A new post and a Cook Book Review! Its time for this month’s post for the Shh Cooking Secretly Challenge Group (more about the group, later on). With Kerala as the theme for September, there was such a wide variety of recipes to choose from. I had two ingredients to work with, coconut and cumin, and this gave me so much scope! Browsing my cookbooks for Kerala dishes with ingredients that I did not often use, I came across the Erissery that could be made from a variety of vegetables. Raw Banana Varutha Erissery was the final choice for the theme, and I hope you love it as much as I did. Its easy, its simple and the addition of roasted grated coconut gives an amazing flavour that glamourises the humble raw banana or green plantain.
I understand from my friends from Kerala that roasted coconut is added to several dishes though not usually to the Raw Banana Varutha Erissery. The recipes in the interesting cookbook: Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts has roasted coconut as an ingredient in several recipes including for sambar, bitter gourd etc and in this ‘Varutha erisseri: Green Plantains in Toasted Coconut and Cumin Sauce‘. I have followed the recipe to a large extent, except for not using the cayenne, serrano or Thai red chilli powder suggested. I have not followed the quantities in the recipe either and have used far lesser coconut than it does, so that the banana shines through as the star of the show. My friend Nisha (about whom you will have kept hearing about in my posts) and who is from Kerala, helped in freezing the quantities for the recipe, as well as in tasting the finished product! Her verdict: The dish was tasty but could do with some more cumin and chilli!
About the book I referred to above: Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts is written by Ms Ammini Ramachandran, described in the book as a Texas based food writer with roots in the Indian State of Kerala, born into a Nayar joint family and with both her grandfather and father-in -law being members of the Cochin (Kochi) Royal family.
The book is itself delicious, with its many recipes, written simply and clearly, and its anecdotes and glimpses of the History and Heritage of Kerala, more specifically that of Kochi. I would have loved to see some pictures of the food, which could be helpful to a newcomer to understand what the dish finally looks like.The ingredients include those easily available in the USA rather than the corresponding traditional Indian ingredient which would be difficult to obtain outside India.
The book is divided into convenient to use Chapters, such as ‘Getting Started: Ingredients, Cooking Methods and Utensils’; ‘Sacred Food: Rice and Rituals’; ‘Chutneys and Pickles’; ‘Breakfasts and Brunches’, etc.
I specially liked the chapter on Curries from the Madapilli (Royal Kitchen) and its mouth watering description of lunch at a Royal Palace: ” A huge banana leaf, laden with various vegetable dishes…deep fried puffed wafers called pappadams and small piles of salted varuthupperi and sweet sarkara upperi…servings of vegetables – thoran, oolan, aviyal, pachadi, and kaalan — and a thick brown curry with the distinct fragrance of black sesame seeds and curry leaves..’
There is much more, such tantalising descriptions of food that I want to stop writing and make for myself a fresh vegetable curry and take in the aroma of coconut oil floating in the air. This is one cookbook that I will treasure and will dip into again and again for culinary inspiration, just as I did for this totally delicious Raw Banana Varutha Erissery.
Once a month now I post a recipe according to the theme decided by the Facebook Food Bloggers Group of which I am a member, viz Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge , where presently we are cooking from the different cuisines of the States of India.
My partner for Sep 2018 is Priya Suresh who blogs at Priya’s Versatile Recipes. I suggested Pepper and Turmeric for Priya, both being ingredients frequently used in Kerala cuisine and she made this Doodhi Molagoota that is now up on her blog.
Priya’s blogsite is both interesting and informative – please do visit and browse the many recipes up there: Vegetarian and Non Vegetarian Recipes, Cakes and Bakes, Recipes from around the world. Wouldn’t you like to try out her Eggless Peanut Blossom cookies or her French Strawberry Jam Gingerbread Cake?
Priya suggested coconut and cumin seeds as my two ingredients to incorporate in my recipe, and once I posted a picture of the Raw Banana Varutha Erissery on our group, the other members had to guess what the 2 secret ingredients are. The coconut was easily guessed, though the cumin took time! Its not easy to guess ingredients from just an image!
The Raw Banana Varutha Erissery tasted so good with my favourite Tomato Rasam from homemade rasam powder and fried papads with steaming rice.
Try it out and see!
Raw Banana Varutha Erissery: Vazhakkai Roasted Coconut Curry
For Cooking the Plantain/Raw banana
- 2 cups raw green banana sliced 2 plantains/ banana/ vazhakkai
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 cup water or enough water to just cover the top of the plantain slices
For the Roasted Coconut
- 1 cup fresh grated coconut
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
For the Coconut Paste
- ¾ cup roasted coconut From the 1 cup roasted as above
- 1 teaspoon Cumin seeds jeera seeds
- 1 green chilli
- ¼ cup water or minimum required for grinding to a paste
For Tempering the Curry
- 2 teaspoons coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds
- 1 dry red chilli
- a few curry leaves about 10
- ¼ cup roasted coconut from the 1 cup roasted as above
To Cook the Raw Banana/ Vazhakkai / Plantain
- Pare the thick outer skin of the banana. Dice the banana into small cubes, about 2 cm square, putting the slices immediately into a bowl of water to reduce discolouration.
- Drain and place the slices in a pan on the stove, add salt and turmeric powder as in the ingredients list. Add water to just about cover the surface of the banana slices. Bring to a brisk boil (about 2 minutes) and then reduce the heat and let the bananas simmer till cooked and tender (about 7 minutes) If there is water remaining in the pan, increase the heat and continue to cook till the water disappears.
To Roast the Coconut and prepare Paste
- Heat a small frying pan and add the coconut oil. Add the grated coconut (or desiccated coconut if fresh is not available). Roast on medium to high heat, stirring constantly as it tends to catch at the bottom of the pan and char. Roast the coconut till it turns a yellow brown, and begins to turn rust in colour. (about 2 minutes) I know that cookbooks and recipes always talk about a golden colour, which I somehow have never been able to achieve when Im roasting or sautéing anything!
- Remove the roasted coconut from the pan. Take ¾ cup of the roasted coconut and grind to a paste along with cumin seeds, green chilli and a little water - i.e. just sufficient to grind the coconut into a soft paste.
- Set aside the remaining ¼ cup of roasted coconut for garnish.
To make the Raw Banana Varutha Erissery Curry
- Add the coconut paste to the pan of cooked raw banana. Stir it in well and allow to cook for about 3 minutes so that the raw taste of the chilli in the coconut paste goes away. Transfer the curry to a serving dish.
- In a small pan heat the coconut oil (as in the ingredients for tempering), add mustard seeds. Once the mustard crackles, add the dry red chilli. Turn the chilli after a few seconds so that both sides are fried. Add the curry leaves (I usually shred them before adding so that there are more chances of their being eaten than discarded on the side of the plate).
- Pour the tempering onto the curry. Garnish with the reserved roasted coconut. Serve the curry hot, with boiled (Kerala) rice and other vegetables.