Today, if we crave a fish curry, many of us just go to the local supermarket or cold storage, pick up our fish of choice, and we’re ready. But in the days before refrigeration and easy road transportation from the coast of Mangalore or Kerala, it was the Mapilla traders who supplied fresh fish to homes and to the weekly shandy (market) held in small towns and villages in Coorg.
They brought with them a taste of the coast, in the form of sea fish like sardines, mackerel and dried fish and shrimp. Locals eagerly looked forward to the arrival of the “Meen Mapille” with his baskets of fish, and the preparation of a delicious, spicy fish curry paired with akki otti that was sure to follow! Hemalatha Nachappa shares her ‘Meen Kari’ recipe.
½ kg Fish 1 tbsp Coriander seeds ½ tsp Cumin 2 Red Chillies 1 inch Ginger 3 pods Garlic 1 medium size Onion 5-6 tbsp Coconut (grated) 8 grains Fenugreek 1 pinch Mustard ½ tsp Turmeric powder 1 tsp Chilli powder 1/2 tbsp Kachampuli Salt to taste
1 tbsp oil
1 pinch Mustard
½ small Onion, finely chopped or sliced
1 small sprig Curry Leaves
A few drops of Kachampuli
1 large Green Chilli
Clean and wash the fish. Marinate the fish with salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder and kachampuli. Keep aside for half an hour.
Heat a little oil in a pan. Add coriander seeds, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, onion, red chilli, mustard, coconut and fry. Turn off the stove when the spices become slightly brown. Take care not to burn it. Let it cool and then grind to a smooth paste.
Heat oil in a pan and add mustard. When it splutters add the curry leaves and onion. When the onion turns slightly brown, add the ground masala and water. When it starts boiling add the marinated fish. Add salt and kachampuli (3-4 drops) to taste. Slit a green chilli length wise and add to the curry just before turning off the stove.
Ballachanda Deepa Chengappa, who works for IBM in Bangalore, has this fetish for reading recipe books with tempting food pictures.
For Deepa, cooking is a stress-buster. She says: “I switch off all the other thoughts while cooking. I grind, chop and mince all the unwanted thoughts when I cook.”
Deepa likes variety in food, and loves the Coorg cuisine the best. “I believe the aroma of the food is the key to good food. It should never be too strong or too pungent. Coorg cuisine has a very distinct flavour.”
She recalls that as a kid, she enjoyed the summer vacation in Coorg, which involved playing in the stream, catching small fish, etc.
Deepa’s cousin, Chandra akka, would pamper her by preparing Koovale puttu and Chekke pappada. Chekke pappada was Deepa’s all-time favourite snack.
One kg half ripe jackfruit bulbs de-seeded.
Salt to taste.
1 spoon coriander seed fried and crushed.
6 green chillies (parangi malu) or red dry chillies.
Steam the jackfruit bulbs in pressure cooker without using the weight. Drain the excess water. Coarsely grind the jackfruit bulbs with the above ingredients. Knead it into a dough make small balls. Take two plastic sheets, place the ball between the sheets and press it in hand to make round thin pappadas. You could also use the roti press machine to make thin pappadas.
Spread it on a neat cloth/ plastic sheet and dry in the Sun by turning it on both sides. When it has dried completely, store them in air tight jars. Deep fry them in oil and enjoy the crispy pappadas.
Tip: While Sun drying pappadas, you can cover them with old baby mosquito nets to protect from birds/ ants nibbling into it.
Choute Pachchadi (Cucumber in spiced curd/Cucumber chutney)
Palanganda Saroja Annaiah is a homemaker from Bangalore. She says Choute Pachchadi is a traditional Kodagu dish which is served with palav or ghee rice. Choute Pachchadi can also be eaten with plain white rice and pandi curry (Kodagu pork curry).
1. ½ Coconut – grated.
2. Garlic – 7 to 8 cloves
3. Green chillies – 7 to 8
4. Salt to taste
5. Medium size cucumber*
6. Curd 1 small cup.
Lemon juice 2 table spoons.
1. Cooking oil 2 tbsp
2. Coriander leaves
3. Mustard seeds ¼ tsp
4. Dry red chillies (deseeded and broken into large pieces) 2
5. A few curry leaves
METHOD: Grind coconut, garlic, green chillies and salt to fine paste. Cut cucumber into small pieces and grind it. Mix together the coconut paste, cucumber, and lemon juice if using. Transfer the Pacchadi /chutney into a serving bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and add mustard. Allow it to splutter. Add curry leaves, red chilli and coriander leaves. Then pour it on the pacchadi in the serving bowl. In the end, add curd to the pacchadi and mix well using a spoon.
*Choute is a type of field cucumber, with less moisture and tougher flesh than most commercially grown varieties. If using the latter, finely grate the cucumber, and squeeze out a little of the liquid before using.
Smitha Kuttayya Boppanda is based in Chennai and runs a home bakery called BAKED DELIGHTSS since 2007. She was involved in hosting a Kodava food festival at the Taj Fisherman Cove in 2006. Smitha also conducts workshops in cooking and baking which are very popular in Chennai.
