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Fall always brings a sense of contentment in me. The vibrant colors makes you want to go for leisurely walks trying to soak in all that beauty. The change in weather makes me want to snuggle in blankets all day long and plan for the imminent holiday season. This year has been a particularly relaxing year for me after I decided to quit my job early in January. I took this hard decision with careful thought and reasoning and my desire to get my RA under control was the influencing factor in this decision. Stress is a trigger and an aggravator for most autoimmune diseases and I am fairly convinced that the stressful work environment that I was in for the last few years was one of the factors responsible for the sudden onset of my RA two years ago.
So it was time to take care of myself after being 100% focused on only the needs of the children and the family for the past 18 years. And let me tell you – this was long, long overdue. A lot of times, we, especially women become such ‘busy’ beings that we don’t even realize that we have become machines, working like clock work. I didn’t realize when I made the decision to quit that it would have such a profound impact on my health and well being. I quit because I felt I could not do both the things – do the job as well as take care of myself. Now I feel…. ‘liberated’. I am so thankful to God for being able to take this break. I can indeed vouch for the fact that lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on your disease and well being. I am not sure when and if I will ever get back to my previous professional life. But for now its all about taking a step back and rejoicing in all the positive things that has happened this year. I am just lazing around, enjoying the beauty and doing what I enjoy the most – cooking all day! For the past two weeks, its about warm and comforting soups and this pumpkin coconut soup is one such comforting bowl of deliciousness that makes you relax, unwind and be thankful.
Last week I roasted two large pumpkins and froze them in ziplock bags. That is what I used for this soup. To see how to roast a pumpkin, check this post of mine from before. I made this soup in the Instant Pot. I find it convenient to use the Instant Pot for soups since you can put it on and do your stuff without having to wait around. Plus it keeps the soup warm until you are ready to eat!
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.
Mappas is a coconut milk based curry that is unique to Kerala and particularly among the Kerala Syrian Christian community. Fish mappas, Chicken Mappas and also vegetable mappas. Last week I wanted to make some kind of vegetable korma since I was so excited that I was finally able to make grain free parathas using cassava flour. After being deprived of all kinds of breads the past two years, I am now ecstatic that I can finally eat parathas. And so I was looking to make a curry that will go well with parathas / rotis – I was craving for a flavorful and rich curry where I could use my cassava paratha to soak up all the gravy. I suddenly remembered my friend Reena’s mixed vegetable curry that she had brought to a potluck some several thousand moons ago! Yes, I am weird like that – I remember everything about who brought what dish to what potluck even if it was several years ago 🙂
Reena doesn’t stay near us anymore but in these days of whatsapp messaging, distances hardly matter! So I messaged Reena to give me her recipe and lo and behold, a very beautifully crafted recipe was delivered to me 2 days later. I wasn’t surprised since Reena is the most meticulous of all my girl friends – she likes to go about things in an organized fashion. And she is a fabulous cook too being a Keralite brought up in Chennai, she has the best recipes from both the worlds! Thank you Reena for this fabulous recipe. I made it exactly as her recipe only replacing peas with carrots and then also adding green beans. We had the curry with rotis (for the family) and my cassava paratha. The gravy was finger licking good and even my 10 year old daughter who is allergic to vegetables(not clinically but you know what I mean right?) also took seconds! God bless you Reena darling 🙂
Hope you all enjoy this recipe. I have also included the recipe for cassava (tapioca) paratha here. Check out my youtube channel for a video of this curry and my grain free cassava paratha recipe.!
