Olan is one of my favourite foods and no Keralite feast (Sadya) is complete without it. It wasn't so when I was much younger and didn't appreciate this simple and wholesome dish. As long as I remember, my mother would make it with green skinned pumpkins and use sprouted green gram. And the only part I would deign to eat was the green gram - and I used to call it Olan Kottai (Olan seeds)...no clue how that came about. When I started exploring the world of food and more importantly appreciating it, I came across a few versions of this preparation, all of them had either pumpkin or ash gourd or both. And the beans was usually cowpeas or black-eyed kidney beans. I guess the green gram/ moong dal was my mother's variation and that's how I make my Olan too.
So with elan I present - Olan
Pumpkin - 600 gms
Green chillies - 1 to 4 (even zero or even more - as spicy as you like it)
Green gram - 50 gms (soaked and sprouted)
Curry leaves - a fistful
Coconut - 1 grated
Salt - to taste
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Red chilli - 1 (optional)
Coconut oil - 1 tsp
Extracting coconut milk:
Grind the coconut and squeeze milk, this first pressed milk with be thick. Put the coconut back in the grinder and add half cup of warm water and repeat process. Once the milk is extracted the coconut has to be discarded. The second and third pressed milk are obviously thinner.The amount of milk depends on how fresh the coconut is.
Putting it together:
Peel, de-seed and remove the stringy flesh from the pumpkin. Slice the pumpkin about 1/4" thick and 1 1/2" wide.
|The Pumpkin sliced|
Cook the green gram in water with a pinch of salt. When cooked, add the pumpkin slices, slit green chilli and curry leaves. Let the pumpkin cook covered till tender, but retain its shape. If over cooked it becomes mushy and what you have is something soupy, which still tastes good.
Add the coconut milk and let it simmer for a few minutes till it just comes to boil. Remove from heat and keep covered. Heat the coconut oil and add mustard seeds and the dry red chilli, when the mustard seeds start sputtering, pour them on to the Olan. Serve it hot with rice and any tamarind/ tomato based chutney/ curry.
I'm sending this across to Janet of Tastespace, who is hosting this month's Siri's Healing Foods event with Winter Squash as the theme.