This dish of vegetables with coconut, or avial, is a preparation of mixed vegetables, yoghurt, coconut and seasoned with mustard oil and curry leaves. It is a dry dish, and must not be overcooked.
The recipe is from Kerala and is a common wedding or festive dish. It is also a daily family meal and is actually quite simple to prepare.
This is a dish with a “wow” factor that your vegetarian friends or family will love. Even carnivores love this dish.
One key to making a good avial is to pay attention to the visual interest. Choose vegetables with contrasting colours such as carrot, beans, pumpkin and capsicum, for example. The vegetables are cut into long, 1cm thick batons, and are just cooked to a crunchy consistency. This texture is the second key.
In my grandmother’s recipe the vegetables were cut much smaller, and her instructions had them cooked much more. In fact, they were almost stewed.
Use whatever vegetables are in season. Choose them for their appearance and colour blend. Capsicums are good as a colour highlight vegetable. Traditional vegetables used would include drumsticks (phalli), carrots, cucumber, plaintain, pumpkin, ash gourd (petha), green beans, gherkins (tendli), sweet potato, yam (suran), and snake gourd.
This is a dish that tastes best straight off the stove. I suggest it cannot be prepared in advance, nor have I had success in freezing and re-heating this, just like I have found with most of the vegetable recipes in this book.
- 3 tbsp mustard oil
- 1 red onion - thickly sliced
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 green chillies - sliced in half lengthwise
- 2 carrots - peeled and chopped into 1cm batons
- 2 potatoes - peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
- 1 sweet potato - cut into 3cm chunks
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
- 12 curry leaves
- 100 g green beans - topped, tailed and chopped into 5cm pieces
- 1 red capsicum - sliced into 1 cm wide strips
- 50 g shallots - peeled and halved
- 20 g ginger - peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup coconut - grated
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 lebanese cucumber - cut I into 2cm sticks
- 100 ml yoghurt
- 1 stem curry leaves
- Heat the mustard oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook for two minutes or until the onions are soft and beginning to colour.
- Add the whole cumin seeds and chillies, and stir continuously for two minutes.
- Stir in the carrots, sweet potato and potatoes, then add turmeric and salt. Tear curry leaves and add to pan.
- Cover the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring often. If necessary, add a little water to prevent the vegetables from burning. Do not add too much water as the consistency of this dish should be quite dry.
- After 20-25 minutes, or when potatoes are soft, add the beans and capsicum and stir through. Cook for another 10 minutes or until beans are softened.
- Place the shallots, ginger, coconut and as little water as necessary into a blender, and blend to a fine paste.
- Add paste to pan and stir through. Add the peas and cucumber, cook for a further five minutes, stirring thoroughly, being careful not to break up the whole vegetables.
- Stir the yoghurt into the pan, one spoon at a time, and allow to warm through.
- Garnish with curry leaves stem and serve.