Kerala Style Vegetable Mappas (Vegetable coconut milk curry) and Cassava Paratha
Author: Indira Shyju
Recipe type: Main course
A finger licking, flavorful curry of mixed vegetables like cauliflower, potatoes, green beans and carrots cooked in a rich gravy of coconut milk and spices
For masala paste:
Red chilly powder or cayenne pepper - 2 tsp (I used Kashmiri chill powder to keep it mildly hot and for color)
Coriander powder - 3 tsp
Turmeric powder - ¼ tsp
Fennel seeds - 2 tsp
Cinnamon - 1 inch long piece
fresh Ginger - about 1 inch by 2 inch piece
fresh Garlic - 4 big cloves
¼ cup warm water
For making homemade coconut milk:
2 cups fresh or frozen grated coconut
about 2½ cups hot water
For the curry:
Coconut oil - 1.5 tbsp
Shallots/red onions, chopped 1 cup
Potatoes- peeled and cubed - 2 (replace with taro root for Paleo version)
Carrots - ¼ cup
Green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces, 1 cup
Cauliflower - florets - 2 cups
Vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar but any vinegar is fine)- 1 tbsp
Homemade coconut milk as Thinned Coconut milk (2nd extraction) - 2 cups and Thick Coconut milk (1st extraction) - 1 cup OR 3 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
Salt about 1 tsp (or per taste)
fresh Curry leaves - 2 sprigs
extra coconut oil for drizzling on top
For cassava parathas:
½ cup cassava flour
1 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil
pinch sea salt
½ cup hot water (water that has been boiling and just removed from heat)
2 tsp olive oil
For the masala paste:
Place all the ingredients listed under 'masala' in a small blender jar and grind together to form a fine paste. Keep aside.
For making home made coconut milk:
In a blender mix the grated coconut with about 1 cup of the hot water and blend for 1 minute. Using a strainer, extract the coconut milk. Keep aside this first coconut milk. Now add the rest of the water and blend again. Strain to get the 2nd extract. Keep both extracts aside.
Making the curry:
Heat the coconut oil and sauté the shallots for 2-3 mins.
To this add the ground masala paste and sauté for about 1 minute on low heat until the raw smell dissipates.
Add all the veggies, stir to mix veggies with the spices, cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins.
Add the 2nd extract milk (or all of the canned coconut milk if using canned), vinegar and salt. Cover and cook for about 8-10 mins or until the vegetables are cooked.(Take care not to overcook)
Now add the 1st milk (skip if using canned coconut milk) and the fresh curry leaves.
When the curry comes to a boil, remove from heat and drizzle extra coconut oil on top and serve warm with rotis or parathas!
For making cassava paratha:
In a large mixing bowl, add the cassava flour. Add the salt and the oil. Then add slowly the hot water in 2-3 portions and continue stirring with a spoon. When all the water is added, add 1 more tsp of oil and then knee with your hands to form a smooth dough.
Roll dough into chapatis and cook on a frying pan cooking about 2 mins on each side. Apply ghee or oil as needed.
This curry tastes best with homemade coconut milk. But you can use organic canned unsweetened coconut milk too. If using canned milk, you can just use the entire quantity - 3 cups of coconut milk together.
Paratha is typical North indian food right? So why am I trying to ‘southernize’ it? He he…just happened like that one day by accident and a new ‘paratha’ was created in our household 🙂 So here is what happened. Once in a week I make Methi theplas for my kiddos’ lunch box. And usually I make more theplas for them once they come home from school for a healthy snack. One time I had a boiled potato left over too and so I thought of stuffing the thepla with the potato. I just wanted to keep it simple and decided to just add some ‘chaat masala’ to the potato stuffing. I quickly grabbed the ‘chaat masala’ pack from the fridge and sprinkled on the mashed potato. But after I had added it, I realized that I had actually added ‘sambhaar masala’ 🙂 So that was the birth of this Methi Aloo paratha with sambhaar spices!
The kids just loved the hot, spicy parathas and gobbled them all up in a few minutes. Then I made them again on a weekend when my husband enjoyed them too and that’s how these parathas came to become so popular in our house now. My youngest always wants me to make the ‘stuffed Aloo’ ones instead of just the plain methi theplas 🙂
Isn’t it fun when mistakes lead to sweet (or in this case, spicy) innovations ? 🙂
Methi Aloo Paratha with south indian flavors (Potato and Fenugreek leaves stuffed flatbread)
Author: Indira Shyju
Recipe type: Main course, Breads
A whole wheat flatbread stuffed with fenugreek leaves and potatoes with a hint of south indian spices
For the dough (outer covering):
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup fresh or frozen methi(fenugreek) leaves
1 tsp ajwain seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper powder (use kashmiri chill powder for mildly spiced)
about ¾ cup water
2 tbsp olive oil
For potato stuffing:
2 large Boiled potatoes, peeled and mashed
1 tbsp sambhaar powder (I use Aachi brand)
1 tsp salt (check if your sambhaar masala has salt already before adding)
Add all the dough ingredients except water and oil in a large mixing bowl. Slowly add the water little bit at a time and form a dough. (You can use a stand mixer also to form the dough). Add the oil and mix again so that the dough is soft and smooth. Divide dough into small balls about a golf ball size.keep aside covered.
