For Coorg, the year 2023 is the best of times, and also not so best of times.
April-May is the wedding season in Coorg, or Kodagu as the place is officially known in the state of Karnataka. Unlike the previous three years when wedding celebrations were low-key due to the pandemic, this year the celebrations are on a grand scale. Women have been dressing up gorgeously in Kodava style saris with matching jewellery.
Kodava men are on a high after the Election Commission lifted the ban on serving liquor at weddings. For the first time, serving of liquor was banned this year in view of the elections. However, following protests, the Election Commission lifted the ban after it was convinced that Kodavas (Coorgs) traditionally serve alcohol during community get-togethers.
The Kodava family hockey festival which was not held in the past four years due to extensive landslides and the pandemic, was held this year with participation from a record 336 teams.
The price of Robusta coffee, the main commercial crop grown in Coorg, has crossed over Rs 6,000 per bag, a record price so far. This has made the planters happy. Not many planters though could reap the benefits because the price was around Rs 4,000 in the beginning of the year when most of the planters sold their new crop.
A new Kodagu University has come into existence in the district. Hitherto, colleges in Kodagu were part of Mangalore University. With an exclusive university, the educational infrastructure is going to get a boost.
It is a matter of worry that temperatures have been raising in Coorg. For the first time in 30 years, Coorg recorded 36.1 degree Celsius this April. Not just that. This April, temperature in Coorg recorded above 35 degrees continuously for 10 days.
Coorg has been facing extreme weather conditions in the last few years due to the loss of the green cover and increased construction activities to accommodate a huge tourist inflow.
Though the 2023 has started on a happy note for Coorg, things could go wrong if remedial measures are not taken to preserve the greenery and natural beauty of the land.
Radhica Muthappa (in picture) is a Chef by profession, having worked at The Park in Chennai for many years, specialising in European and Mediterranean cuisine. She has a M.Sc. in nutrition and is an avid nature lover.
Along with her husband, Uttam Muthappa, Radhica runs a couple of cloud kitchens from her home in Bangalore. One is Curly Sue Pork, started in 2018, specialising in slow-cooked exclusively pork-based dishes from all over the world. The other, more recent one is BMD Gourmet – Burger Melts & Dogs, serving the juiciest burgers and hotdogs all over Bangalore, with the menu including all-meats, vegetarian, vegan and mock meat options too.
She also runs a small vegan brand called Rosemary et al, that curates potted culinary and medicinal herbs, grown with no chemicals grown both in Coorg and Bangalore. This brand also makes preserves from fruit like huskcherry, mulberry, rhubarb, and strawberry, grown primarily in Coorg and the Nilgiris.
She shares: Coorg Meatball (Kaima Undey) Curry
Says Radhica –“This curry is my most favourite non vegetarian curry in the world. We used to call it kofta curry, (because my mother grew up in Delhi) and we would have it every time we returned from hostel in Ooty. I particularly loved it because it was so hassle free without having to tussle with any bones!
It was only after I started working at The Park hotel that I learned that there existed a vegetarian kofta curry! This Kaima undey curry beats any other curry hollow!
I hope your enjoy this as much as I still do.”
Serves 4-6, Prep-10mts, Cooking 45mts
Mutton leg mince-500g (10% fat)
Green chilly-2 chopped
To grind to a fine paste
Ginger -1 “ chopped
Poppy seeds -1tsp
Green chilly -1
Fresh coconut -200g
Coriander -1 bunch
Curly Sue’s spice mix* -1tbsp or any good brand of garam masala
1 Marinate the mince with salt, turmeric, onion and green chilly.
Grind the wet masala ingredients and cook out in the oil.
Make small lime sized balls and pan fry them separately. This step helps to retain shape and structure of the ball, so that it does not melt into the curry.
In 15 minutes, when the gravy is ready and reasonably thick, add the meatballs into the masala and slow cook for 10 minutes.Do not over mix and break up the balls.
Check and add salt to season.
As an option, you could also add fresh coconut paste with chillies at the end of step 4. That will give you a curry with sweeter tones, but reheating should be done on simmer mode else the chance of the curry splitting is greater.
Poppy seed and coriander give the curry a velvety thickness, characteristic of Coorg curries.
To be eaten with hot white rice, Akki otti, idli, dosa, puttu or chapathi.
The once popular Kodava dish Thengé-motté pajji (coconut and egg chutney) has vanished from the Coorg table.
This writer believes that the disappearance of the dish has more to do with the notion among Kodava women that eggs tend to shoot up the libido in the man.
