sieve. See step wise pictures below. Cover this with a lid tightly to make sure no steam escapes. Steam cook for 7-8 minutes on medium heat. Turn heat off.
  4. Transfer the cooked puttu to a small bowl and press it with a spoon to make it compact. Turn this onto a plate to get a dome shaped puttu. Add freshly grated coconut on top. Serve warm with curry or a ripe banana!

For curry recipes to eat with Puttu, check out my following posts:

Kerala FISH CURRY fish curry with coconut milk post

Kerala Fish curry without coconut milk

BLACK GRAM CURRY kadala curry

Boiled kappa(yucca) pieces

Pulse kappa pieces with flour and coconut in the food processor/grinder

Mixture should look crumbly like this.

Place mixture on sieve

Place sieve on top on pot with boiling water

Cover pot and steam for 7-8 minutes.

A Valentine’s Special dessert: Berry Panna Cotta ( Paleo)

Sometimes I wonder if there is too much hype surrounding Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong…I am very much a romantic at heart!  However I dislike how commercialization of Valentine’s Day by the marketeers has somehow made people hung up with the date of Feb 14th.  Couples feel that they need to do special things only on this date. Single folks might feel depressed thinking that they need to find a date for Valentine’s day or else they will lose out! As a consequence they end up spending too much money more often than not on the wrong person!  Well, the simple fact is this: If you have been fortunate enough to have found the love of your life, then everyday can be Valentine’s day. And if you haven’t been lucky to have met this person yet, it’s not likely that you will magically meet your sweetheart on Valentine’s day!  Anyways the point I want to make is this: I hope that people express their love outside of Valentine’s day too and that everyday can be romantic too. All you need is the right attitude and an optimism towards life and everything beautiful.  All these thoughts reminded me of a quote that I had memorized in high school – don’t ask me why 🙂

“I may not say it often

But you know that it is true

That I am always wishing

Real Happiness for you

For though I may not say so

To me you are always dear

Not only on a day like this

But Every day, Every year! ”

I had pinned this special dessert recipe specifically for Valentine’s day since it was a dessert that I could actually eat! Yes being on a dairy free and sugar free diet for almost a year now, my desserts have been mostly limited to fruits, dates and raw honey.  I was so excited to see this recipe of Raspberry Coconut Panna Cotta by Eileen from Phoenix Helix.  Along with the recipe what excited me was her story of how she has been battling RA too just like me and that the Autoimmune Paleo diet has been helping her control her disease for the last few years. Now isn’t that exciting!

I made some slight changes to her recipe – I added a combination of strawberries and raspberries since I find raspberries alone to be too tart. Also I upped the amount of sweetener -and  used maple syrup instead of honey. I find maple syrup to provide the right amount of sweetness that I crave for in desserts. And for the sauce , since I ran out of raspberries, I made it out of cherries!  The end result was one special dessert!  This indeed felt like a huge treat for me having not had any frozen treats for so long!  Yummy yum! thank you Eileen for this great recipe and I think this is already inspiring me to come up with other ideas of similar frozen treats.

Linking this Valentine special recipe to Fiesta Friday this week. The co-hosts this week at FF are Ai @ Ai Made It For You and Petra @ Food Eat Love.

A Valentine's Special dessert: Berry Panna Cotta ( Paleo)
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 1 13.5 oz can full-fat organic coconut milk
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp. gelatin
  • ½ cup maple syrup (or honey)
  • 1½ cups fresh or frozen raspberries
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen strawberries
Cherry Sauce Ingredients
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen cherries
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 Tbsp.maple syrup
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Place the lemon juice into a small bowl. Add gelatin keep aside for 5 minutes.
  2. In a small pan, heat half of the coconut milk (about 1 cup) over medium heat. Add the maple syrup (or honey) and the gelatin mixture. Stir until dissolved completely.
  3. Pour this mixture into the blender, along with the remaining coconut milk and the raspberries and strawberries. Blend at low speed until smooth.
  4. Pour it into small ramekins or small bowls. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until set (at least 4 hours).
  5. For the sauce, Heat all the sauce ingredients in a small pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes. let cool and then blend quickly in a blender to get a smooth sauce.
  6. To get the panna cotta out, dip each ramekin in a bowl of hot water for about 1 minute. Then turn them upside down onto a serving plate. Drizzle with cherry sauce on the top.