Tag Archives: keralan

Keralan Vegetable and Coconut Sambar Recipe

2 Nov Keralan Vegetable Sambar

Kerala is right at the top of my list of places I want to visit. It is located on the Malabar coast of south-west India and is known for having some of the best and most delicious vegetarian food in the whole of India. That and its beautiful beaches, backwaters, tropical forests and luxury Ayurvedic retreats and you can see why I am so keen to get there.

Until that day arrives I am happy to continue on my culinary journey around my kitchen and be transported by the flavours and smells unique to that area. Sambar is a typical southern Indian vegetable stew made with lots of vegetables and pigeon peas (or lentils) in a tamarind broth. The sambar is the spice mix or paste which has variations from state to state in the south.

Coconuts grow along the coast in Kerala and most of their signature dishes feature it in some form. This Keralan Sambar powder  is made by toasting coconut along with the spices and grinding it to create a paste that is used to flavour the stew. The sambar is finished or tempered with a garnish of mustard seeds, chilli and spices cooked in coconut oil that is poured over just before serving.

In the original recipe the pigeon peas or lentils are cooked separately with some turmeric and chilli powder until soft and mushy. They are then added to the vegetables cooked in the tamarind & stock to thicken the stew towards the end. I used dried quick cooking yellow lentils that cook in the same amount of time as the vegetables so I cooked it all together. Less washing up too.

The vegetables I used are just what I had in the fridge. You could use pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, aubergine, courgettes, okra…..

Keralan Vegetable & Coconut Sambar Recipe

Serves 4 with rice. Vegan, gluten-free. Adapted from The Mistress of Spices & Sankeerthanam

  • 75-100 g dried yellow lentils
  • 300 g sweet potato, scrubbed & cut into 2 cm chunks
  • 300 g cauliflower florets
  • 300 g (1 very large) tomato, chopped
  • 200 g green beans, trimmed & halved
  • 1 litre veg stock
  • 1 or 2 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • about 1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar or honey

For the tempering:

  •  2 tsp  coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 dried red chilli whole (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • curry leaves (if you can get them)

Put the veg stock and tamarind in large pot with the turmeric, chilli flakes, lentils, sweet potato and cauliflower. Bring to the boil, season with salt then lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the potatoes & lentils are cooked. Meanwhile make the sambar paste.

For the sambar paste

  • 4 Tbsp grated coconut
  • 1 cardamom pod
  • 1 tsp ground coriander seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli (I used fresh)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • salt

Toast everything in a dry frying pan until fragrant and toasty. The onions wont be cooked. Blend to a paste adding some salt and water as necessary.

Stir the sambar paste into the vegetable pot then add the softer vegetables, the beans and tomatoes. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat, cover and simmer for another 10 minutes or longer, until the lentils have broken down and you have a thicker stew consistency.  Add the jaggery/sugar or honey and taste for seasoning. Does it need more salt or sugar?

When ready to serve, heat the coconut oil in pan over a medium high heat and add the tempering spices, chilli and curry leaves (if using). When the seeds start to splutter tip the contents of the pan over the stew and serve with rice or flatbreads.

Things That Made Me Smile Today….

The oranges are coming. They are turning from green to a yellowy orange. Getting more orange every day. Which means it’s not long till Christmas.

Which means I need to get busy making Grandad’s Pickled Onions if I want them to be ready in time for Christmas. They need at least a month to mature into the spicy perfect beasts that everyone adores.

What Christmas treats are you planning to make this year?

Have a great weekend!

Keralan Soft Boiled Egg and Aubergine Curry

4 Dec

Kerala is one of those places I dream of visiting. An Ayurvedic retreat specialising in vegetarian food near the tea & cardamom plantations would be perfect. A place to rejuvenate mind, body and soul, somewhere like this…

Until that time comes I am happy to cook my own versions of Keralan dishes from home and use my walking as a means of rejuvenation. Today we walked to the top of a hill  I had been intrigued by for a while. It has some trees and what looks like a retreat or chapel at the top and I wanted to walk up there..

We had to walk up hill through the pine forest to get to the fire break, which is what looks like the path from down below.

When we got out of the forest about half way up we could see Alhaurin(the town where we live) and the snow on the mountains in the distance.Nearer the top we could see over the other side down to the coast and the sea. This is the Costa del Sol seen from the other side. The side that most tourists never see….

At the top was a deserted building that looks like it  is used for observation or maybe a forest warden’s office.

Whatever its use is, it is now our own private hilltop retreat! It’s free and the views are priceless…

It’s not Kerala but we can walk there in an hour and stay as long as we like….

I think this will be the first of many times that we will find ourselves at this sheltered hilltop retreat, but next time we will take a picnic, we were starving by the time we  had walked home. Definitely in the mood for a Keralan curry…

 Keralan Egg & Aubergine Curry Recipe

serves 2 or 3  vegetarian

  • 1 large aubergine cut into quarters, lengthways and chopped into 2 cm chunks
  • 2 or 3 large eggs (1 egg per person)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • 1 big tomato chopped
  • 1 green chilli, chopped
  • oil for frying (coconut oil would be good)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp punch pooran*
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  •  2 cardamom pods (crush and use the seeds)
  • 250ml -500ml veg stock
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp tamarind paste
  • 1 tbsp vinegar (I used balsamic)
  • 2 tsp brown sugar (or jaggery)
  • a handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • salt & black pepper

*Punch pooran is a spice mix made with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, onion seeds. fennel seeds & fenugreek seeds. You can get it from Indian supermarkets or from East End Foods.

Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the onion & spices. Cook for a few minutes until the onion softens then add the chilli, ginger & garlic. Mix everything together adding a little veg stock to stop it drying out. Add the aubergine chunks, stir to coat them in the spice paste and cook for about 5 minutes until the aubergines begin to soften & brown slightly. Season well with salt & black pepper. Add the chopped tomato, vinegar, tamarind & sugar, stir and add about 250 ml of the veg stock. Cook gently for about 15 – 20 minutes until the aubergines are really tender and the sauce has reduced. You can add more veg stock if it seems too dry. Stir in fresh coriander and check seasoning.

Meanwhile put a small pan of water on to boil. When the water is boiling turn it down slightly and cook the eggs in the boiling water for 7 minutes. After 7 minutes drain the water out of the pan and run the eggs under cold water until cool enough to handle. Peel the eggs and cut in half lengthwys.

Serve the aubergine curry topped with the soft boiled eggs and some extra chopped coriander.

I served this curry with some onion seed flatbreads see recipe here and a dollop of  Greek yoghurt mixed with fresh mint & lemon juice. Some coconut and cardamom infused rice would be lovely too.

The combination of the sweet, spicy aubergines with the texture of the perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg is so lovely, you wonder why you have never tried it before. It may sound strange but it is really delicious.. Enjoy!!

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