When my daughter comes back from school with loads of stories in her school bag to share with me, it is a beautiful time that brings in timeless memories. I see myself running back from school to narrate never-ending stories to my all-time best friend – Amma. The special bond between mothers and daughters, especially mothers in the kitchen most of their time, transforms daughters into carriers of tasty treats to the next generations, I suppose. Might differ from person to person, but that’s true in many cases that I see.
Certain comfort foods create such cozy reminiscences. Yes, Paal Aval or Nanaicha Aval -(Flattened Rice or Rice flakes soaked in milk and coconut) brings in warm memories of coming back from school to recite non-stop happenings at school to Amma. The dish has not only left behind impressions of the past, but the simple taste of the soft rice flakes and the crunchiness of freshly grated coconut makes me thrive for more, even today.
Aval is known as flattened Rice, beaten rice or rice flakes in english. It is commonly called Poha or Chuda in the hindi belt of India. It is identified as Pawa in many countries outside India.
When we came back from school, hungry and tired, Amma would have kept this ready. After a snack, drinking milk is the norm in the evening. This Nanaicha Aval/flattened rice or Poha has milk, sugar and coconut. It fills your tummy with the requisite milk of the evening… hence, no extra milk after the snack. It is such a comfort food, I can’t explain in words.. you need to taste this humble mix. It is certainly very easy as a ”no cook meal’ and not at all time-consuming, even for busy mothers and caretakers of children.
Why I call it a multi-faceted meal –
- it can also be an equivalent or substitute to today’s cereal-milk breakfast, so popular in Indian households too
- it can be an after school meal – quick to make-quick to eat, quite filling but not heavy on calories
- it can be a dessert with fried cashew nuts or soaked almonds, plus no cooking at all, easy isn’t it?
- it can be a quick meal apt for lazy weekends, during an emergency hour or a hunger prank during pregnancy too.
- It can also be a baby food (toddlers who have already been introduced to various other simple foods) without coconut of course.
A versatile dish
it is also a versatile dish to adapt itself to various additions
- Add chopped bananas, apples, pears or fruits of your choice – after aval is well soaked, this gives a fruity taste; choose fruits those wouldn’t curdle the hot milk;
- Add chopped nuts while mixing hot milk, so that the nuts are softened;
- Alter sugar with unrefined cane sugar, palm sugar, cane jaggery, honey;
- Use white aval or kaikuthal aval (unprocessed red aval) – whichever is available easily.
palm jaggery, cane jaggery or unrefined cane sugar
Now, this isn’t funny-
- among the three ingredients added to aval (milk, sugar and coconut)- Skip the milk, add just sugar and coconut to washed soft aval/flattened rice and that itself is a delicacy – it is called nanaicha aval/aval nanaichathu/ vella aval with jaggery;
- Skip the sugar, add coconut and fruits and that’s good for those who wish to avoid sugar in their meal;
- Skip coconut, have aval soaked in milk alone with raisins;
choose or skip
True – versatility personified!
Additionally, I believe the ‘x’ factor of this dish lies in its simplicity. Wash the flattened rice; boil the milk, grate the coconut- add everything together with sugar. Soak for 20 minutes and you get this simple and tasty treat with literally little or no effort at all. The recipe is done. So easy.
Simple recipe has already been explained in a paragraph. Still being a food blog, let me do the honours, please.
Paal Aval – Rice flakes soaked in sugar,milk and coconut
- aval/flattened rice/poha (I have used red aval) – 1 ½ cups
- milk – 4 cups
- coconut grated – ½ cup (more or less as per preferred)
- unrefined cane sugar – 6 tsp (more or less as preferred)
- elakkai podi/cardamom powder – ½ ts
- chukku podi/dry ginger powder – ½ tsp
- chopped nuts – ¼ cup (optional)
Method of Preparation
1. Wash aval/ beaten rice. Do not overdo it. This is a very soft material to handle, wash it with care just twice carefully not mashing it. Keep in a bigger bowl to soak other ingredients.
2. Keep adding all the dry ingredients – sugar, grated coconut, cardamom powder, dry ginger powder and chopped nuts
3. Bring milk to boil and pour over the aval, sugar, coconut mixture
4. Close with lid and leave for about 20 minutes to soak well and soften. A hotcase can also be used to keep it hot.
Serve paal aval on all occasions that suit you.