One of the quintessential dishes served during a Kerala sadya, erissery has different forms and regional variations. This is my favorite version that has a touch of sweetness from the use of butternut squash. Add spices & coconut to the equation and the result is an aromatic accompaniment to your rice. Why wait for a special occasion, make some today.
A recipe is a story that ends with a good meal. - Pat Conroy
I cannot have enough of this golden beauty - the butternut squash. The other day, I bought a big one from the grocery store. Half of the butternut squash went into making some pan roasted squash with baby spinach. The other half went into a traditional dish called Erissery that I have grown to love more and more, every time I make it.
Let's learn to make some erissery today.
- Butternut Squash
- Cowpeas/vanpayar; soaked overnight
- Cayenne/Indian red Chilli powder (adjust to taste)
- Ground Turmeric/Haldi
- Salt to taste
- coconut (fresh or frozen-thawed)
- cumin seeds/Jeera
- coconut oil
- curry leaves
- whole red chillies (optional)
- tablespoon coconut (fresh or frozen-thawed)
butternut squash - typically this is made with mathanga or the Indian variety of red pumpkin. I have had success with butternut squash and acorn squash as substituted for mathanga.
cowpeas/vanpayar/chawli - you can use the red cow peas or the black eyed peas. both taste amazing in the recipe.
paprika/cayyenne - this is the spice that adds heat to the dish. adjust the quantity to suit your taste. any other Indian red chilli powder will also work in the recipe. [Do not use the Chilli Powder, which is a spice mix, available in US grocery stores. Indian red chilli powder is simply ground dried rec chillies]
coconut oil - for an authentic taste, use coconut oil. if you do not like the taste of coconut oil, substitute with any other unflavored cooking oil.
step by step instructions
- You need some soaked cowpeas (chawli) to make this.
- cut butternut sqaush into medium pieces [time saving tip - you can do this when the chawli/lobia is cooking]
P. I use a stovetop pressure cooker/instant pot to cook the chwali/lobia./ Wash and drain the soaked chawli and pressure cook. I cannot survive without my pressure cooker. If you have used it, you will know how convenient and energy-saving the pressure cooker is. I use it to make rice, cook pulses, and legumes and even make this dessert.
While cowpeas is cooking, let us chop some butternut squash pieces. if you are using freshly grated coconut, you can grate coconut. Want to know more about coconut? Read Coconut 101.
grind the coconut and cumin to smooth paste.
Once the cowpeas is cooked, add the butternut squash to it. Add the ground coconut paste
then it is time for tadka or tempering or seasoning (or varavu as it is called in Malayalam).
what is tadka/tempering?
Tadka or tempering is the last step in the preparation. Spices are added to the hot oil and then this seasoned oil is poured into the dish enhancing the flavors. There are different ways to temper dishes. In my version of eriserry (which I learned from my mother-in-law), coconut is roasted in a little oil. The aroma of lightly roasted coconut and curry leaves in coconut oil is absolutely divine. Pour the tempered oil into the curry and transfer to a serving dish. Serve over the rice or by the side - you cannot go wrong with this.
how to pressure cook cowpeas?
Soak the cowpeas overnight. Though this step is optional, I almost always soak it.
stovetop method: Wash and drain the soaked cowpeas. I add the cowpeas along with 2.5 cups of water to my 5-liter pressure cooker. Cover with the lid and cook on high heat till steam starts to escape from the cooker. At this point, I place the pressure cooker weight on the nozzle and let it cook till the whistle sounds. This takes about 12-15 minutes (sometimes less) and then I lower the heat to medium, cook for another 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the steam to escape completely before opening.
instant pot method: Wash and drain the soaked cowpeas. I add the cowpeas along with 2 cups water to the instant pot. lock the lid in place. pressure release valve in SEALING position. turn on the MANUAL mode for 10 minutes. release the pressure the naturally, once done.
Wondering what else you can serve with erissery? Don't worry.... you have about 20 dishes to pick from. Just read about that in my sadya post. If you are not planning to make all those dishes, you can still enjoy a simple traditional Kerala style complete meal as follows:
- Rice (steamed boiled-rice is the best)
- Apple Pickle or any other Indian pickle
- Thoran (a simple Kerala style stir fry)
- Pappadam (deep-fried thin lentil fritters)
A few notes about erissery
My mother-in-law makes two different versions of erissery (which she calls elissery) - one with toor dal (or pigeon peas dal) and one with chawli or vanpayar (this is the recipe I have given here). Both of them taste different, although majority of the ingredients are the same. Typically, the toor dal version is the gravy one and is served on the rice whereas the version that uses chawli is a thicker version and is served on the side of the rice.
My favorite is the one that uses chawli and most of the times I make it like gravy and serve it on the rice. This is the only change (and of course changing the way she pronounces it) I make in my mother-in-law's version of the recipe. Otherwise, I follow it to the dot 🙂
more recipes from Kerala cusine
- 1.5 lb Butternut Squash/Pumpkin
- ¾ cup Cowpeas/vanpayar; soaked overnight
- ½ teaspoon Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Cayenne/Indian red Chilli powder adjust to taste
- ¾ teaspoon Ground Turmeric/Haldi
- Salt to taste
- 1 cup coconut fresh or frozen thawed
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds/Jeera
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 10-12 curry leaves
- 1 teaspoon mustard
- 1-2 whole red chillies optional
- 2-3 tablespoon coconut fresh or frozen thawed
- Wash and Soak cowpeas or chawli overnight.
- Chop Butternut squash into small pieces.
- Pressure-cook soaked cowpeas or chawli. After the steam is fully released, open the pressure cooker.
- Once the cowpeas is cooked, add the chopped butternut squash pieces to it along with paprika, cayenne, turmeric, and salt and cook it uncovered.
- Meanwhile, grind the coconut with cumin seeds with little water to a paste.
- Add the ground mix into the cooked squash-cowpeas mix. Bring to a boil and adjust the seasonings as well as consistency.
Prepare the seasoning/Tempering
- Heat coconut oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter, add the whole red chillies, curry leaves and coconut. Fry till the coconut turns brown and the whole seasoning mix turns aromatic. Pour the seasoned oil along with the spices and coconut to the boiled curry.
- Serve hot.