We have various festivals in India which mark the start of a New Year. People from different states and languages mark the beginning of their year based on moon cycles, star cycles, seasons etc. Two weeks ago we had Ugadi here in the state of Karnataka. We celebrate this every year at my parents place where we do the customary eating of "bevu bella". The neem flowers (bevu) are bitter and the jaggery (bella) is sweet. We mix them in a little plate and place it at the holy altar and begin our day by eating a large pinch of this mixture while saying "neem is sweet, jaggery is bitter". This is to signify our acceptance of all bitter experiences and sweet experiences that life throws at us as equal and that without either, life would be incomplete.
After this, we proceed to stuff our faces with delicious festival foods. This year my mom and both my grandmas together made a bunch of stuff, the key ones being maavinakai chitranna (mango and lemon based rice dish), holige saaru (a sweet and sour liquid that we mix with rice and slurp) and holige/obbattu a thin flatbread made of semolina and flour, stuffed with a sweet lentil and jaggery mixture.
I didn't take pictures of any of these because I was too busy enjoying myself with my family and stuffing my face that day. But on hindsight, I did feel bad that I didn't capture everything to share here.
So I decided that since yesterday was the Tamil New Year festival which hubby and I celebrate here at home, I should share at least one recipe with you all.
Avial, is a special South Indian stew (hailing from the states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala) of vegetables simmered in a spicy coconut and yogurt based sauce. It's a very simple recipe but takes time to make because of all the vegetable cutting involved. Traditionally vegetables like yam, drumstick, plantain (raw banana) which are native to South India play the main role in Avial. Other than these potatoes, carrots, french beans and peas are included. Veggies like capsicum (bell peppers), radish, beets, turnips etc... are avoided because they change the texture completely (being very soft when cooked) and don't go well with the yogurt base.
This is what went into my Avial yesterday (I didn't have plantain and drumstick on hand otherwise I'd have definitely included them).
3 C Vegetables cut into long (approx 1 inch) pieces - yam, carrot, beans, potato, baby corn, peas
1/4 tsp Turmeric
5-6 Green Chillies
1/4 tsp Cumin
1 inch piece Ginger
2 C Dry Coconut Powder (grated fresh coconut is even better)
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/8 tsp Asafetida Powder
3-4 Dry Red Chillies (each broken into 3-4 pieces)
1/2 C Vinegar
1/4 C Lemon/Lime Juice
2 C Peanut Yogurt
Toss the chopped veggies in turmeric and some salt and steam them until tender (about half an hour).
Grind the coconut, ginger, green chillies, cumin and a little more salt together into a paste using water as required.
In a large, heavy bottomed vessel heat a few tablespoons of coconut oil and add the mustard seeds and cover loosely. As soon as they have stopped crackling (half a minute), add the dry red chillies, curry leaves and asafetida.
Add the steamed vegetables and spicy coconut paste and mix together. Add a cup of water, cover and simmer everything together for a few minutes.
Turn off the flame and mix in the vinegar, lemon juice and peanut yogurt. Taste and adjust the salt and sour ingredients.
Serve over steamed rice.
Apart from the Avial, I also made two other things (these are old pictures that I clicked a long time ago though):
Jevvarisi payasam - a tapioca pudding of sorts.
Parappu vada - spicy, deep fried fritters made of a combination of lentils which can be enjoyed plain or soaked in vegan yogurt.
I'll share recipes of these at some other point. For now, make yourself some Avial and enjoy! :)