There is this mistaken belief among women, especially in Coorg, that eggs induce ‘heat’ in a person.
However, the excuse given for avoiding the liberal use of eggs is that they contain too much of cholesterol which is bad for the heart.
But who can tell these women that the former chief of Tata Steel, Russi Mody, used to have 16 eggs for breakfast and lived up to the age of 96 years!
Moreover, coconut and ghee are a big no-no for these diet-conscious modern women.
A few decades ago, women in Kodagu (Coorg) were robust, unlike the women nowadays. It was even considered in the Kodava society that men should die in the battlefield and women at childbirth.
Because of the mistaken notion of eggs being ‘heaty’, it is difficult to revive the once popular dish. Who can tell these women that research now shows eggs are not bad after all, while ghee is good, and coconut is being touted as the new wonder food.
As long as women control access to the kitchen, it is difficult to revive the once popular dish of Thengé-motté pajji.
Though I am not a fashionista, I take interest in fashion because I manage a group on Facebook which has predominantly women members.
Of late, I have been posting videos in the group put out by Hathkargha, a store based at Dehradun in Uttarakhand.
What impressed me about Hathkargha was the simplicity, beauty and elegance of their handloom products. They source their products from across Indian states, from Bengal’s Tussar silk to Rajasthan’s block prints. I wish to clarify that I am not endorsing any Hathkargha products.
Personally I prefer cotton because that is the most suitable fabric for Indian climatic conditions.
My Facebook group of over 6,000 members has some of India’s leading names in the handloom sector.
Prasad Bidapa, the iconic fashion guru of India is a member of my group. He is a pioneer in the Indian fashion industry since the last four decades. He has set a benchmark in the revival of Khadi and the traditional textiles of India for which he has become one of the most influential spokespersons.
Then there is Pavithra Muddaya, daughter of Chimy Nanjappa, who established Vimor at Bengaluru in 1974. Vimor is training and encouraging small town weavers to re-create and produce traditional, marketable sarees.
Another big name in my group is Arati Monappa of the Serenity Lifestyle Store. Arati enjoys experimenting with different fabrics using traditional and geometric prints in a contemporary, arresting medium to bring vitality to a dying craft.
Arati has contributed content for my various websites and books, on Kodava jewellery and food.
I feel it is time Indians gave up their obsession with foreign brands and develop love for Indian products.
The government’s demonetisation and the GST mess have rendered millions of artisans unemployed.
Though personally I feel prime minister Modi has a good fashion sense and wears elegant clothes, his flamboyance does not send out right political message.
The monogrammed suit he wore a few years ago during his meeting with American president Barack Obama in Delhi, was not a good idea. The suit which cost around Rs 10 lakh was later sold in an auction and later made it to the Guinness World Records as “the most expensive suit sold at auction”.
And Modi who tries to promote the slogan of ‘vocal for local’, should not have sported a Mayback sunglasses worth Rs 1.4 lakh. Instead he could have supported a desi brand.
The late prime minister Indira Gandhi was a fashion icon and was a connoisseur of handloom sari. When the occasion demanded, she chose Kanchipuram silk saree from Tamil Nadu.
Whenever I think of fashion, the only person who comes to my mind is the late Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur, who was known for her impeccable sense of style.
In a well-researched article for the prestigious Seminar magazine, Mumbai-based writer Devaiah Bopanna dealt at length on what ails the Indian fashion industry.
In the article curated by fashion guru Prasad Bidapa for Seminar, Devaiah, noted: “For all the disproportionate attention and coverage you receive, you haven’t produced a single home-grown fashion label that has captured the imagination of the urban Indian like the way global brands have, and not a single label out of India that has gone on to become a massive global player in the world of fashion.
“People who consume fashion are an illogical lot. If the cabbie doesn’t return their change, a hashtag #Uber Drivers Are Cheats will begin to trend. But the same folks will gladly cough up 4,000 bucks for a pair of jeans and flaunt the damn price tag with panache. Some of them even wake up at the crack of dawn to go to a Jack & Jones outlet during a sale, fight their way into the store to pay vulgar amounts of money for a tee that says ‘Jack & Jones’ on it. In fact, if they don’t overpay for their clothes, they feel miserable about their lives. They will be judged by friends and their self-confidence will take a beating. It’s weird. But therein lies the greatest business opportunity of all time – the only set of customers who is thrilled to bits to pay inflated amounts for products that don’t cost much. Really, it can’t get more inviting than that. The only thing standing between you and a big label is the insecurity of human beings. You’re home if you make them feel like crap. Still, it’s not incentive enough for you to create a Superdry or Calvin Klein out of India.”