Mix all the stuffing ingredients in a small bowl and use a potato masher to make the mixture really smooth - there should not be any lumps. Keep this aside.
Heat a chapati pan (or any non stick pan).
Roll each dough ball into a small circle and place 1 tbsp of the potato stuffing in the center. Bring the outer edges of the circle into the center to pinch at the center (like a dumpling) and then again roll carefully to form a paratha. (use lots of extra wheat flour for dusting to prevent sticking)
Place the paratha on the hot pan and cook for about 2 minutes on one side before flipping. Apply oil or ghee on the flipped side and again flip to the other side and apply ghee again. Flip once more to cook on the second side and when you see golden brown spots on both sides, transfer to a dish. Keep warm covered with foil until serving.
Repeat process for the rest of the dough and stuffing.
I think you can guess from the title of my post that I was struggling to come up with a proper name for this creation 🙂 It started with me coming across a caribbean mango cucumber chow recipe on a recipe forum. My sensory buds tingled at the mention of mango. And with cilantro and lime thrown in? Wow, even more mouthwatering stuff.
So that was the inspiration for my salad. So I got myself a mango two weeks ago – yes mangoes have started making an arrival here in our grocers! And note I said ‘ got myself a mango’, which meant that I was NOT willing to share this with anyone else at home. Yes I mean it. When it comes to mangoes, I become an infant …’Its mine!” OK OK so my family left me alone. They had the infinite wisdom that once mangoes start making more of an appearance especially at the Indian grocers, mom would get a crate of them and at that point she will be willing to share some with us.
So the recipe I had seen was fairly simple – onion, garlic, green chillies, lime juice and …Culantro. Yes no typo there, it is Culantro. I looked it up and it says that culantro or shado beni is a special herb grown in the caribbean. It is supposedly slightly different from Culantro or shado beni but cilantro is a close substitute. I am definitely very interested in laying my hands on this herb! Please let me know if any of you know where I can get it in the US?
Continuing with my salad, I added diced avocado, cucumber and mango together. For the caribbean chow, you pound together the onion, garlic, chillies and culantro and add this to the mango/cucumber pieces. Toss with salt and pepper and you are good to go! So I did this and then decided to add some chaat masala since the green chili and cilantro mixture along with lime was so reminiscent of the chaat we used to have back in the streets of Mumbai. So I added some chaat masala – the salad started tasting so good and I continued to sprinkle more and more of the chaat masala till I felt that it was just perfect – ‘You could eat the whole bowl’ kind of perfect! Yum!
After that day I started getting mangoes every week and I have made this salad at least three times in the past two weeks!. This last time I made it, i also added cooked beets and sweet potatoes to it. Tasted wondrous and a perfect side dish to my pan fried salmon.
Chaat masala btw is a blend of several different spices and has a dominant sour/tangy flavor from the dry mango powder and the black salt (pink salt) but it has a little bit of heat also from the other spices and cayenne pepper. I always buy store bought chaat masala but here’s a recipe for it if you would like to see the ingredients – Chaat masala recipe
A tangy and sweet tropical salad consisting of cucumber, avocados and mango deliciously spiced with cilantro, garlic, lemon juice and chaat masala
½ cup cilantro
1 garlic clove
¼ red onion
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 ripe avocado, peeled and diced
½ ripe mango, cut into medium size chunks
½ cucumber, peeled and diced
½ boiled potato (or sweet potato), diced
½ of a medium beet cooked (optional), diced
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp chaat masala
In a mortar or pestle or a small food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, red onion and the lemon juice. Blend well until you get a chunky kind of paste. Keep aside.
In a large bowl, add the avocado, cucumber, mango, potato (or sweet potato) and beet (if adding). Add the cilantro mixture to this. Add the salt, pepper and the chaat masala. Toss well to mix the spices well with the vegetables and fruits. Serve fresh!
For Paleo version, Use sweet potato instead of potato For AIP version, Use sweet potato instead of potato and Skip chaat masala