Thursday, September 17, 2015

Valval(Yogratna) - Mixed Vegetables Cooked in Coconut Milk

GSB cuisine has a sweetish bland delicious curry made with local mixed vegetables cooked in coconut milk. This resembles the Chinese dish Vegetable Chow Chow almost, but the flavours are different. A hint of green chillies for that subtle pungency within the smooth saucy coconut milk base, the medley of plant and root vegetables, the tempering with cumin seeds mustard seeds and curry leaves for that gentle touch of spice. These are the highlights of a simple GSB curry which has been deemed as one of the delicacies that is becoming a rarity among house holds, except at functions like weddings and festivals. 

Valval, otherwise known as Yogratna or Yogiratna is an exotic GSB curry. The name must have emerged from the appearance of the curry. It is rare, because we need to add fresh coconut milk to make it perfectly. Adding packed coconut milk/milk powder doesn't give the same feeling as fresh one! Caterers are cutting cost by adding less coconut milk and summing up for the sauce using the Chinese way of adding corn starch. 

I am a lover of this curry since my childhood days. Mother used to make it pretty well, and she insisted on getting fresh green coconut(Jeevo Naarlu/Hasi Tenginakaayi/Pajji Taaraayi) from Narayana Shetty's shop nearby, where we lived in Ballal Bagh. Now a days such coconut is a rare sight in Mangaluru simply because it is a fast perishable commodity. I can eat this curry as it is, just like we relish soups. It is very wholesome and nutricious.

We don't celebrate any festival at home with pooja or rituals. Yet, the reminiscence of my childhood days and the delicacies I had tasted at various festivals makes me go for some wonderful GSB goodies during the Gauri Ganesha Festivals every year. So I told Meena, "Lets make Valval for Gauri Ganesha this time. Haven't eaten good valval in recent times!". 

Ananda was there to pluck coconuts in the garden the other day, and I asked him to pluck one green coconut for us. Meena extracted thick and thin coconut milk and I made Valval for the first time in my life, that too without referring to any recipe on book or online. I have developed the ability to smell and taste a food, guess the ingredients that go into it. My father had that ability but he never cooked anything in his life, rather gave instructions to mother, and my sister Dr Veena Isloor also has that ability. She is a fine cook, and her Madras Sambar Masala is one of the best I have ever tasted!  
Well, vegetables were plenty at very reasonable prices at More outlet near our home. We GSBs make valval adding locally grown vegetables mostly, but these days people also add Carrots, French Beans, Butternut Squash, Chayote Squash and other imported vegetables. Essential vegetables to make this curry should not be pungent, not too tough and not sour or bitter. Some root vegetables and some marrow vegetables are added along with fibrous ones to balance the taste and consistency of the sauce. 

List of vegetables recommended:
1. Potato
2. Arvi(Colocasia Root)
3. Yellow Pumpkin(Dudhi)
4. Gerkins/Tuindora(Tendli)
5. Tender Cashewnuts(Bibbo)
6. String Beans(Alasande)
7. Elephant Yam(Suran)
8. Ash Gourd(Kunwale)
9. Chinese Yellow Cucumber(Magge)
10. Ridge Gourd(Ghosaalen)

Apart from these, you can add any similar veggies. The proportion of mixed vegetables and the coconut milk should be equal. That is, 400 Gms of vegetables should be cooked in 2 Cups or 400 Ml thick coconut milk. Also please remember that collective weight of each type of vegetable must be equal. Then the curry comes out well balanced. Seasoning with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves is mandatory. Some add red chillies in seasoning, but that adds pungency to the gravy and I personally don't like it.

Extract thick and thin Coconut Milk following this recipe or use ready made packed coconut milk from store as per your convenience. Put in lots of love while cooking this, and thus Valval shall turn out very delicious, lip smacking good and fit for connoisseurs of fine dining.
Mixed Vegetables(From the list mentioned above) - 400 Gms(or 4 cups)
Green chillies - 4, slit lengthwise
Coconut Thick Milk - 400ML(2 Cups)
Coconut Thin Milk - 400 Ml(2 Cups)
Water - 2 Cups
Rock Salt - 1 Tsp(or table salt 3/4 Tsp)
Ghee - 1 Tbsp
Mustard Seeds - 1 Tsp
Cumin Seeds - 1 Tsp
Curry Leaves - 2 Sprigs

Soak tender cashewnuts in hot water if dry and in cold water if fresh for 1-2 hours.
Peel and split the cashewnuts into halves.
Wash and peel root vegetables, leave the skin intact on other vegetables.
Chop arvi into thin discs, string beans into 1" lengthwise and other vegetables into 1/2" pieces.
Boil 2 cups of water in a 2 liter capacity pan.
Add tough veggies such as string beans, ash gourd, potato, arvi, tindora and tender cashewnuts first.
Cover and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Pour thin coconut milk into the pan.
Now add the tender vegetables like green chillies, ridge gourd, yellow pumpkin and elephant yam and salt, cook for another 10 minues.
Once the veggies are properly cooked and a soup is formed, keep the flame at low and pour the thick coconut milk slowly.
Mix gently and allow to blend into the gravy gradually.
At this point the gravy should just bubble and should not seathe.
Excess heat will curdle the coconut cream and spoil the gravy.
Allow to cook for 3-5 minutes, check for salt and switch off the flame.
Heat ghee in a seasoning pan, add mustard seeds and cumin seeds, allow them to cracke, then add curry leaves and mix.
Pour the seasoning over the curry, mix well and close the lid.
Serve hot with rice and rasam, daalithove or as a delicious soup.

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