There is no festival in Kerala that should pass by without having a good go at the Kerala sadhya. The elaborate banana leaf meal with 10-12 dishes (sometime 24) is all vegetarian affair. The locally grown vegetables with coconut-based masala cook up the vegetable sides. Fruit and rice-based, long-simmered desserts are added to the meal at the end. This delicious meal served on the fragrance of the fresh banana leaf is the best part of Vishu and Onam.
Working mum and sadhya.
Sadhya is a time-consuming affair taking about 5 to 6 hours in total to put together. Squeezing in the sadhya into that one-day holiday window, ( now work from home), trying to make the best of all has been happening over and over again. Being a working mom, I feel your pain. When you look back and there goes 6o per cent of that one day break is gone preparing the meal. I hate that too. I love to participate in the fun and celebration as much as anyone else.
Here are some time tested hacks that has helped me to cut down the time and still enjoy the celebrations.
The Kerala sadhya essentials
Let’s go based on what is served. The laid out cleaned banana leaf (or equivalent sadhya paper) is first served with a pinch of salt on the left-hand top corner. Now here I have no hacks. Just make sure you have it in your pantry.
On festival days I simply go for the easiest of payasams. My go-to payasams are the Semiya payasam , Kerala pink paal payasam( short cut version) or the Quick palada prathaman. I absolutely rely on the pressure cooker to cut down my time at the store. Check out my quick, no fuss paalada pratham and save time. You could also whip up this 10 minute Aval payasam. Serve this on the right-hand bottom corner of the banana leaf.
Now comes the kichadi and pachadi
This is the easiest of the lot. Grated the veggie, mixing the yoghurt and set aside. transfer this to a serving dish and set aside till you are ready with the other curries are you can double up on some processes and save time. These are the ones we have one the blog-
Here is where I will offer my absolute hack. Precut veggies in your refrigerator. Once in two weeks I do spend some time just chopping up veggies and adding them to my freezer. This helps me deal with ones like green papaya and pumpkin which take a while to clean peel and chop. I also roast the coconut ahead and keep it in the refrigerator so it is just a quick stir through to put things together. Here is a recipe base you can try.
The dry vegetable side is perfect with freezer stocked banana flowers, yard long beans, cabbage or amaranthus. The masala mix you create for this is simple grated coconut.
In saying that, put that whole coconut in your fridge and once it is cold give it a whack with your cleaver, it cracks open well. Now, it is easier to extract the flesh as well. These flesh pieces when given a quick spice mill treatment gives you ample grated coconut ready to be frozen.
Have you tried banana flower thoran? This is the best.
Use the pressure cooker with minimal water to steam the veggies. This is the easiest way to get the avial done quickly. Wait !!! The masala mix for avial with coconut, cumin and chillies is the same one you need for the kichadi. Grind the mix it up and stir in some of this masala with the kichadi mix kept ready. the rest goes in the avail. I have to be honest and say, I skip the avial entirely as the vegetable cutting takes a long time unless I have a frozen batch.
If you can source that mango or green apple, make a quick pickle at the weekend and store it in the refrigerator. This would be perfect for the sadhya day. Here are my favourite:
Nurukku maanga achar, Kerala sadhya style mango pickle
I never make an elaborate sambhar for sadhya. It is always the pressure cooker quick one. When placing the pressure cooker, here is how I layer it:-
The tur dal for sambhar mix at the base, with a small bowl of extra tur dal with a tomato for the rasam, on top of this, on a steamer plate is veggies for aviyal or the sambhar and to top it all a small bowl of tamarind tied to a cheesecloth. Ta da! that is three items in one go. Once the pressure cooker has released steam it is very quick
Here are two types:
The pressure cooker dal and tomato goes quickly into a saucepan with a lump of tamarind tied in a cheese-cloth bit and extra water. Rasam powder, a bit of pineapple and an adjustment of salt and a vigorous boil. Rasam ready. Top it with fragrant coriander leaves and voila, you are done.
On sadhya days, my mother in law taught me a hack. All the tempering for the aromatic finish is done in one go at the last. So stock up on the cleaned curry leaves. Set a deep pan and pour the coconut oil. Add the mustard and as it spluttered add the chillies and curry leaves. Remove some and add to rasam and sambhar, thoran, kichadi and kootu.
