Happy Onam to Malayalis all over the world who celebrate this auspicious harvest festival. This year I thought I will share the legend behind Onam as told to me by my dad when we were kids. Maybe you can share this with your kids 🙂
There are lots of legends that describe the origin of this festival. According to popular legend, Mahabali, who was a powerful king in Kerala, made the Gods fear that he was going to take over them as well. Hence all the Gods approached Lord Vishnu to end Mahabali’s reign. So Lord Vishnu took the form of a poor, skinny boy and approached Mahabali for alms. King Mahabali, generous that he was, agreed to give the boy whatever he wanted. The boy said that all he wanted was the property rights for a piece of land that measured three paces. Mahabali agreed instantly but realized his folly when the boy grew larger and larger and covered his entire kingdom in just two paces. For the third pace, Mahabali offered his head since he couldn’t go back on his word. At this point, Vishnu made an appearance and gave a boon to Mahabali that he could come and visit the people of his kingdom once every year and that was the birth of the ‘Onam’ festival. Mahabali’s people remembered Mahabali’s generous and virtuous nature in keeping his promise and began to welcome him every year by making an elaborate vegetarian feast.
Hope you liked the story 🙂 The main highlight of Onam however remains the Onam sadya, which is a vegetarian feast comprising of various vegeratian/vegan dishes served with steaming rice and served over a banana leaf!
I have posted numerous Onam sadya recipes over the past few years. Today I wanted to post one recipe that I hadn’t posted yet – it is a very simple curry made with green (raw) mangoes. Green mangoes being sour, this curry is more of a relish than a curry. Green mangoes are cooked in mild spices and coconut milk and tempered with mustard seeds and coconut oil. Yummy yum! My mouth is watering!
This year Onam is really special for me since I get to spend it with my family in India.! Happy Onam to all of you! Please tell me your favorite Onam dishes and I will tell you mine 🙂 Check out my this post where I have listed all Sadya dishes that I have posted before. Also you can check the ‘sadya dishes’ under category. Happy Feasting!
A tangy and mildly spicy green mango relish made by cooking Green Mangoes in coconut milk
1 cup green mangoes, skin peeled and chopped into small cubes
½ cup water
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp methi (fenugreek) seeds
2 green chillies, chopped
¾ tsp sea salt
¾ cup coconut milk (freshly extracted as explained below or canned organic)
For fresh coconut milk:
½ cup fresh or frozen grated coconut
About ¾ cup warm water
2 tsp extra virgin coconut oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 dry red chili, cut into two(optional)
1 sprig of fresh curry leaves
For the spice powder:
Powder the mustard seeds and methi seeds in a dry spice grinder. Keep aside.
For extracting fresh coconut milk:
Blend the grated coconut with half of the warm water and strain through a fine meshed strainer to collect the coconut milk. Blend the strained coconut again with the rest of the water and strain again. You should get about ¾ cup coconut milk.
For the curry:
In a medium cooking pot, add the mangoes, water, the powdered seeds, green chillies and salt.
Cover and cook on low heat for about 5-7 minutes or until the mangoes turn soft.
Now add the coconut milk. Let it come to a boil and turn heat off.
In a small tempering pan, heat the coconut oil and when hot, add the mustard seeds. Once they splutter, turn heat to low and add the dry red chillies if adding and the fresh curry leaves. Turn heat off and pour this flavored oil mixture over the curry and stir.
In Kerala cuisine, Pachadi is a side dish which is made using yoghurt. I have posted recipe for ash gourd pachadi or kumabalanga pachadi and beetroot pachadi before. Pachadi can be made using different vegetables and sometimes even fruits like pineapple are used. Although I make okra coconut milk curry often, I had never tried to make vendakka (okra) pachadi before since my amma never made it at home.
These days being on a Paleo diet, I usually like to have the curries as soup. Now that I make my coconut yoghurt at home, I have more options for curries. And so I thought of making this vendakka pachadi where you add fried okra pieces to a coconut and yoghurt base. Since the soup base is made by blending coconut meat and coconut yoghurt, it is really creamy and filling and of course , super delicious! I fried extra okra pieces so I could just have those on the side along with this wonderfully healthy and satisfying soup. Traditionally, regular yoghurt preferably slightly soured is used for pachadi. But I used coconut yoghurt instead of regular yoghurt to keep it dairy free. And I added a dash of lemon juice since my coconut yoghurt was not tangy enough.
A delicious soup made with coconut and coconut yoghurt blended with cumin and curry leaves with fried okra on top.
About 2 cups Okra (Bhindi), cut into ½ inch rounds (you can use fresh or frozen okra)
¼ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coconut oil
¾ cup grated coconut (freshly grated or frozen that has been thawed)
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder (optional)
2-3 fresh curry leaves
½ cup warm water
1 tsp sea salt
¾ cup plain yoghurt (use coconut yoghurt for vegan/paleo)
2 tsp lemon juice (optional to give tanginess)
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
½ tsp mustard seeds
4-5 fresh curry leaves
1 dry red kashmiri chilli, broken into two pieces
Pat dry the okra pieces with paper towels (especially if using frozen okra pieces). Sprinkle the salt and turmeric over the pieces.
