A classic preparation from Kerala, Avial is a light, easy-to-make dish of vegetables cooked with coconut and yogurt. It goes particularly well with Pallapam. Preparation should take no more than 15 minutes, even faster if you use the microwave.
1 1/2 cups chopped vegetables – carrots, beans, peas, onions potato are all good
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 clove of garlic
green chili to taste
1/2 cup yogurt
Curry leaves, if available
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Cilantro for garnish
1. Cook the vegetables. This can be done in boiling water, by adding the vegetables in sequence depending on how long they take to cook ie. potatoes first, then carrots, then beans. Alternatively, do the same thing in a microwave, starting with the slower cooking vegetables and adding the faster cooking ones later.
2. In a Cuisinart or blender, grind the coconut, turmeric, cumin and chilies.
3. Drain the vegetables (if boiled in water) and then stir in the ground coconut paste, yogurt, curry leaves, salt to taste and coconut oil. Check consistency and add a little water if it is too dry – there should be a little bit of a sauce clinging to the vegetables, but no liquid settling at the bottom. Cook for a few more minutes over a medium heat – too much heat will curdle the yogurt so be careful.
Serve with rice or palappam and garnish with fresh cilantro.
• If I don’t have coconut oil, I sometimes use coconut flavored yogurt instead of the regular kind, but be careful that it is not overly sweetened. Siggi’s, which is available at many high end groceries makes a really good one.
• Curry leaves are a distinctive South Indian herb that is usually only available in Indian grocery stores. They are worth looking for, but the dish is almost as good without it.