Put together a simple sadya in just under two hours
A very happy Vishu to you! Is lunch home made or ordered? If you are the woman (or man) of the house and has chosen to honour tradition and cook your own Vishu lunch, here's wishing you fun and a few tips to make a quick sadya. After the kani, a bath, giving and getting ‘vishukkaineetam' and maybe a temple visit, and serving the family a light breakfast of boiled banana (don't cook it too much, it will be soggy), chips, murukku and a glass of wholesome milk, get down to the basics.
Let's have a simple sadya menu, a few notches down from the elaborate Onam sadya. Let's see, we'll knock off the different kinds of pickles and be content with what is in the fridge, whether it is mango, lemon or gooseberry. The inji curry is a must, pappadams, parippu, pachadi or kichadi, avial, sambar, thoran and kalan. We'll forget about koottu curry, mezhukkupuratti, erissery, kichchadi, white stew and the different types of chips. We'll have just one kind of chips and of course payasam, the easy payasam. (For that soak a few badaams in water, we'll come to that later)
Now, for time management. Have three cookers ready to be put on the stoves. Get kids and the spouse to help you. The involvement will help them learn cooking, tradition and also bond better.
On one stove, put a cooker with the rice, while on the other cook the tur dal for sambar. Get someone to peel the onions for sambar and chop the ash gourd, potato, snakegourd, ladies finger, tomatoes, brinjal, and beans for it.
Meanwhile, for the parippu, wash some dal and put it with water in the third cooker. When the whistle of the cooker with the tur dal blows, take it off the gas and put this cooker on it.
I hope you got the maid to scrape coconuts the day before, for they take chutti on Vishu day. Now, take the coconut scrapings needed for parippu, kaalan, pachadi and grind it fine in the blender with cumin seeds in the big jar. You can add the crushed mustard to the pachadi later.
Now, wash the blender and grind the coconut for avial with a few shallots (optional), very coarsely, with a green chilly and curry leaves in the last round. Hear that whistle? That's the cooker with the rice. Take it off the stove. Now open the cooker with the turdal, add the chopped vegetables, the mix of coriander, chilly powder, asafoetida, fenugreek, salt and turmeric for a delicious sambar. Another whistle and it's ready for seasoning. But wait, all the seasoning jobs can be done at one go, later, after you have fried the pappadams. Next, chop the avial vegetables like raw banana, yam, stringed beans, carrot, ash gourd or cucumber, green chilly, drumstick, jackfruit seeds, if you have them (it's the jackfruit season, and it's real yum) and cook them all in a vessel with turmeric, green chillies and salt. When done, add green mango pieces and toss in the coarsely ground coconut with shallots. Stir for a minute, add curry leaves and a big spoon of fragrant fresh coconut oil after you have turned off the gas. The aroma is a big appetizer!
For an easy pachadi, slice and cook two ripe bananas with a pinch of chilli, salt and turmeric. It will be cooked in just a few minutes. Add a spoon of sugar and then the two spoons of the coconut already ground in that big jar. Keep it aside to cool before adding curd. For quick kaalan, boil the chopped yam and raw banana pieces with turmeric, salt and green chillies. Add a few spoons of coconut and jeera mixture from that big jar again and pour in a few ladles of curd. Stir well, keep aside. The rest of the coconut is for the parippu in the other cooker. Add it and boil for a minute and it's ready.
Injicurry: Put ginger, green chillies, shallots (optional) in a blender and crush them. Then sauté in coconut oil. Add chilly powder, fenugreek, asafoetida and a sauce of tamarind and salt, before adding a piece of jaggery. Boil and take off the gas when the gravy is thick.
Now for mixed vegetable thoran. Chop the beans and raw banana into small pieces on a board. It can be done in a few minutes. Take a kadai (china-chatti) and fry the pappadams first and then complete all the seasonings together, for pachadi, kaalan, sambar. Then to the rest of the seasoning, add garlic and toss in the thoran pieces. Cover and cook on a low fire. There's really no need to add water. Stir after some time, add some jeerakam (cumin seeds), salt, chilly and turmeric and one minute before taking it off the gas, add some coconut scrapings. Now, the curries are done and the rice will be done in the cooker. Take off the rubber gauze and drain the water from the rice.
Now for the easy payasam formula.
Take three fistfuls of raw red rice, wash clean, drain and add a litre of milk in a cooker and put it on the stove. Put in one clove and two soaked badaams, ground to a paste. Close monitoring is needed. When a hissing noise begins, turn off the gas. Clean up the kitchen and then open the cooker. Add one more half litre packet of milk to it, sugar and keep stirring, lowering the flame when the milk threatens to spill. When done, add cashews fried in ghee. The payasam aroma wafts all over. It will look like Ambalappuzha paalpayasam and tastes heavenly. Serve the hot lunch in ‘thoosanilas' (banana leaves). The whole exercise should take you under two hours. Happy cooking!