Heat the 2 tbsp coconut oil in a small frying pan and shallow fry the okra pieces in batches until they turn crispy. Keep aside.
Ina food processor, add all the ingredients listed under 'For grinding' except the yoghurt and blend well until you get a fine paste. Then add the yoghurt and lemon juice and blend again for about 30 secs.
In a small kadai or a wok shaped pan, add the 1 tbsp coconut oil. When hot, add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and the kashmiri chillies and stir for 30 secs.
Add the ground coconut and yoghurt mixture into the pan and turn heat to low. As soon as the mixture starts to bubble (about 1 min or so), turn heat off. Check for salt.
Add the fried okra pieces just before serving so that they retain their crispy texture.
For AIP recipe, skip mustard seeds, cumin and chillies
When you are kids, you live in a blissful state…you take everything for granted. Mom slogs in the kitchen and presents tasty dishes to you which you devour without even pausing to thank her for her hard work and talent. It’s not that you are a spoilt brat or anything …it just never occurs to you to thank her. Or to peek in the kitchen while she is cooking to see how she does it. Unless of course she calls you out specifically to do a chore. In which case you do oblige as any well raised child would. As you might have guessed, I wasn’t talking about my kids here. I was talking about myself. And why this sudden self-deprecation? Well, it all started with my buying a banana blossom when I spotted one at our local Indian grocer only to come home to realize my absolute lack of knowledge on how to go about cutting it! And when I thought of all the times amma had cooked this for us!
So I very enthusiastically bought it one Saturday afternoon and then announced to the Mr with great aplomb that I was going to make ‘Banana Blossom stir fry’ for dinner. Hubby dear, being the gentleman that he is, politely nodded. I am sure he was wondering in his mind about how I was planning to attack this particular piece of vegetable. Fortunately for him he had to work that weekend and so off he went to his office room leaving me alone in the kitchen to tackle this unknown beast!
I started by staring hard at it a couple times, then gently touching and feeling it. Still no clues. Do we have to remove the petals and cut it one by one or what? I vaguely remembered mom (and sometimes dad) applying coconut oil to their hands while cutting it. Which meant that this was sticky! Hmm…So I quickly googled ‘How to cut banana blossom’ About a handful of posts showed up – some were recipes and then there were a couple good albeit long videos – one from a Bengali food channel and another from a tamilian one. I sat and watched both those videos. Finally, I took the banana blossom and stashed it back into the refrigerator. Husband dear was concerned. What happened hon? I responded ‘Will do it tomorrow – too much work. Plus I will call dad also in the morning first thing’. Okey Dokey, so banana blossom got postponed for the next afternoon.
Next morning had me on the phone with my dad for a good thirty minutes with him explaining me how to clean it and how to cook it too. I was glad I waited – since what dad told me was a bit different than the two videos I watched. Could be due to the regional differences. The thrifty Keralan way was to use up pretty much everything sparing the first one or two petal layers. So finally I began to feel confident. And embarked on my mission.
As instructed by my dad, I discarded only the first red petal layer. Since the rest of the petals were very tightly attached together which meant that they were tender enough to be used. But I did use the small florets attached to the first two petals. I chopped them up too finely. I removed the tall center husky piece from each floret since I had watched that in one of the videos although my dad didn’t seem to be particularly concerned about taking that off. It is important to place the chopped / shredded pieces into a bowl of water, lightly salted and use coconut oil to oil your hands to prevent that stickiness. The chopping method suggested by dad was pretty cool (after all he is my dad :)) – Just make horizontal and vertical cuts from the base of the blossom (after first discarding the outer petals) and then shredding the tiny pieces into the bowl of water. I was unable to do it directly from my hand into the bowl of water. So I had to use a cutting board to make the shreds. Hopefully the step wise pictures below will help you. Next time, I will try to do a video so you can have a better understanding.
Btw, the stir fry came out fabulous. Maybe the shrimp I decided to add to it last minute added to the flavor too! This was a perfect Paleo meal for me with the shrimp added in! Of course, you can make a vegan version without adding any shrimp and that will still taste fabulous! My dad was pleased to hear of my efforts and I am sure my mom is smiling at me from the heavens – I must have made her proud!
How to Cook Banana Blossom (Vaazha Kodappan Thoran)
Author: Indira Shyju
Recipe type: Side dish, Main course
Banana Blossom stir fried in coconut oil with shrimp and shredded coconut along with cumin and other indian spices
1 medium size banana blossom, shredded (see step wise pictures below recipe)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
2 tsp mustard seeds (skip for AIP)
½ of a red onion, finely chopped (or 3 pearl onions, chopped)
5-6 fresh curry leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder /cayenne pepper (skip for AIP)
6-8 shrimp, chopped up into tiny pieces (optional)
For the coconut masala paste:
¾ cup fresh grated coconut (or frozen grated coconut, thawed)
2 tsp cumin seeds (skip for AIP)
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp warm water
salt to taste
Remove the top one or two layers of petals from the banana blossom until you get tightly fitting layers at which point you don't need to discard them. (I removed only the top one layer)
Fill a large bowl with water. Add 1 tsp of salt and a few drops of lemon juice to avoid discoloration. Mix well.
