Monday, August 17, 2009

Aval Nanachathu- Brown rice Flakes sweetened with jaggery and grated coconut

Saturday Morning: After roaming around the local farmers market - picking fresh produce and marveling how tender and ‘realistic’ the carrots looked , compared to the chemical injected and genetically engineered ones that refuse to lose its firmness even after lying in the refrigerator for more than a month - we decided to visit the Asian store to grab some more stuff in the shopping list.

On reaching the store, my eyes caught the sight of a bunch of baby bananas, in a pretty yellow colour with a touch of pale green hue on its tips, and looking at those petite beauties, I could hear a loud voice in my brain saying “cheru pazham”, a variety of baby bananas available back home in Kerala. I picked up a bunch draped neatly in a plastic wrap, and kept it back. On a second thought, I picked it up again and then I saw CJJ shaking his head and pursing his lips …I could clearly read his face and I was certain he was referring to an incident in the past where we bought some baby bananas amazed by the stark similarity with the variety available in Kerala, only to disappoint ourselves in the end. I stood there for another 30 seconds contemplating and finally proceeded to the check-out carrying a bunch of baby bananas.

Saturday Afternoon: After lunch, we threw ourselves on the couch and started our movie-matinee. An hour into the movie, I heard CJJ asking:

…anything to munch on..?
Me: hmm….nuts……cherries….banana , I replied knowing very well that he wouldn’t be interested in any of these but to my surprise , I saw him going for the box of roasted peanuts.

20-30 minutes passed and again I saw him a bit disturbed and heard him asking:

is there any snacks…?
Me: welll…..……there was a quarter loaf of blueberry bread……
CJJ: aww….wow….I forgot about it completely….( all excited and about to jump off of his seat..)
Me: Yeah…true…..since you forgot, some fungus attacked ‘em and I trashed it two days back…
CJJ: ( on hearing the unexpected) …ohh…..shoooottttt!!

After 15 minutes, I was in a mood to have some fruits and grabbed the bunch of baby bananas. The moment I had my first bite, I was pleasantly surprised….it was sweet….I had one more bite , it was really tasty….and

I heard myself, “ wow….this is sweeettt…….nammude nattile taste…”, ( …….wow….it tastes like the ones we get back home). At that , I saw CJJ sneaking a look through the corner of his left eye , with a tinge of disbelief on his face and I offered him one………. and what followed was an expression where his tiny eyes popped out and his round face brightened with a big smile. In less than 1 minute, I found a big pile of banana peels on our coffee table and noticed that the plucking and peeling action from his side was much faster than that of mine and seeing that I feared that the whole bunch would be finished in another minute…. so I gently reminded him:

orennam naalathekku maati vechekkane….” , ( keep one banana for tomorrow_”
enthina…..” ( for what?) , asked CJJ , chewing a mouth full of baby banana.
enikku avalu nanachathinte koode kozhachu kazhikkana…..” , ( I want to have ‘em mashed with sweetened beaten rice) I said plucking another one from the bunch.
…..eeeww…..thaniye kazhicha mathee….enikku vendatto..”, ( U may have it all alone, don’t force me) said CJJ with that constant gaze of disdain he usually has whenever I suggest making something that does not belong to the category of non-veg.

Considering the growing pile of banana peels, he himself got up from the couch and placed the rest of the bunch back to the kitchen counter.

Another 40-45 mts passed…..and I saw CJJ getting disturbed again with his hunger pangs and my stomach was also grumbling. At that point, the thought of brown rice flakes dampened with the freshness of grated coconut and sweetened with jaggery and infused with a sprinkle of cardamom and ghee was dancing on my palate . Suddenly, I announced my plan to make sweetened beaten rice and saw myself hitting the kitchen and once more to my surprise, I didn’t hear any note of disapproval from his side this time. He even helped me grate the jaggery and once I finished everything, I handed over him the plate and watched him eating in small spoonfuls.

I plucked a banana and on a second thought, knowing this guy well for all these years, I plucked one more and asked him if he wanted one and I got one more headshake, confirming a big NO. I placed a banana on his plate , and told him:

…onnu slice cheythittu …athinte koode kazhichu nokku…” ( slice ‘em and have along with a spoonful)

He sliced the banana and had one spoonful and thennnnnn……… I saw him trying to mash the sliced ones with the back of the spoon. At that point, I was in all smiles and grabbed his plate and mashed the banana with my hands, into the sweetened rice flakes and watched him enjoying that humble snack……

….and I couldn’t stop myself from saying , “gathi kettaal …………..” and he completed the sentence with a private joke :) :)

gathi kettaal puli pullum thinnum “ is an old adage in our mother tongue which roughly translated means, the tiger would eat even the grass, if he has no other go, to satisfy his hunger! I know I killed both the language there but couldn’t come up with an equivalent of that saying.

Well, Aval Nanachathu is a simple and humble evening snack that requires no cooking at all. Beaten/Flattened rice aka brown rice flakes is dampened with freshly grated coconut and sweetened with jaggery, and flavored with a touch of crushed cardamom and ghee. Perfect snack to make on a hot summer evening!

  • 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups cup thin brown rice flakes/Aval (chemba/Matta aval)/beaten rice
  • 1 cup freshly grated coconut
  • ½ cup tightly packed jaggery/sharkkara, grated (or to taste)
  • 3 pods of green cardamom, crushed
  • 1 tsp ghee/clarified butter
  • In a plate/mixing bowl, blend grated coconut, jaggery and crushed cardamom pods by mixing with hands. To this add half of the beaten rice/brown rice flakes/aval and start crushing and squishing with your hands, to combine everything as well as to release the moisture/juice from grated coconut and jaggery. When you find the first batch of beaten rice/brown rice flakes/aval almost wet and a bit soaked and plump, add the rest of the beaten rice/aval and continue to crush and squish with hands, until everything comes together as a wet and plump mixture. Check if you require more sweetness and adjust accordingly and finally pour the ghee on top and blend once again with your hands. The whole mixing process will take about only 3-5 minutes depending on the quality and freshness of grated coconut.
  • Serve with a glass of tea/coffee/milk. You may also serve this with sliced bananas on the side. If you want to go one step further, mash the bananas with a fork or hand and mix to the sweetened beaten rice; that’s just like how we have at home :)
Note: There is no need to add water or milk or any other liquid to make it wet and plump. The wetness comes from the moisture content in jaggery and mainly from the juice ( coconut milk) produced by the freshly grated coconut when squished with hands. If the grated coconut lacks freshness and moisture, then it is difficult to get the desired wetness. The end product is not soggy; it’s just wet, soft and plump , with a bit of bite here and there.

Related Posts:

Ariyunda Kozhukkatta Aval Payasam

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