Sunday, September 28, 2014

No-Cook Aval - Sweet or Savory (Flattened Rice Snack Two Ways)

No-Cook Savory Aval
Aval (poha in Hindi), made from rice, is an extremely user-friendly staple; it is similar to oatmeal. Parcooked or steamed rice in its husk is pounded flat to make aval. Although one can cook with it, aval is eminently edible without any cooking!

Aval (poha) is an ubiquitous staple in a typical South Indian Home to be made into a number of quick and delicious recipes! It is very easy to prepare either sweet or savory dishes especially when it is hot and one does not want to venture anywhere near a stove for love or money :-).

Notes:  Check the aval for any foreign or discolored particles and discard them. Place in a bowl and cover with water; swirl with fingers quickly to get any husk pieces to emerge and float up. Pour out all the water along with the floaters. The drained aval is now ready to use in the recipes.

Fresh coconut is best for these recipes; but frozen is acceptable. If only dehydrated or dessicated coconut is available, add water and let it hydrate well for about 10 minutes or so before adding to your recipe. For the Sweet Aval, jaggery tastes the best; but brown sugar is an acceptable substitute.

No-Cook Savory Aval with Brown Chickpeas

Ingredients for Savory Aval
Savory Aval:
A quick and easy recipe especially great for tea time! Although there is thalippu that is cooked, since there is no actual cooking of the aval or veggies I think of this as a no-cook recipe! I like to make it as a quick meal often; sometimes I add the brown chickpeas; thawed peas and corn are great additions - I don't cook them - just thaw and toss in! It turns out that this Savory Aval is great hot also; I warmed up leftovers for a lovely warm snack!

If  Sambar powder is not available, use Rasam or curry powder instead; or toast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and the red chile given below in a small pan until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool and grind well into a fine powder; since the spices are already toasted, the ground powder can be added directly to the aval mixture.

Spices instead of Sambar powder:
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1 dried hot Red Chile


1 cup Thin/Thick Aval (poha)
1/2 cup grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Sugar
2 - 4 Shallots, OR 1/2 small Red Onion, finely chopped (optional)
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, chopped
1/2 Lemon/Lime, juiced
1/2 cup cooked Indian brown Chick Peas (optional)
2 Tbsp roasted Peanuts/Cashews
1/2 cup Indian Sev or another Indian snack mix (optional)

1 tsp Oil
1 big pinch Brown Mustard seeds
1 tsp Urad dal
1 tsp Chana dal (optional)
1 little pinch Asafetida (optional)
1-2 fresh green chile, minced
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, sliced into chiffonade
1/2 tsp ground Turmeric
1-2 tsp  Sambar powder 

Place the washed aval in a large bowl (check notes above for cleaning/washing the aval/poha).

Squeeze the lemon/lime juice over it and set aside while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Prepare the thalippu/tadka: heat the oil, add the mustard seeds and the dals; when mustard seeds pop and the dals turn pinkish, add chile and curry leaves carefully (chile and curry leaves may sputter and pop) and cook for a few seconds. Stir in the turmeric and sambar powder. Add to the aval.

Add the rest of the ingredients (except the nuts, sev or snack mix) to the bowl and mix well; let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Savory Aval may be made up to one or two days ahead. Check for seasonings before serving.

Serve at room temperature mixed/topped with the peanuts and snack mix.


Quick sweet avalThere are two ways to make sweet aval.

1. Pal Aval: softened with hot milk (any type - almond, soy, cashew, etc), sweetened with jaggery or sugar, and served hot, warm or cool; a gluten-free milk-"toast"!

1 Serving

1/2 cup thin Aval, prepared as directed above
1/2 cup hot Milk, any type
Jaggery/Brown Sugar/White Sugar to taste
1 tiny pinch ground Cardamom (optional)

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and let the aval soften for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm. Enjoy!!

2. Sweet Aval without milk: Very similar to muesli. This recipe is simplicity itself! Just mix aval with coconut and jaggery; we often had this sweet aval (aka "nanacha" aval - literally moistened aval) as an after-school snack often as it is quite effortless to prepare it at short notice! Although Amma only used a very flavorful small banana available in Kerala, any ripe banana may be used. Other fresh/dried fruits or nuts may be added as well.

Serves 2 - 4

1 cup Thin Aval, washed as directed above
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh grated Coconut
1 small ripe banana, diced (optional)
1 Tbsp Each - Cashew pieces and Raisins (optional)
3-4 Tbsp grated Jaggery or Brown Sugar
1/4 tsp Ground Cardamom

Mix together all the ingredients well; let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. If made ahead, chill until needed. Serve at room temperature.  Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Achards de Legumes (Pickled Veggies Mauritius Style)

Achards de Legumes 
This recipe is very similar to Hema's Vegetable Achar; both are based on Mauritian fare. We love heaping up achards on toast or a roll for a very satisfying repast whether at breakfast, lunch, or a yummy snack any time. The pictures show Achards made without cauliflower but all the other ingredients - so you see that the recipe is quite flexible :)

Cauliflower and turnips are good on an anti-inflammatory diet, so I thought of making the "Achards" (as it is called in Mauritius) with them instead of the cabbage. I was told that in Mauritius, they sell Achards de Legumes and freshly baked bread before the grocery stores open! What a great idea! A delicious peace offering to keep the waiting hungry shoppers from getting grumpy :)!

