This Vishu, find out how you can cook a minimalist sadhya

What does it mean to feast and celebrate in a time of social distancing and limited access to resources? Under normal circumstances, Malayalis in Kerala and elsewhere would have celebrated Vishu, which heralds the new year in the Malayalam calendar, on April 14 this year. Among other things, the occasion would have been marked by a sadhya (traditional feast), perhaps not as lavish as the one that typically marks the festival of Onam, but certainly as important. The preparation of a typical sadhya – consisting of at least a dozen different dishes – calls for lots of time as well as fresh ingredients and while those who are under lockdown in their homes have plenty of the former, access to fresh ingredients is limited for many.

For those who are determined to celebrate Vishu by cooking something special, there is the option of a minimalist sadhya. The idea of a sadhya as an elaborate meal, featuring over two dozen dishes, is cemented in the popular imagination, but Delhi-based chef Arun Kumar TR points out that, once upon a time, people did find a way of making their festive meals special, without going overboard. “All one needed to make it special was a couple of extra dishes,” he says. So if rice and sambar were the foundations of a meal, it could be made special by one or two of the various dishes that make up a sadhya – avial, olan, kalan, erissery, thoran, kichadi, pachadi and, of course, payasam. “And, of course, there are the accompaniments like pappadam, pickle and chips. You may already have some of this at home, and if you don’t, they can be bought quite easily. And while a sadhya is usually served on a banana leaf, it’s alright if you can’t get any,” he says.

As to the ingredients required to cook the dishes, there are some non-negotiables. “Coconut in various forms (milk, grated & roasted) and curd are a common thread in most of the dishes. Aromatics such as ginger, mustard seeds & curry leaves are absolutely essential too. In terms of sheer complexity, a proper sambar probably takes the most skill out of all of these. It is also the most versatile as you can put it together with pretty much any vegetable you have on hand; include at least one root vegetable, it does wonders to the stock,” says Thomas Fenn, co-founder of the restaurant Mahabelly in Delhi.

Other ingredients can be played around with. “Avial usually requires two kinds of pumpkin: ash gourd and the more widely available yellow pumpkin. If you can’t get the former, it’s ok to use just the former. Similarly, to make the coconut milk-based olan, if you don’t get ash gourd, use yellow pumpkin and add some lobia. For thoran, use any beans that are available, or even cabbage, and add some grated coconut. You can also make parippu, which is basically just boiled dal which can be eaten with some rice and ghee” says Arun Kumar. For dessert, a basic payasam can be made with just rice, milk and sugar.

Recipes:

Kalan

Courtesy: Arun Kumar TR

Ingredients

– 1 cup coconut (grated)
– 1 tsp cumin
– 2 green chillies
– 400 gm yam
– 1 tsp turmeric powder (for washing)
– 1 tsp turmeric powder (for cooking)
– ½ tsp red chilli powder
– Salt to taste
– 1 ½ cups curd
– ½ tsp mustard seeds
– ½ tsp fenugreek seeds
– 1 red chilli (dried)
– 1 sprig of curry leaves
– Oil (For tempering. Preferably coconut oil)

Method

* Grind coconut, cumin and green chillies to a fine, thick paste with the help of water.
* Peel and cube yam. Soak in turmeric water for 15 minutes. Wash well.
* Cook the yam till soft with turmeric, red chilli powder and salt. Drain water out.
* Beat curd to a smooth consistency. Mix the coconut paste well into it.
* Add the above to the cooked yam and simmer for 5 minutes.
* Add a tempering of Mustard seeds, Fenugreek, red Chilli and Curry leaves.
* You can use 250g yam along with 2 peeled and cubed raw bananas instead of just yam.

vishu, sadhya, Kerala food, recipes, sadhya recipes, indian express, indian express news The idea of a sadhya as an elaborate meal, featuring over two dozen dishes, is cemented in the popular imagination, but Delhi-based chef Arun Kumar TR points out that, once upon a time, people did find a way of making their festive meals special, without going overboard. (Photo by Thomas Fenn, Mahabelly)