Dr Seetha Poovaiah, an eminent educationist, is based at Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu. Daughter of Sannuvanda Nanjappa, Seetha is married to Apparanda Col. Poovaiah. They have a son Dr Shoury Kuttappa, and a daughter, Shabri .
Seetha says ‘Therme Thoppu’* is a rare variety of edible fern found near river beds in Coorg. She recalls with fondness her mother-in- law preparing this dish many decades ago.
Using your hands, break the therme thoppu into small pieces. Wash, then marinate with a little salt, and pounded green chillies, small onions, a little kachampuli (vinegar), and a pinch of turmeric.
Set aside for 10 mins.
Next, prepare a tempering with onions, garlic, and green chillies. Add the therme thoppu and stir to mix.
Cover, and cook on a low flame stirring occasionally.
When nearly done, add grated coconut, and a pinch of sugar if desired.
Should be done in 30 mins.
Scrambling a few eggs into the thereme thoppu at the end of cooking is a delicious addition.
Goes well with akki otti.
* There are several varieties of fern, not all are edible. Use caution and be sure to identify them correctly.
Shilpa Bopanna grew up in Mumbai. Her parents, Machangada Appaiah and Nervanda Shanthy, however, ensured that she and her two sisters visited Coorg on every vacation to keep them connected to their roots and traditions.
A cooking enthusiast from an early age, she loved to experiment with dishes that were not regularly prepared at home by her mother, to whom she credits her culinary skills. After marriage to Kalengada Bopanna, Shilpa realised her husband loved good food, and Kodava cuisine in particular, so she set about learning various recipes from family members.
She shares a favourite recipe for Chicken Cutlets that was given to her by her cousin Jyoti.
Chicken – 900 gms
Onions, chopped – 3
Ginger garlic paste -1/2 tsp
Green chillies – 3
Coriander powder – ½ tsp
Chilli powder – 1tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala – 11/2 tsp
Pepper powder – 1 tsp
Coriander leaves, chopped – a few sprigs
Potatoes, medium sized- 3
Egg whites – 2
Breadcrumbs – for coating
Oil – for frying
Pressure cook and mash the potatoes . Add salt, chilli powder, turmeric, coriander powder, some garam masala to taste, and keep aside.
Marinate chicken with chilli powder, turmeric and salt and pressure cook it. Shred the chicken and keep aside. (You can mince it as well, but I prefer not to)
In a medium sized non-stick pan , heat a little oil. Add the chopped onions, chopped green chillies, ginger and garlic paste and saute for 3-4 minutes.
Add shredded chicken and saute well for 10-15 minutes. Toss in the garam masala and pepper powder. Stir in the chopped coriander leaves.Turn off the flame and let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.
Add the mashed potatoes to the chicken mixture and mix well using your hands. The mixture should hold shape when rolled into balls. Taste if all spices are blended in well and adjust the same accordingly.
Take small portions of the mixture and roll into lime sized balls, then flatten between the palms to give it shape.
Beat egg whites with a fork. Dip each cutlet in egg white, then roll it in breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in pan and fry the cutlets on medium flame till they are golden brown.You can deep fry or shallow fry the cutlets.
Dhanya Uthappa Ballachanda is the founder and chairman of Devdan Foundation, Mysore. A special educator who runs a school for specially-abled children in Rajiv Nagar, Mysore, she is also a yoga instructor.
“My vision is to work towards the empowerment and betterment of specially-abled children.
I have a passion for cooking and gardening. I am sharing a recipe from my late mother-in-law, Mrs Ballachanda Gombe D. Poovaiah from Kadangamuroor village, Virajpet Taluk. This traditional dish used to be a prevalent household dish in the past. I have found great joy in rediscovering it.”
Kumbala Thoppu Palya with Egg
4 tsp Coconut oil or any cooking oil
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp cumin
Dry parangi malu (birdseye chilli) or dry chilli as per your taste
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Clean the leaves by flicking them to remove any dust. Then, holding the stem in
one hand, strip the outer fibres away.
Wash and chop the leaves into small pieces.
In a pan, heat the oil, then add the mustard and cumin.
Add the onion to the pan and fry till golden brown.
Add the dry chilli as per your taste, then the chopped pumpkin leaves and cook on a medium flame for 7 minutes.
Add salt to taste.
Now, add the two eggs and stir to mix thoroughly.
