Kerala Olan Recipe/ Olan

30 Minutes
Serves 6 People
Author: Rajni Ram
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Olan is a Popular Vegan dish from the Kerala cuisine. At home here, it is a common everyday dish as my family from the paternal side belongs to the Palakkad region. I learnt this dish from my mother who is an expert in Palakkad cuisine.

Olan is a simple and easy dish that is more a stew than a curry. It is made with Pumpkin, Ash Gourd, Cowpeas and Coconut milk. In Kerala traditionally only Ash Gourd is used to make this dish. In our family my mother always used both Pumpkin and Ash Gourd, and that’s how I have always eaten it. However one can use only Pumpkin or Ash Gourd to cook this dish too. I always think of this dish as-” India’s Own Thai Curry”, minus the spice. Such a flavourful dish this is that if you like it, you will make it on repeat. In this recipe I have used store bough Coconut milk.

Why you should try this dish– This dish takes just 20 minutes from start to finish if you have all ingredients ready. Doesn’t that sound like all you want on a busy day- simple nutritious food. This stew can be paired as a side for Sambar. Vatha Kuzhambu, Pachai Sundakkai Kuzhambu, Kathrikai Masala Kuzhambu or just to go with Apam. I love mixing the Olan with plain steamed rice. The coconut milk and the subtle taste of the vegetables brings out the best in this dish. I hope you are not looking for a spicy curry, because this stew is low on spice and pungent masala, and high on the subtle flavours of green chilli and coconut milk, and Coconut oil that is used as a garnish.

Which Pumpkin Variety to use– In India there are many varieties of Pumpkin, but the predominant ones are Jade green which has a thin green exterior and a yellowish orange, fleshy exterior. The other is thick skinned and yellow on the outside and yellow on the insides too. I have used the Jade green variety. One can use any of these varieties. If using the 2nd variety remove the skin.

Ash Gourd– Ash Gourd is a green waxy, round to oblong vegetable that is fleshy, and white on the interior. Many dishes and desserts are made with this Gourd. If Ash Gourd is not available, it can be substituted with Bottle Gourd.

Cowpeas/ Karamani/ Lobia– You can use any variety of Cowpeas, but they must be soaked for 4 to 5 hours and then cooked well on a pressure cooker. When you are able to mash the Cowpeas between your thumb and index finger without resistance, they are done.

How to extract Coconut milk at home– To make coconut milk at home, break open a coconut and separate the nut from the shell. Now grate or process the coconut in a blender. Now add 1.5 to 2 cups of water and grind the coconut well. Pass the mixture through a strainer for the first extract. Keep this milk separately. The first extract is thick and is used towards the end of the dish. Put the coconut residue into the blender, add another cup of water, and blend again. Pass this through the strainer for the 2nd extract. Repeat the process another time for the 3rd extract. The 3rd extract can be used for cooking the vegetables.

In this recipe I have used diluted  dairy milk for cooking the vegetables. To make the dish fully Vegan, you can use the 3rd extract to cook the vegetables or just water can be used.

While you are here I request you to take a look at other recipes like Avial, Nendran Pazham Halwa, Rasakalan, Vendakkai Thayir Pachadi, Creamy Palak In Coconut milk, and more…

Ingredients

  1. Ash Gourd 200 gm cubed
  2. Pumpkin 150 gm cubed
  3. Green Chillies 2 slit lengthwise
  4. Coconut Milk (store bought_ for homemade coconut milk check notes. 300ml
  5. Milk (dairy) 150 ml
  6. Water 1/2 cup
  7. Salt as required.
  8. Coconut Oil 1 tsp
  1. Soak the Cowpeas for 4 to 5 hours and pressure cook until soft, but not mushy. Take both the cubed Vegetables in a pan, add the green chillies, Milk(dairy), salt, and water and cook until just done. Check note 2.
  2. While cooking the vegetables, cover and cook for 5 minutes and thereafter open lid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. When the vegetables are just done add the cooked Cowpeas and cook another 2 minutes.
  3. Now lower the flame and gradually pour the coconut milk. First pour 1 cup, mix gently and then pour another cup. Switch off the flame immediately. Once coconut milk is poured the dish should not be on flame any further, as the milk can curdle sometimes. Drizzle some coconut oil and serve hot with your favourite Rice and Curry.

Soak the Cowpeas for 4 to 5 hours and pressure cook until soft, but not mushy. Take both the cubed Vegetables in a pan, add the green chillies, Milk(dairy), salt, and water and cook until just done. Check note 2. While cooking the vegetables, cover and cook for 5 minutes and thereafter open lid and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. When the vegetables are just done add the cooked Cowpeas and cook another 2 minutes. Now lower the flame and gradually pour the coconut milk. First pour 1 cup, mix gently and then pour another cup. Switch off the flame immediately. Once coconut milk is poured the dish should not be on flame any further, as the milk can curdle sometimes. Drizzle some coconut oil and serve hot with your favourite Rice and Curry.

Notes:

  1. I have used store bought Coconut milk for this recipe. However if you wish to make the Coconut milk at home from scratch, here is the method.
    To make coconut milk at home, break open a coconut and separate the nut from the shell. Now grate or process the coconut in a blender. Now add 1.5 to 2 cups of water and grind the coconut well. Pass the mixture through a strainer for the first extract. Keep this milk separately. The first extract is thick and is used towards the end of the dish. Put the coconut residue into the blender, add another cup of water, and blend again. Pass this through the strainer for the 2nd extract. Repeat the process another time for the 3rd extract. The 3rd extract can be used for cooking the vegetables.
  2. While cooking the vegetables, you can skip adding dairy milk, and just cook them in water too. I add dairy milk because it enhances the flavour, and also Coconut milk is very sensitive to certain vegetables and may split.

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