Avial

Courtesy: Chef Jinson Varghese, Mahabelly

Ingredients

– 3 cups diced, mixed vegetables (carrots, potatoes, raw banana, beans, yams)
– 4 cups water
– 1 tablespoon salt
– 1 drumstick, cut into 2 inch pieces
– 1 cup thick plain yoghurt, beaten
– 1/4 cup diced green mango
– 1 tablespoon coconut oil
– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
– Curry leaves

For coconut paste (grind the following to a fine consistency)
– 1/2 cup fresh coconut
– 2 green chillies
– 1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger
– 1 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1/2 teaspoon haldi
– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Method

* In a shallow pan add the vegetables, coconut paste, water & salt. Cover and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, adding the drumstick and mango halfway into the cooking.
* Set aside to cool until lukewarm. Add the yoghurt and carefully toss the vegetables to coat. Take care not to mix the spoon/ladle as this might mash the vegetables.
* Temper the mustard seeds in coconut oil. As they burst, add the curry leaves and fry until they are crisp. Pour the oil with seasonings over the cooked avial. Serve at room temperature.

Ingredients

– 1/4 cup oil
– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
– 6 shallots, thinly sliced
– 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
– 1 cup thin slices of fresh ginger
– 3 red chillies, torn in half
– 6 curry leaves
– 1 tablespoon chilli powder
– 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
– 1/4 cup tamarind paste
– 3 tablespoons jaggery
– 1 teaspoon salt

Method

* Heat oil in a small skillet and add mustard seeds. When they burst, add the shallots and fry for 2-3 minutes or until light brown.
* Lower the heat and add the fenugreek seeds, ginger, red chillies and curry leaves. Fry for 2 minutes.
* Add the chilli powder and turmeric and heat for 1 minute, stirring continuously so that the spices are well blended.
* Add the tamarind paste, jaggery, salt and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the curry is thick.

vishu, sadhya, Kerala food, recipes, sadhya recipes, indian express, indian express news As to the ingredients required to cook the dishes, there are some non-negotiables. Coconut in various forms (milk, grated & roasted) and curd are a common thread in most of the dishes. (Photo by Thomas Fenn, Mahabelly)

Pazha Manga Curry (Ripe Mango Curry)

Courtesy: Chef Jinson Varghese, Mahabelly

Ingredients

– 4 ripe mangoes, peeled
– 2 cups thin coconut milk
– 8 shallots, sliced
– 4 green chillies, slit
– 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
– 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon salt
– 1/2 thick coconut milk
– 1 teaspoon coconut oil
– 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
– Curry leaves
– 2 dried red chillies, halved

Method

* Put the whole mangoes in a heavy bottomed pot with the thin coconut milk, shallots, green chillies, ginger , cumin and salt and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes.
* Add the thick coconut milk, remove from heat and set aside to cool.
* Temper the mustard seeds in coconut oil in a small skillet, adding the curry leaves, red chillies as they burst. When the chillies turn deep red, pour over the curry. Serve warm.

Ada Pradhaman (kheer)

Courtesy: Chef Jinson Varghese, Mahabelly

For Ada: Ingredients

– 2 large banana leaves
– 1 tablespoon ghee, melted
– 1 cup rice flour, sifted
– Water

Method

* Prepare a steamer with water in its base.
* Cut the banana leaves into 5 inch squares, wilt them over an open flame so that they’re easy to roll and grease with the ghee.
* In a small bowl, mix the rice flour with enough water to make a thick, pancake batter like paste.
* Spread batter enough for a thin layer on the leaf. Roll up each leaf and place in the steamer.
* Cook for 8-10 mins then open the leaves carefully and cut the steamed dough in 1/2 inch squares.

For the Pradhaman: Ingredients

– 1 tablespoon ghee
– 1 cup Ada (see above)
– 2 cups thin coconut milk
– 1/4 cup jaggery
– 1/2 teaspoon cardamom powder
– 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
– 1/2 cup thick coconut milk

Method

* In a deep skillet, add the thin coconut milk, jaggery, cardamom, ghee, ginger and simmer for 6-8 mins over low heat.
* Add prepared Ada to the simmering mixture.
* Add the thick coconut milk and simmer till the payasam is thick and creamy.
* Variation: Add cooked, softened jackfruit to the payasam in the end for added texture.