Pepper powder(preferably coarsely ground) can be added, for extra spice and more flavour.
Cook for 4 minutes on a low flame.
Kumbala Thoppu palya is ready to be served with akki otti or chapati.
I am neither a foodie nor do I have basic knowledge of cooking, but by involving those better qualified and doing some learning on the job, I was able to run a website dedicated to Coorg food. Today coorgrecipes.com is the ‘go to’ digital space for Kodagu cuisine.
I have been asked in the past about what sparked off my interest in Coorg food. Well, I had already undertaken the task of chronicling all things Coorg, and at some point during that journey I realised that the land has a rich culinary tradition as well, one which is certainly worth preserving. To that end, I put together a Coorg recipes website www.coorgrecipes.com way back in 2006.
How did I kick-start the website off to a good beginning? There were many who came forward to help, initially Manavattira Sharada Mandanna, contributed recipes that were well received. I also added recipes culled from the book ‘Kodava Theeni’ brought out by the Karnataka Kodava Sahithya Academy, this work was translated into English by Boverianda Maya Muddaiya.
A textile designer, Chindamada Arati Monappa also contributed content for the website on Coorg food and lifestyle. Besides which, the well-known researcher Boverianda Nanjamma Chinnappa, shared an article that she authored, titled ‘An Introduction To Coorg Cuisine’. It had cartoons by Nadikerianda Nala Ponnappa which added zing to the website.
I also included a ‘Coorg recipes section’ in the first edition of my book ‘Discover Coorg’ which was well-received by readers.
With the recipes site gaining traction, I made the site dynamic and introduced a section ‘Recipe of the Month’ where people could contribute Coorg recipes.
Over the years, the recipe site has garnered a rich collection of Coorg recipes contributed mostly by home cooks. With the internet boom, there has been a steady rise in the traffic to the site from readers seeking Kodagu recipes.
Till 2012, the recipe site included a section on Coorg jewellery, but wanting to focus totally on food, I created a new website only for the jewellery and called it www.coorgjewellery.in
After hiving off the jewellery portion, coorgrecipes was redesigned and a new section called ‘Coffee with Priya Ganapathy’ was added to it. The new addition carried content on the making of the perfect cup of coffee and tips on how to make different varieties of coffee liqueur.
Around this time I felt that the website was ready for the next phase of growth and that I needed to involve someone who could curate the site. It had to be someone both knowledgeable in the field of Coorg cuisine, and having food writing experience. Biddanda Shalini Nanda Nagappa (in picture) fitted the bill perfectly, a Canada-based food blogger who hosts “A Cookery Year in Coorg”, the most authentic Coorg food blog. Her popular blog features well-researched articles and family recipes.
I am currently on the job of putting together a book with content sourced from my recipes site.The book will also feature interviews with personalities in the culinary and cultural fields, and essays on various aspects of Coorg food and culture that have been contributed to the site. The proposed book will be well-illustrated with colour photographs of ingredients and preparations. The book will be curated by Shalini Nanda Nagappa.
I have created a group and page on Facebook to promote Coorg food. My Facebook group coorgrecipes.com has over 5,600 members. Whenever a new recipe is posted on my recipe website, the same is shared on my Facebook group and on the Facebook page dedicated to Coorg food.
There is something satisfying about the handing over of recipes for foods eaten by our ancestors, to our future generations. Through this food I feel, their love and wisdom will continue to nurture us.
Source: My Coorg Chronicles by P.T. Bopanna. Book available on Amazon. Follow the link below:
Nagachettira Smitha Kaverappa is a fashion designer turned Montessori trained teacher and now a cake artist. Married to Pravin Kaverappa, Smitha is mom to three sons. She shares the recipe of Madd Thoppu cake made out of the medicinal leaves (belonging to Justicia Wynaadensis Heyne of the Acanthaeceae family).
Preparations made out of Madd Thoppu are relished on the 18th day of the Kodava (Coorg) month of Kakkada when it is believed the leaves will have 18 varieties of herbal medicine.
. APF/ Maida – 150 grams
. Unsalted Butter (melted) – 60 grms
. Vegetable oil – 2 tsp
. Powdered Sugar – 100 grams
. Salt – ¼ tsp
. Baking Powder – 1 tsp
. Baking soda – ½ tsp
. Vanilla extract – 1 tsp (optional)
. Purple food color – 2 drops (optional)
. Yoghurt / thick curd – 150 grams
. Madd Thoppu rasa (juice) – 100 ml reduced to 50 ml
. Grease a 7 inches square tin or a loaf tin.
