This dish of mixed vegetables with coconut, or avial, is a preparation of mixed vegetables, yoghurt, coconut then seasoned with mustard oil and curry leaves. It is a dry dish and must not be overcooked.
When you go to a curry house and order a vegetable curry, this is what you were hoping for. Instead, you probably got some stewed vegetables swimming in some sort of sauce. This is different – it is a dish with a “wow” factor that your vegetarian friends or family will love. Even carnivores love this dish.
The recipe is from Kerala and is a common wedding or festive dish. It is also a daily family meal and is quite simple to prepare.
One key to making a good avial is to pay attention to the appearance. 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.
If you are using different vegetables to those in the recipe, just be aware of the different cooking times. The recipe has root vegetables first, then the rest of the vegetable follow in terms of their softness. Your personal preferences should determine how cooked each vegetable should be. What you want is some texture. For us, we like soft potatoes, firm carrots, and crunchy beans.
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 salt
- 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
- 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 shallot - peeled and halved
- 20 g ginger - peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup coconut - grated
- 1 cup green peas
- 1 lebanese cucumber - cut into 2cm sticks
- 100 ml yoghurt
- 1 stem curry leaves
- Heat the mustard oil in a large pan. Add the onion, sprinkle with salt and cook for ten minutes or until the onions are soft and beginning to colour.
- Add the whole cumin seeds and chillies, then stir continuously for two minutes.
- Stir in the carrots, sweet potato, and potatoes, then add the turmeric and curry leaves. Mix well.
- Cover the pan and cook over 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 five minutes or until the beans have softened slightly.
- Place the shallots, ginger, coconut, and as little water as necessary into a blender, and blend to a fine paste.
- Add the paste to the 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, mixing well before adding the next spoon. Allow to warm through, but not come to the boil as it will split.
- Garnish with the stem of curry leaves and serve.
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