* Use a non-reactive bowl and pan for making the achards (stainless steel, ceramic, glass).
* I make a huge batch and keep the achards in 2 or 3 jars - easy to use as well as for giving as gifts.
* I cut the carrots, cauliflower, and bell pepper with a knife so as to keep them nice and not shredded too much.


2 Tbsp Brown Mustard Seeds, freshly ground (coarse)
1/2 tsp Fenugreek Seeds, coarsely ground (optional)
2 tsp Sea salt or to taste
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 Onions, thinly sliced
2-4 Hot green Chiles, thinly sliced (optional)
1 clove fresh Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Oil
1-2 Turnips, coarsely shredded
1/2 small cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup Apple Cider Vinegar


Prepare all the veggies - this is the part that takes a bit of time; once the veggies are ready, it just takes a couple of minutes to finish the achards.

Heat the oil and stir in the ground seeds and cook for a few seconds.

Stir in turmeric and salt and mix well.  Stir in the onions, garlic and green chiles; cook stirring for 1-2 minutes until the veggies are slightly softened.

Add all the veggies and stir well to coat with the spices, cook over medium heat and stir until just warm about 2 minutes.

Let the achards cool; stir in the vinegar and spoon into a clean jar. Press down tightly to keep all air out of the veggies.

Cover tightly and let marinate at room temperature for one day.

Stir well and cover; refrigerate until ready to serve.  

Although you can start eating the achards right away, it tastes best after 2 or 3 days of maturing. The longer it matures, the better and mellower it tastes. Keeps well in the fridge for months!

Serve with fresh rolls, toasts, or other breads.

Achards with Sourdough toasts

Friday, September 12, 2014

Taro Leaf And Red Lentil Stew With Tamarind (Chembilai Puliyitta Kuzhambu)

This stew is so scrumptious and pretty easy to make - served over any grain or with some bread, it makes a lovely meal. The fragrant spices enrich the stew without making it overly spicy.

I grow taro just for this purpose; leaves and stems are not always available in markets. But it is very easy to grow - see this post on How to Grow Taro.

My grandmother used to prepare this dish using only the stems of the taro and called it "thalakam". You can make it with just leaves or both the stems and leaves. Other greens like amaranth, kale, collards, turnip greens, spinach, Swiss chard, etc may be used if taro leaves are unavailable in any combination. If you are using regular dried tamarind pulp instead of the concentrate, use about a 1" ball; remove seeds and any stringy fibers and soak in a little warm water; then add to the roasted spices and grind together.

Taro Leaf & Red Lentil Stew With Basmati Rice, Taro Stem Thoran

1 cup Red Lentils (skinless Masoor dal)
1 - 2 mild Green Chiles, chopped
12 - 16 Taro Leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Tamarind Concentrate

Masala (Spices):
1 tsp Oil
1 Tbsp Coriander Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
1 tsp uncooked Rice
2 Tbsp Urad Dal
12 whole Black Peppercorns
3 dry Red Chiles
4 Tbsp grated Coconut

1 tsp Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 dry Red Chiles, broken into two
1 pinch Asafetida
1 stem Curry leaves, sliced into a chiffonade


Sort the red lentils, wash, drain and cover with fresh water to cover; water should be about an inch above the lentils. Cook over moderate heat until soft.

Masala: While the dal is cooking, prepare the masala - heat the oil in a small pan and roast all the spices and dals until fragrant and lightly browned; add the coconut and cook over medium heat until lightly browned. Remove from heat and let cool. When cool, grind finely using a blender with just enough water as necessary to get a smooth puree.

When the dal is cooked but not mushy, stir in the chopped chiles along with the taro leaves and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the turmeric, salt, and tamarind and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Pour the ground Masala into the lentils and greens; add about 1/2 cup of water to gather all of the ground mixture clinging to the blender jar and add to the stew and bring to a boil.

Remove from heat and cover.

Prepare Thalippu: heat the oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds and chile; when they subside popping, turn off the heat and stir in the asafetida and curry leaves carefully. Quickly cover to avoid splattering hot oil. When sizzling subsides, pour the spices and oil into the stew. 

Stir well and let rest for 10 minutes.

Serve hot over freshly cooked hot rice or other grains. This stew is good with Chapatis or other breads also.