Friday, December 7, 2007

Olan

Olan is a quintessential Kerala dish. It is made by cooking winter melon in coconut milk by itself or with dried beans. I like to make it with red mung beans. Black eyed peas works well too.

Soak beans overnight for easier cooking. If you have a pressure cooker, it takes just a few minutes.

Ingredients:
red mung beans - 1 cup
*winter melon sliced thinly into small pieces - 2 cups
green chilie - 2 (+/- to taste)
curry leaves - 5
onion small - 1/2
red chilie flakes - 1 tsp
**coconut milk - 1 cup

Method:
Clean and wash mung beans. Slit green chilies and add to the beans. Add enough water to cover 2 inches above the beans. Pressure cook beans till fully cooked. Add the sliced winter melon to the cooked beans and simmer for 3 - 5 minutes. Winter melon cooks fast. Now add coconut milk. Simmer till the curry thickens.

In a food processor or with mortar and pestle crush onion and chilie flakes. Heat oil in a small pan and saute the crushed onion and chilie mixture till slightly brown. Do not allow to burn. Add the whole mixture along with curry leaves to Olan. Mix well and serve with rice.

* winter melon is available in Asian grocery stores.

**Canned unsweetened coconut milk may be used in this recipe. I prefer to use fresh coconut milk. Extracting fresh coconut milk a laborious process but well worth the effort. Blend pieces of fresh coconut with warm water till pulverized. Strain the milk. Repeat the process 2 more times with the remaining solids. Reserve the milk and discard the solids.

The first extract would have a thick consistency and is generally used for finishing the dish, and is saved to add to the dish at the end. Fresh coconut milk freezes very well.

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