Monday, 21 January 2013

Simple & Superb Aviyal/Avial

I watched Life of Pi last week (not in 3D) and I absolutely loved it. My friend, my husband and I walked out of the theatre simple bewildered at how good the film was. There were many fantastic attributes to this film, but the greatest by far, would have to be Richard Parker. That tiger has got to be the most beautiful creature I've ever seen, and that one scene where he is so weak that Pi goes and sits next to him, and takes his head, places it on his own lap and strokes him to sleep - I couldn't hold back the tears at seeing a scene that was so pure and magical. That is love, I tell you!

Pi's lullaby stuck with me the moment I heard it, and I truly hope that one of my favourite singers of all time, Bombay Jayshree, wins the Academy Award for singing such a heart-warming melody. Sure, the Academy Awards are often biased to the "popular" and A-list people, but I hope they listen to this lullaby with their souls, appreciate it for its beauty and simplicity, and present the award to the woman most deserving of it!

Listen to it here: Pi's Lullaby by Bombay Jayshree

Pi's Lullaby:

Kanne, kanmaniye. Kannurangaayi poovae,
Mayilo, tokai mayilo, kuyilo, kuvum kuyilo,
Nilavo, nilavin oliyo, Imaiyo, imaiyin kanavo,
Rararo... rararo, rararo... rararo...

Malaro, malarin amudho, kaniyo, cenkaniyin suvaiyo,
Rararo... rararo...

My darling, the apple of my eye, Go to sleep, my dear precious one.
Are you a peacock? A peacock displaying its beautiful plumage?
Are you a Cuckoo Bird? Are you the chirping Cuckoo Bird?
Are you the moon? Are you the moon's light?
Are you the eyelid? Are you the dreams within the eyelids?
Sleep humming... Sleep humming..
Are you a flower? Are you the sweet nectar of the flower?
Are you a fruit? Are you the sweet taste of the ripened fruit?
Sleep humming..

There's nothing quite like sleeping to the tunes of your mother's voice, just like there's nothing quite like eating food prepared by your mother, from her loving and caring hands. How, oh how, can someone put a price or even a description on each and every act of love performed by a mother?

My mother and another close aunt of mine prepare Avial very well, and I've always thought that such an amazing dish HAS to be difficult! But preparing it for the first time yesterday, I realised that it was not difficult at all. In fact, it further reinforced my point that simple food is the most delicious. My husband loves Avial, and anything that he loves - I will JUMP to prepare with perfection. So we finished a whole pot of this yesterday itself! Sweet, sweet victory :)

I saved a cup of this just to take photographs, and we finished this bowl too in the evening! :)

Here are the simple and detailed step-by-step pictures on how to make delicious Avial/Aviyal:

Cooking time: 1/2 hour
Yield: Serves 3 people

2 small sized carrots (or 1 large carrot) - cut into oblong pieces
2 small potatoes (or 1 large potato) - cut into oblong pieces
1 very thick slice of a pumpkin - cut into oblong pieces
10 long beans - cut into small pieces about 3cm in length
5 cheppankizhangu/arvi/arbi/colacasia steam cooked and sliced into thick pieces

To Grind:
1.5 cups of grated or dessicated coconut
5 green chillies (we like it spicy, but if you prefer it mild, add only 3 green chillies)

2 cups of thick yoghurt/curd/thayir
1 strand of curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
Salt to taste

(NB: Traditionally, Avial has many more home grown vegetables like snake gourd (podalanga), white pumpkin (poosnika), ash gourd, yam, plantain (vaazhakka), kathirikai (eggplant) and murungakka (drumstick), but I just used the vegetables I had at hand and made this Aviyal. If you have any of the above ingredients, please add them! They will make the avial EVEN BETTER!

Take all the cut vegetables and put it into a pot, add only a bit of water till all the vegetables are submerged, and allow it to simmer on a small flame for about 15 minutes or until tender.
Don't keep stirring the vegetables, because they might break or become mushy. Only heat them till they are about 3/4 way cooked, and leave it alone. You want to retain their shapes.

If you put too much water, drain some of it out. Avial should not be watery at all.

Now, add curry leaves, salt and turmeric.

Gently stir, and be careful not to make the vegies mushy or break.

In a mixie, put the 1.5 cups of coconut and 3 or 5 green chillies and add 1 cup of water. Grind this very, very well till it is very smooth. Add more water if necessary.

Add this mix to the slowly cooking vegies and stir very gently:
 Allow this to come to boil and allow most of the water to evaporate. Don't stir it too much.

Once it is nice and thick, turn off the heat and leave it alone for about half an hour so it can cool down completely. The reason we leave it alone before adding the yoghurt, is because if you add the yoghurt when the mixture is still hot, the yoghurt will turn sour and ruin the taste of the Avial.

When cool, add the yoghurt and gently fold it in.

Serve with hot rice, adai, dosa or roti. Enjoy! This can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days, but just make sure you don't leave it outside, otherwise this simple and superb dish will become sour!