This is where you have to decide if you want to put that microwave to good use. I have never made papadam from scratch so don’t ask me how. I will update you when I have.
The whole set of best of curries is eaten with rice. I do cook matta often and that is always in a pressure cooker as it is a stubborn sort of rice and takes time. So there we go, three pressure cookers and a couple of bowls to wash all set is the sadhya in 1.5 hours well organised.
Drinks To go with the Sadhya
Coldwater is not the perfect accompaniment for such a grand fare. For that big meal try the digestive aid infused pink water from Kerala –Karingali vellam To top off the meal there is always a bit of sambharam.
Under 1.5 hours and 1 tbsp of oil
This Onam I decided to set myself against a timer to see how I fared with this Kerala sadhya hack. I did it slightly different from the above process and finished the sadhya in 1.5 hours and used just 1 tbsp of oil. The cooking is done using 3 hot plates on one stovetop, and the microwave (for the papadam). Here is a step by step of the whole process (including the messy stovetop). I have used 2 Indian pressure cookers and a few pots and pans.
Step 1 – (8 minutes) – Set up the pressure cooker 1 with rice to cook (you can use a rice cooker if you prefer), set up pressure cooker 2 with tur dal at the base, red rice, water and milk mix for the payasam in a bowl as the second layer.
Step 2 – (2 minutes)- Soak the tamarind.
Step 3 – (20 minutes)- Cut the vegetables (go organised so it is easier for you to tackle them later), get the frozen coconut out. This 20 minute is the same time the pressure cookers would have finished cooking.
Step 3 to step 10 happens in 1 hour.
Step 4 – Set up for Sambhar, Rasam and tempering. The pressure cookers can be moved to make space. extract the tamarind pulp and add to the rasam and sambhar.
Step 5 – the tempering is ready and can be transferred to a small bowl. Use the same pan to set for the thoran. Prep the coconut to be ground with chillies and cumin and grind it.
Step 6 – Once the pressure cooker has had natural pressure release, add some tur dal to the boiling rasam. Finish and remove. Use the stove to set for sweet pachadi or aviyal. Complete the Sambhar process.
Step 7 – Set up for roasting some grated coconut. Use the palak chopped and set for kootu. Microwave the papadam
Step 8 – Complete the mango pickle, complete the inji kichadi. Complete the thoran with the coconut masala, remove and transfer to a serving bowl. Now, use the cooked rice, milk mix and add more milk and set to simmer.
Step 9 – add the tempering to the sambar, rasam, pickle, inji kichadi and kootu. Finish the payasam with sugar, remove it from heat.
Step 10 – Fluff up the rice and sadhya is ready to serve.
I do agree this is not the most elaborate perfect sadhya but isn’t it all about celebrating it? Just enjoy the day as the festival is all about people coming together and sharing positivity. Moreover, food is precious, never waste it!
Excellent tips not only to prepare the whole sadhya but for any other festival cooking. For us too Janmashtami and Diwali use to be a whole lot of different dishes all put together as one meal and it was time consuming. Simple ahead preparations make it so much easier. Like all your tips.
I agree, we make the elaborate meal at the drop of a hat, yet never think how precipus it is for us in the kitchen also to have that little break to enjoy the day. I am so glad you like it.
Seema- kudos on demystifying the sadya (or any festival cooking) – the whole process makes it sound very doable and what a sumptuous spread..
Haha, I am so glad I put this out as this is something we make for every celebration and may come handy.
Love reading this Seema. Can resonate so much and wonderful tips, specially for working women’s. I tend to do a few at times, specially when you need to prepare for festivals and have office too.
Some years more than others I feel we are disadvantaged being abroad as our holidays never coincide with a weekend. So these hacks come so handy. I am happy they are useful for you.
Beautifully put together and explained meal prep. The most delicious meal no need for it to be more elaborate then your enjoyment of the meal is better . That is my feeling of course.
These are easy tip and tricks for the Indian meal. What leaf have you used? Doesn’t look like banana.
Hi Lindsay, It is hard to get banana leaf here, so it is the banana leaf paper I have used. Thank you for visiting.
Vibe with your feeling, it is all about happiness. Hope you enjoy this simpler version of the Kerala meal.