. Sieve the dry ingredients together twice.
. Mix Maida, baking powder baking soda, salt together and set aside.
. In a bowl take the butter, oil and sugar and whisk to a smooth paste.
. Add the set curd/ yoghurt and whisk to combine.
. Add the madd rasa and combine gently. Now add the dry ingredients in three additions and gently combine. Do not over mix.
. Add the vanilla extract if using after the first addition of the dry ingredients.
. Bake in a preheated oven@180-degree Celsius for about 25 to 27 minutes or until the skewer inserted in the Centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack. Slice and serve.
. Keep all the ingredients at room temperature.
. Preheat the owen before mixing in the cake batter.
. Grease the cake tin with butter / oil or use a parchment paper to line the bottom of the tin and gently brush some butter or oil on top.
. Vanilla is optional. I did not use as I wanted to retain the natural flavour of the madd rasa. Food colour is also optional. I used it to give a marble effect.
. Butter can be substituted entirely with vegetable oil. Butter is more flavorful though.
. I used mini loaf tins 4.5/2 inches – 3 tins.
. Can add slivers of almond on top of the cake batter and then bake it. It will enhance the taste and also the beauty of the cake.
Colocasia, known as Kaymbu in the Kodava language, it is one of the most useful food plants, with its edible corms (kaymbu kandé) stems and leaves. There are several types of Kaymbu that are commonly eaten. The two main ones are the green stemmed and red stemmed (chondé kaymbu) varieties. There is another thicker leafed variety, known as mara (tree ) kaymbu, that grows on the sheltered branches of large trees.
Kaymbu in all its forms – tubers, stems and leaves, needs to be cooked thoroughly to help neutralize the calcium oxalate crystals (known as raphides) present in it. The needle-like crystals can cause severe irritation to the soft tissues of the mouth and throat.
In Southern India, colocasia is almost always cooked using some tamarind in the recipe. While this might seem counter intuitive, to add something sour to the already tart leaves and stems, it may have an effect in further neutralizing some of the calcium oxalate. Some people experience skin irritation while handling the raw plant parts. This can usually be prevented by applying oil to the hands before proceeding to prepare the dish.
Here are two recipes from Cavadichanda Pooja Muthamma, who is an Assistant Professor at an Engineering college. Her hobbies include baking and painting.
KAEMBU (COLOCASIA) CURRY
Preparation time – 30-35 minutes
Kaembu curry – Recipe 1
What you need:
Colocasia leaves with stalk – 1 kg
Kachampuli(Garcinia vinegar) – 1 ¼ tsp
Water – ½ cup
Garlic – 8 -14 cloves
Grated coconut – ½ cup
Onion -1 (large)
Bird’s eye chilli – 20-25 nos.
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Jeera – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cooking oil – 3 tsp
Curry leaves (optional) – 7-8 leaves
What you do:
Finely chop Colocasia leaves and its peeled stalks.
To a deep fry pan, add chopped colocasia, kachampuli, salt, water. Cook it on medium flame for about 15- 20 minutes. Then mash it coarsely.
Blend coconut, jeera, turmeric powder, coriander powder, bird’s eye chilli, and 4 cloves of garlic to a fine paste and add to mashed colocasia.
Mix well, cover and cook it for 5-10 minutes on medium flame. Keep it aside.
Heat a frying pan, add oil, mustard seeds and let them crackle. Then add curry leaves, chopped onion, 8- 10 garlic cloves and fry till it turns golden brown. Pour over the prepared colocasia curry.
KAEMBU CURRY – RECIPE 2
What you need:
Colocasia leaves with stalk – 1 kg
Lemon juice– 3 -4 tsp
Garlic – 8 -14 cloves
Onion -2 (large)
Bird’s eye chilli – 20-25, ground to a paste
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Water – ¼ cup
Salt – 1 ½ tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Cooking oil – 3-5 tsp
What you do:
Finely chop colocasia leaves and its peeled stalks.
To a deep fry pan, add chopped colocasia, salt, turmeric powder, coriander powder, water and let it cook on medium flame for about 15- 20 minutes. Then mash it coarsely.
Add bird’s eye chilli paste, and lemon juice to mashed colocasia and cook it for another 5-6 minutes.
Heat a frying pan, add oil, mustard seeds and as they crackle, add finely chopped onions, 8 -10 cloves of garlic and fry till it turns golden brown. Pour over the prepared colocasia curry to enhance its flavour.
Enjoy the Kaembu curry with akki otti (rice chapathi)!