They say in olden days people used to guess the moods of nature. Time was known from suns position and same goes for seasons. As for me I used to guess vacations when I used to see flowering 'Konna Tree' or the golden shower tree with yellow flowers near my house in Thiruvananthapuram. The tree turning yellow/golden indicated summer and end of annual exams and two lovely dreamy months ahead. They also indicated Vishu - first day of Malayalam Zodiac / Kerala New Year. These flowers are important during Vishu/ Kerala New Year Celebrations which falls today this year.
Vishu is celebrated during April second week in Kerala normally 14th or 15th April based on Sun's transit to Aries (Medam in Malayalam) and is the first day of the Malayalam Zodiac or Kerala New Year. So the thing we see first in the morning - called 'Vishu kani'- is considered to have importance throughout the year as a good auspicious kani indicates your wellness and prosperity.There are rituals and customs on how to arrange a good kani.
The kani is followed by 'Vishu Kaineettam' where the elders of the family shower blessings on the younger ones by giving them coins/sovereigns or in general money and new set of clothes. Vishu Sadya (feast) which is a regular part of all other festivals follows and has items based on regional tastes.
I am not big on festival feasts but till now remember the taste of Vishu Sadya I had in Kochi at Bharat Hotel. We were given coupons from the office I working in at that time and Ijoined the gang deciding that I am going to hate it. But it turned out otherwise..
Anyways when I came across Vishu kanji - a rice and lentil porridge in coconut milk- in a magazine I wondered how come I missed it in the sadya that day. I am assuming it was because it is not a part of Vishu menu in Kochi where crackers were more important than 'kaineettam' or maybe they didn't think it met the restaurant standards. But whatever it is I tried it and loved it.
Raw Rice : 500g (2.5 cups)
Moong Dal/Split yellow lentils : 300 gm
Thin Coconut milk: 2-3 cups + as needed
Thick Coconut milk/coconut cream: 1 cup +/- as per taste
Salt: as per taste
Roast moong dal in a deep pan for few minutes till the raw smell goes. Add it to cleaned rice and thin coconut milk and bring it to a slow boil on medium flame stirring occassionally. The coconut milk might curdle if boiled on a high flame.
Reduce to a simmer and let the rice and lentil cook till done -and even mushy works. The word kanji means porridge and even mushy texture is ok.
Once done, remove from fire and stir in the thick coconut milk. Keep aside.
Add salt just before serving. The porridge thickens on sitting and you can gently heat through before serving adding more coconut milk if needed.
Serve with papad or pickle or your choice of gravy.
The coconut flavour is having upperhand in this dish. You can make your own coconut milk by pulsing water and coconut together in a blkender and then filtering out. The first milk will be thick one whereas the second extraction will give thin. You can also go for readymade coconut powders to be mixed with water or even coocnut milk in carton. If too thick feel free to add water to it to thin it down.