Hold the banana blossom such that the broad bottom is facing you. Make horizontal and vertical cuts on it by whacking on it using your knife - like you see in the picture below.
Then place it on a cutting board and begin to shred it so you get really tiny shreds. Start moving the shreds into the bowl of salted water.
Finish cutting all the blossom this way and place all the shreds in the bowl of water.
Now strain the water using a large strainer. Squeeze the shredded blossoms to squeeze out maximum water out. Leave in the strainer.
In a food processor, grind the coconut, cumin and garlic with the 2 tbsp of water to get a coarse paste. Do not grind it fine. Keep aside.
In a kadai or a wok style pan, heat the coconut oil.
When hot, add the mustard seeds.When they splutter, add the onions and curry leaves. After a minute, add the shredded blossoms and add the turmeric and red chili powder. Stir fry for 2 -3 minutes. Check for seasoning and add salt as needed (be cautious since the blossoms were soaked in salted water already). Cover and cook for about 2-3 minutes.
Next Add the shrimp and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes till the shrimp is opaque and cooked all the way through.
Finally add the ground coconut masala (paste) and stir fry well for 1 minute or so until well blended. Check for seasoning before turning heat off.
For AIP version: Skip mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cayenne pepper and increase the amount of turmeric to get more flavor
Navratan Korma is a rich, creamy and highly delectable dish of vegetables, fruit, nuts and paneer. It is very rich since butter/ghee, heavy cream and cashew nut paste is used to make the gravy. A blend of different spices is used in this curry along with several garnishes like nuts, seeds and herbs like mint and cilantro. ‘Navratan’ or ‘Navratna’ means nine jewels and this dish having originated during the Mughal regime really is befitting for a king.! The nine jewels stand for a combination of nine different vegetables, fruits and nuts.
I had been wanting to make vegetable korma since the past few weeks. Now that I am on a paleo diet, I need to eat lots of vegetables to keep me satiated! My favorite dish lately has been the Keralan Avial which is mixed vegetables in a coconut gravy. Since this has plantains and other root vegetables like taro root, yam etc this really fills me up.!
Vegetable Korma in Kerala is made using coconut paste or coconut milk and that is what I wanted to make. However, I had some leftover pineapple and so I decided to add some pineapple too and make it spicy and sweet …kinda like ‘navratna korma’. As I began to make it, I thought of adding some swiss chard leaves too! Greens are not common in either vegetable or navratan korma but hey I thought it can’t go wrong. And hence this dish was born! I used only five jewels – cauliflower, carrot, winter melon, swiss chard and pineapple. maybe I should call it panchratna (five jewels) korma 🙂 I decided to make my own spice blend for this curry adding fennel and cardamom along with other whole spices. I loved it very much and this is going to be another of my staple mixed vegetable paleo dishes for now. For a Paleo AIP version, you can still make this curry omitting all spices and using only cinnamon, star anise and cloves.
Delectable curry of mixed vegetables cooked with an aromatic blend of spices and coated in creamy coconut milk sauce to be served over white rice.
1 tbsp coconut oil
4-6 fresh curry leaves
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cups cauliflower florets
½ cup diced carrots
1 cup cubed winter melon (or you can use any other vegetables like squash or zucchini etc)
½ cup water
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup swiss chard leaves, chopped roughly
¼ tsp red chilli powder (optional)
2 tsp spice blend (see recipe below)
1 1 /2 cups thick coconut milk (fresh* or canned full fat)
½ cup pineapple chopped
For Spice blend:
1 star anise
2 -3 green cardamoms, outer shell removed
1 black cardamom
4-5 black peppercorns
2 tsp fennel seeds
1 one inch long cinnamon stick
To make spice blend:
First lightly roast the fennel seeds on a small heating pan for about 2 minutes on low heat. Then add the rest of the whole spices and heat stirring frequently for another minute. Transfer to a spice (coffee) grinder and blend till you get a fine powder. Place in an air tight container.
In a large cooking pot, add the coconut oil and heat. When hot, add the onion,ginger and the curry leaves and sauce for 2-3 minutes. Then add the cauliflower and carrot pieces and stir fry for about 2 minutes. Then cover and cook for about 3-4 minutes or so until the vegetables are cooked. Then add the winter melon, salt and water and again cover and cook for about 4 minutes.
Open the lid and add the spice blend, red chili powder and the swiss chard leaves. Stir to mix well.
Next add the coconut milk and let cook for about 2 minutes till it comes to a boil. Turn heat off and add the pineapple pieces and mix well.
For making fresh coconut milk: 1cup of freshly grated coconut or fresh frozen grated coconut that has been thawed 1½ cups of warm water Blend the coconut with 1 cup of the water and strain using a fine mesh sieve. Add the strained coconut meat back into the blender and blend with the rest of the water. Again strain milk thru the sieve. You should have about 1½ cups of milk. For AIP version: Omit all spices not permitted under AIP - use only star anise, cinnamon and cloves for spices