V ellayaappam and Stew (usually a Potato Stew which is locally referred to as “Ishtoo”) is a favourite combination for breakfast in Kerala. It is also one of our favourite Sunday breakfasts and occasionally makes it to our dinner table as well. While I usually make the potato stew to serve with the vellayaappam, I sometimes used a combination of mixed vegetables in the stew just for a change.
Vellayaappam is a leavened rice and coconut/ coconut milk pancake and the traditional leavening agent is toddy tapped from the coconut trees, which are plentiful in Kerala. Since any form of alcohol never makes an appearance in our homes, yeast is the choice of leavening in this recipe. The yeast (or coconut toddy) and the special pan, called an “Aappachatti”, in which the pancakes are cooked result in a spongy centred pancake with a beautiful lacy and crisp edge. By the way, the “vella” in the Vellayaappam means white while “aappam refers to any spongy steamed (and sometimes fried) preparation made from a batter where rice is the main ingredient.
The Aappachatti (meaning vessel for cooking the Aappam) is a small wok-like pan with a lid and non-stick versions are available today, so making these pancakes is easy with a bit of practice.
For the Vellayaappam:
1 ½ cups raw rice
1 ½ tsp dry active yeast
2 tsp sugar
½ cup of coconut water (plain water)
1 ½ tbsp cooked rice
½ tsp salt
About ½ cup thick coconut milk or freshly grated coconut
If you are preparing these pancakes for breakfast, the preparation has to be done the previous night. Soak the raw rice in water for about 3 hours. Drain and keep aside. Then dissolve the yeast and sugar in the coconut water or plain water (at room temperature) and allow the mixture to froth (about 10 to 15 minutes). Now grind drained rice to a smooth batter using the yeast mixture. If you are using freshly grated coconut instead of coconut milk, then add to the batter and grind well. Add enough water to make grinding comfortable but ensure the batter is on the thicker side, consistency-wise. When the batter is almost done, add the cooked rice and grind well so everything is blended.
Pour the batter into a vessel, cover, and allow it to ferment overnight. Next morning, add the coconut milk (if using this, otherwise use water or a mixture of water and milk), salt and some water, if necessary, to dilute the batter to a somewhat thin batter (a little thicker than milk).
Heat the “aappachatti” (mine is non-stick), put a few drops of oil into it and wipe using paper towel so that a thin film of oil remains in the vessel. Turn the heat down to low and pour a small ladle of the batter (about 3 to 4 tbsp in quantity) in the middle of the pan. Now hold the pan by its ears/ handles, lift it off the stovetop and tilt the “aappachatti” in a cicular motion so that the batter is spread all over the pan, just short of the edges. Put the pan back on the stovetop. The excess batter will settle back in the centre of the pan creating a thick middle and thin lacy edges to the pancake. Now cover the pan and allow to cook for a couple of minutes. All this has to be done very quickly as the batter cooks very fast.
After a couple of minutes lift the lid. The centre should have cooked and puffed up a bit. If not, cover and cook for another minute taking care that the edges do not brown. Using a thin spatula, dislodge the pancake and remove. Repeat with the remaining batter and use it up.
Serve these Vellayaappams hot with the stew. They don’t taste too good cold. This batter should make about 15.
Mixed Vegetable Stew:
As I mentioned before, I’m using mixed vegetables here. If you wish to make the Potato Stew, just substitute the vegetables with potatoes and the rest of the recipe is the same.
2 ½ cups diced mixed vegetables (I used potatoes, green peas, French beans, carrots and sweet corn)
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp oil
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp minced ginger
2 or 3 green chillies, slit lengthwise
1 sprig curry leaves
3 pods cardamom
1 ½” piece cinnamon
¾ cup coconut
1 tsp rice flour
salt to taste
I usually cook the vegetables in the microwave. I MW them at 100% for about 8 minutes. Otherwise, cook them as below.
Heat the oil, and add the mustard seeds. When the splutter add the cardamom (split the pod open and add whole), cloves and cinnamon (broken smaller). Stir twice and then add the ginger, chillies and onions and sauté till the onions are translucent. Add the vegetables and curry leaves and a cup of water and the salt. Bring to boil. If using uncooked vegetables, turn down the heat and allow them to cook till soft but not mushy. Otherwise, simmer for about five minutes.
Mix the rice flour in the coconut milk and add to the vegetables mixing quickly. The rice flour thickens the gravy and ensures the coconut milk does not split. Turn down the heat and once it starts boiling, take it off the heat. The stew should now be a slightly thick coconut milk gravy with vegetables in it.