Saturday, April 12, 2008

Olan – Stewed ash-gourd and red cowpeas in coconut milk

This post is part of SADYA VIBHAVANGAL – Learn to make the traditional Kerala Feast- An Artist’s Edible Palette !

A simple dish cooked with the absolute splendidness of coconut milk where one comes to the realization that the blandness of ash-gourd is also a taste to be relished. At my uncle’s household, in our same neighborhood, Kumbalanga /ash-gourd season is the time when the cattle-shed receives nature’s grand decorations, with the vines climbing up the roof of the shed, spreading its leaves like green patch works and the bulbs are illuminated when the huge ash-gourds begin to show up and grow in size. And when it reaches maturity, we get our share and then it’s time for “Olan”. First day when it appears on the table, we re all excited and devour the dish…second day also we enjoy it…third day the enthusiasm slows down a bit and fourth day is when we all get into a playful mood and say “Ohhh…it’s Olaa…aaannn” stylishly……the day my mother gets the signal that it is time for her to think of other alternatives with the same ingredient :)

Ingredients:- (Approx.)
  • ¼ cup Vanpayar/red cowpeas, soaked overnight
  • 2 cups Kumbalanga/ ash-gourd/winter melon, chopped into small pieces
  • 2-3 green chillies
  • 1 cup thin coconut milk
  • ¼- ½ cup thick coconut milk
  • ¾ -1 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2-3 small red-pearl onions/shallots, thinly sliced
  • Pressure-cook Vanpayar/red cowpeas with ¾ cup water and a dash of salt till soft.
  • When the sizzling sound stops, open the pressure cooker and add the chopped Kumbalanga/ ash-gourd/winter melon and green chillies and cook till the vegetable is soft. Add water if required, while cooking. Now add thin coconut and bring to a boil and let it simmer for few minutes, until it thickens a bit. Then add the thick coconut milk and bring it to a boil quickly; do a taste-test and adjust the salt and turn off the stove.
  • In another shallow pan, heat oil, splutter mustard seeds, dry red chillies tear off some curry leaves and add the sliced onion and sauté till the onions turn pink. Turn off the stove and pour it to the dish and gently blend it.
  • Let it stand for atleast an hour before serving as it takes time to get all the flavours together.
Note: Aim for a much richer consistency of coconut milk than what is shown in the picture as the day I clicked this picture, I was little short of required amount of coconut milk.

No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.


  1. Hi Shn,

    This time all sadhyavibhavangal was from your blog. I was quite surprised by the taste of olan. I never liked olan in the marriage sadhyas here and mom never cooked it at home. But this time it tasted so good. Its almost a favourite. I am sure I am gonna make it frequently, mainly because it so easy and yet tasty:)

    Thanks once again for the wonderful blog you host.


  2. @ Shivani

    I think cow peas are called Red chori dal in hindi. Hope it helps :)

  3. Hi Shn,

    Last week was the first time i happen to visit your blog and i was so happy to find the sadya receipes, great pics too. I never knew that the sadhay receipes are so simple as i am not that much involved in cooking, my mon is the one cooking.I liked all your receipes - most of it is simple and easy. I was so inspired by your receipes that I already tried ur kuttanadan style chicken roast and fish molly. You are doing such a wonderful job.

    Thank you veryyyyyyyy much.........


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.