Relishing The Onasadya: Recipes of Chef Saji Alex

 Chef Saji Alex of Kochi Marriott Hotel shares his special Onam recipes  

Onam is one of those rare festivals that binds every Malayali to his roots. It’s a festival that celebrates history, tradition, culture, cuisine and the unity of Kerala. Although the arrival of King Mahabali, the exotic ‘Pookalams’, the vibrant Vallamkali (boat race), the magical Pulikali and the elegant thiruvathirakali (dances) are some of its enchanting traditions, the Onasadya is definitely an indispensable part of this gala festival. As Kerala prepares to celebrate yet another Thiruvonam, RITZ catches up with the top Chefs in Kochi who share some of the traditional Onam recipes! 

Compiled By: Riya Sonny Datson 

Chef Saji Alex of Kochi Marriott Hotel 

Chef Saji Alex, who hails from Elamgulam near Pala in Kerala, has 25 years of experience in culinary field. He is a true MasterChef in Kerala cuisine and has been with the Kochi Marriott hotel since its inception.


AVIAL

Ingredients:

Curry Cucumber         150gm

Yam                            75gm

Snake gourd                75gm

Carrot                          25ram

Raw banana                50gram

Drumstick                   75gram

Long beans                 50gram

Green chilly                20 gm slit

Turmeric powder        3gm

Chilli powder              4gm

Coconut oil                 60 ml (20ml plus 40ml)

Curd                            75 ml (25ml plus 50ml)

Salt                              to taste 

For coconut Mixture:

Grated Coconut of 1 big coconut

Green Chilly               15gm

Curry leaf                   30gram

Cumin seed                 3 gm

Shallots                       15gram (optional)

Garlic                          2 pods (optional) 

Method:

Wash and cut all the vegetables into long strips. Place them in an Uruli or large bowl (Each piece needs to be about two inches long). Add turmeric, red chilli powder, 25ml of curd, 20ml of coconut oil, salt, curry leaf and slit green chilly to the vegetable and mix gently. Next move this mixture to a pan (add a little water if required), cover and cook till vegetables are tender. Ensure that you stir contents in between. In the meanwhile, take grated coconut, curry leaf, cumin seed and green chilli and crush it together. Once the vegetables are tender, using a spoon, spread the vegetables to the sides of the pan, making sure that there is an empty space at the centre of the pan. Add the ground coconut mixture into this centre space and cover the coconut mixture with the vegetables again so that the steam remains inside. Close the lid and cook on low flame for 5 minutes. Stir well. Switch off flame. Next add curd, check seasoning. Finish with crushed curry leaf and coconut oil.

MADHURA PACHADI

Ingredients:

Pineapple                    150gram

Banana (nentran)        75gram

Mango                         75gm

Apple                          50gram (optional)

Sugar                           15gm

Salt                               to taste

Water                          200ml

Curry leaf                   5gram

Green chilli                 5gram

Red Chilli powder      4gram

Turmeric powder        1.5gram

Yoghurt                       150ml

Black grapes               30gram

Coconut oil                 10ml

For Coconut Paste:

Grated Coconut                      100gram

Mustard seeds                          3gram

Cumin seeds                            2gram

For Tempering:

Coconut oil                  15ml

Mustard                      2gm

Red Chilli powder      2gm

Whole dried red chilli            5gram

Curry leaves               5gm 

Method:

In a non-stick pan, cook the chopped pineapple, bananas, ripe mango and apple along with turmeric powder, red chilli powder (2gm), green chilli, curry leaf, coconut oil, salt and water. Add sugar and sauté well till all the moisture is lost.  Add ground coconut paste (first grind coconut with Jeera till it becomes a smooth paste, next add mustard to the paste and crush it) to the cooked fruits and mix on low flame till it becomes hot. Add yogurt and grapes, stir well (once this is added, do not let it boil).

Take a small pan, heat the coconut oil add remaining mustard seeds, when it splutters, add the remaining red chilli powder, dry red chilli and curry leaves sauté well, turn off the flame and add this seasoning to curry.

SAMBHAR 

Ingredients:

Toor dal                      150 grams

Drum sticks                100gram

Potato                          50gm

Snake guard                50gm

Curry cucumber          50gram

Colocasia                    50gram (optional)

Carrot                          50gram (optional)

Ladies finger              75gram

Eggplant                     50gram

Tomato diced              2

Shallots                       75gram

Turmeric powder        3gm

Green chilli slit          optional

Jaggery                       10gram

Tamarind pulp            50gram

Oil                               50ml

Sambar powder           75gm

For tempering:

Oil                               25ml

Mustard seed              5gram

Fenugreek powder      03gram

Whole red chilli         5gram

Asafoetida powder      2tsp

Curry leaf                   15gram

For finishing

Asafoetida powder                 3tsp

Chopped coriander leaf          100gm

Method:

Wash and boil the Toor dal with turmeric powder and water. When dal begins to crack, add tamarind pulp and boil for10 min. Add all the vegetables (except tomato, eggplant and ladies finger) cook it till the potato begins to crack, add asafoetida (2 tsp) and keep aside. Take another thick bottomed vessel for making the masala. Heat oil, add shallots and sauté well. Add the eggplant and ladies finger and sauté for a minute. Lower flame, add sambar powder, sauté well for a minute. Add this mixture to the dal mixture. Cook for 5-7 minutes stirring well. Add jaggery and stir. Check for consistency. If too thick, add a bit of hot water. Now add diced tomato and keep aside.

For tempering, in another pan, heat coconut oil, add fenugreek seed, mustard seed, and dried red chilli, curry leaf, 1 tsp Asafoetida powder and red chilli powder (optional) and sauté. Add this mixture to the sambar mixture. Finish by adding chopped coriander leaves. 

PAZHAM PRADHAMAN

Ingredients:

Banana (nentran)                    500gram

Marayur Jagerry                     350gm

Coconut milk 1st                      80ml

Coconut milk 2nd                     160ml

Coconut milk 3rd                     320ml

Cumin powder                          3gram

Dry ginger powder                 10gram

Cardamom                              5gram

Ghee                                        20ml

Small Coconut Strips             As required

Cashewnut                              5gram (optional)

Raisins                                    5gram (optional)

Method:

Making Coconut Milk:  Use grated coconut of 2 coconuts to make the Onnampal, Randampal and Moonampal. Sprinkle a bit of hot water on the grated coconut and squeeze out the liquid over a strainer. The strained liquid is the Onnampal. Keep aside. Add 160ml of hot water to the strained mixture and repeat the process to get the Randampal. Keep aside separately. Next add 320ml of hot water to the strained mixture and repeat the procedure to get Munnampal. Keep aside.

Peel, cut and deseed banana. Add 750 ml water to the banana pieces and cook well on a low flame till no moisture remains. To this, add 2 tsp ghee, saute well. In another pan, heat jaggery, in half litre water till it melts and starts to boils. Strain the liquid and add this to the banana mixture. Sauté well, till the banana begins to roll around in the pan. Now add Munnampal to the banana mixture and stir well till all of the water evaporates. Next add Randampal and continue to stir till the liquid reduces to half the content. Reduce flame and add the Onnampal finally, stir well and switch off flame, making sure that it does not boil.  In a separate pan, heat ghee and add coconut strips (Thengakothu), sauté till it turns red and add this to the payasam. Next mix the ginger powder, cumin powder and cardamom and stir well.  Add cashew and raisins if required.