As our weekday lunches are usually packed box lunch, we like to have a nice sit-down lunch during the weekend. Well, I said we like to, but we normally don’t 🙂 I am not an early riser and getting early (read 8:00 AM) on weekends is a challenge for me. Unlike me, Elle is an early riser and when we were room-mates (I guess that would be a different post), she would become restless by 9:00 on weekend mornings and force me to wake up. It was indeed nice to have her as a room-mate and I never felt that I was staying away from home. Thanks Elle!
Anyway, coming back to this post, unlike other weekends, this weekend I got up fairly early and was also in the mood to cook something nice. Starting this blog was another reason I guess – I am always in the look for cooking new dishes and picturing them. Family was joining us for lunch and it was decided that we’d make Lemon Rice & Avial (Mixed Vegetable stew) – a typical combination in our household. Avial is a traditional dish that was designed to use up all the left-over vegetables. I think it would be an interesting exercise to read up on (or even guess) the origins of the traditional dishes. Most dishes go through a lot of metamorphosis with time, assimilating new spices and vegetables that are introduced to a region and even removing a few ingredients that are not so common anymore. I’d heard from a friend that Copper point Restaurant (in GRT Grand days) organized a food fest named “Sanga Kaala Unavu” (Food from Sangam Age) which had dishes that sounded and looked unfamiliar. Anyway, I digress…
Taro Root (Cheppankizhangu in Tamil) – 10 small pieces
Carrots & Green Beans – cut into long pieces 1 cup each
Lima Beans – 1/2 cup
Drumstick – 3 (cut into long pieces)
Assortment of gourds (Pumpkin, Ash Gourd etc) – cut into big chunks 1 cup
In addition to this, you can also add peeled & cubed Potatoes, Plantain (vaazhakkai), Yam to Avial. Normally, any vegetable that holds it shape can be added to Avial. Boil all the vegetables in a vessel. Typically, add the root vegetables that take the maximum time to cook first, followed by drumstick, carrots, beans and the gourds. Alternatively, you can pressure cook all the vegetables together. Although in this process, some veggies like carrots, beans & the gourds can get over-cooked. It is a choice between convenience and palate.
Meanwhile, grind 2 tbsp of grated coconut with 2 tsp of cumin seeds and 3 green chillies to a paste. Add this to the boiled vegetables and bring this mixture to a boil and turn off the heat. In a pan, heat 2 tsp oil and add 1 tsp each of mustard and cumin seeds. Let them splutter and add it to the mixed vegetables. This is the Avial base. If you are a curd-hater (yes, they do exist), you can enjoy Avial as is. Else, add a generous 1.5 cups of curd (home-made preferably) to the mixed vegetables for an awesome Avial.
My mom used to take small amounts of Avial base and add curd as needed, as curd tend to go sour easily particularly in tropical regions like South India.
After the laborious Avial, Lemon Rice is a welcome relief – a very simple dish requiring few ingredients and uncomplicated procedure. Cook 1 cup rice as you normally do (make it non-sticky by adding a few drops of oil at the time of cooking). Place the cooked rice in a wide-mouthed vessel. In a small pan, heat 2 tsp oil. Add 1 tsp mustard, after it splutters add 1 tsp chana dhal, 2 tsp peanuts, 2 green chillies & 1 inch ginger – chopped fine, 1 tsp turmeric powder. After the dhal & peanuts are roasted take it off the flame and add the juice of 1 lemon – should be about 2-3 Tbsp. Use more lemons, if they are not very juicy. Before juicing a lemon, roll them on your palm to get the juice flowing in the citrus fruit. Add this to the rice and mix it well. Voila, Lemon Rice!