This recipe is deceptively easy and adapts to most vegetables. Avial is attributed to Bheema (one of the Pandava brothers) during their exile. According to the legend, when Ballav (Bheema’s name during this time) assumed his duties as the cook in the kitchen of Virata, did not know how to cook. One of the first things he did was to chop up many different vegetables, boil them together and top the dish with grated coconut.
Yet another variation tells the story: Bheema is said to have prepared Avial, when there were unexpected guests for King Virata and he needed to serve meals for them. There was no sufficient vegetables to cook any single recipe for side dish, so Bheema used what ever available vegetables to make a new dish, which came to know as Avial.
2½ tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ medium onion, sliced
1-2 green chillies, sliced in half lengthwise
¾ tsp ground turmeric
salt, to taste
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeds removed, chopped into 1cm/½in pieces
100g green beans, topped, tailed and chopped into thirds
50g shallots, peeled and halved
10g fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
60g desiccated coconut, soaked in water to just cover
2 small handfuls frozen peas
12 fresh or dried curry leaves
5-6 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tbsp coconut oil (optional)
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan. Add the cumin, onion and chillies and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to colour.
- When the onions are cooked, stir in the turmeric, salt, carrots and potatoes. Cover the pan and cook over a low heat, stirring often. If necessary, add a splash of water to prevent the vegetables from burning.
- After about 15 minutes, add the cucumber and beans. Cover the pan again and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until all the vegetables are tender.
- Meanwhile, place the shallots, ginger and coconut (complete with its soaking liquid) into a blender. Blend to a fine paste before adding to the pan, along with the peas. Cook for a further five minutes, stirring thoroughly. Tear the curry leaves into the pan and stir in the yoghurt.
- To serve, take the pan off the heat and pour the coconut oil over the vegetables, if using. Spoon the mixture on to six serving plates and serve with basmati rice.