This is one of the Keral Sadhya items. I've always loved having it as a child. Loaded with coconut milk and tenderly cooked vegetables and lentils, this dish was always an accompaniement. Here is one picture that I found on the internet showing the placement of items for a Kerala Sadhya and the white dish you notice right on top is Olan.
I've never made a full fledged Sadhya on my own. I've been spending every Vishu with my in-laws and Onam with my parents. This time I had decided to make my own Onam Sadhya. So I was testing waters before I actually made it.And I was pretty pleased with the result. Oh yeah, that was primarily because I added really thick coconut milk. It enhanced the flavor of Olan, but then I must admit, it made the dish unhealthier than it was supposed to be.
The pristine beauty of Kerala Cuisine (atleast in my part of Kerala) is that very little oil is used. Most of the dishes are prepared by boiling the vegetables/fish and then adding coconut milk/paste. Dieticians generally ask us to avoid coconut, but I've rarely seen obese Keralites among the ones who have exclusively eaten Kerala food all their lives.
I was reading up on Coconuts, only to be absolutely surprised to realize that India is only the third largest producer of Coconut. Philippines is apparently the largest producer, followed by Indonesia. I laugh at my ignorance as I strongly opined that only South Indians and Thai's used coconut in their cooking, hence India and Thailand would be the only two producers of Coconut.
Well, coming back to my Olan, here is how I prepared it -
Black eyed Beans (Mampayar, Lobia) - 1 cup (Soak Overnight)
Raw Plantain - 1
White Pumpkin - 200 gms (skin peeled and diced into squares)
Thick Coconut milk - 300ml (1.5 cartons or maybe 2, depending on your taste)
Green Chilly - 2
Curry Leaves - A handful
Coconut Oil - 2 tsp (Do not substitute)
Salt - to taste
Pressure cook/boil till tender the beans.
Cut raw plantain in cirles. Boil them with little salt.
Boil separately white pumpkin till cooked.
Combine all three together, add a little water and slit green chillies and bring to boil.
When the water has boiled enough, add salt if required and then the coconut milk,
Allow it to boil well till the vegetables soak in the taste of the coconut milk.
Add curry leaves, coconut oil and remove from flame.
Keep covered for 30 minutes for the aroma to settle.