She says: “My recipes are always a combination of recipes given to me by my grand-mother, aunts, cousins, relatives and anyone I consider a good cook. I feel cooking is more an instinct than having the ‘best’ or the ‘most authentic’ recipe. For that matter, wood-fire cooked food tastes better than any other. ‘But is it practical nowadays?’ So I have learnt to innovate within the boundaries of that cuisine and to suit the people I cook for.”
“This recipe for pulav is a combination of about 4 recipes I have. The basics are the same in almost all of them. This is the combination of ingredients and flavours that works best for me.”
Since the typical Chingri akki (a very special variety of small grained rice available in Coorg) is not readily available everywhere, I opted for the Jeera rice, which is more readily available. Since it is very delicate, it has to be handled very gently while frying and mixing.
Please go through the recipe fully before you start on it. It is not difficult if you keep the ingredients ready and have an idea of the sequence and process.
Jeera rice: ½ kg
Mutton pieces (with bones as bones lend a lot of flavour to the dish): ¾ kg
Onions: 4 medium whole and peeled
Onions chopped: 2
Coconut grated: ½ cup
Garlic one whole, peeled and cleaned
Ginger cleaned: 2 to 3 inches
Green chillies: 4-5
Green Cardamom: 4 whole
Poppy seeds: 1 tsp
Coriander seeds: 2 tsp
Cumin seeds: 3tsp
Black pepper: 2 tsp
Turmeric powder: 1tsp
Chilli powder: 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Ghee (clarified butter): 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves 1 bunch cleaned and finely chopped
Oil for frying and water for cooking.
1. Clean and wash the mutton, drain out all the water, add salt, turmeric, chilli powder and 4 or 5 pods of crushed garlic. Mix well and leave to marinate for about half an hour.
2. Wash the rice and put it to drain
3. Take some oil in a pressure cooker and fry one chopped onion, the crushed garlic, crushed ginger. Fry till the onions are golden. Now put in the mutton and stir till most of the water is dried up. Add half a cup of water and slightly cook the mutton (I cook for about one whistle).
4. Now take the ghee in a thick bottomed pan and heat it. Add 2 cloves, a small bit of cinnamon and about 4tbsp of the chopped onions and fry till golden. Add the washed and drained rice and fry. Be very careful while frying the rice as it will be brittle and can break easily.
5. While this is happening, put a whole peeled onions (one by one) on the flame of the gas burner directly and allow to burn on slow flame till the outer layers get tender and transparent.
6. Now fry the cumin, coriander, poppy seeds, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, green chillies and grated coconut with about 1 tbsp oil for about 5 minutes on high flame stirring continuously.
7. Put the fried coconut etc in the blender along with the whole onions. Blend. This need not be a smooth paste but coarse like a chutney.
8. Now drain out the water from the cooked mutton and measure it. Add more water to this measured quantity to make it a total on 2 cups. Bring these 2 cups of liquid to a boil and add it to the fried rice. Add the mutton and the ground masala to it. Carefully stir and add the chopped coriander.
9. When it starts boiling, turn the flame to minimum and close with a tight lid. Check in about 8 minutes. Slowly turn the rice and mutton so that the top and bottom layers get mixed. Close again and cook till done… about 20 minutes. (You can also put the vessel on a thava and allow to cook on even and low heat for 30 to 35 minutes)
If you are short on patience, you can skip steps 5, 6 and 7. Combine all the ingredients in these steps in the blender and use it in step 8. There is a difference in taste but both methods turn out a good Kodava style mutton pulav.
Serve this with cucumber raitha or sweet tamarind chutney.
Method: Skin the banana and slice it find. Grind pepper, cumin seed, garlic and onion well and apply on the banana slices. Season it with mustard, red chilli and curry leaves. Cook it with just enough water to get thick consistency. After the water dries up, the curry is ready to serve.
Method: Mix tamarind in water. Squeeze the pulp well and throw the pulp out. Squeeze tomato in the same water. Take out the seeds and skin. Keep the flesh. Add salt to it. Roast the pepper corns and cumin seeds. Crush and powder it roughly. Try all the rest of the ingredients in oil, after chopping them finely. Put the crushed cumin seed and peppercorns to the seasoning and stir once. Add the tomato and tamarind juice to it and keep it covered. Allow it to boil for 5 minutes and then remove.
Method: Soak the rice in water for 2 hours. Add rest of the ingredients and grind to a very fine watery consistency (when pressed between fingers the mixture should not feel grainy). It should spread freely when poured on the hot Dosa Tava (pan). Hold the pan on either side soon after pouring the Dosa and tilt gently to spread the batter. It will be find and soft. Fold it into four quarters while on the Tava and then remove it.
Nooputtu thari (Rice rava or rice semolina) – 1 cup
Water – 1 ½ cup
Ghee – 1 teaspoon
Salt – ¼ teaspoon or to taste
Cardamom powder – from 1 pod
Method: Cook this thari. Make the cooked mixture into big enough balls to fit into the mouth of the Nooputtu press. Steam these balls. Press the steamed balls in the Nooputtu press. Collect the Nooputtu on a saucer or banana leaf. When the balls are being steamed, tie the cardamom powder in a white cloth and keep it in the middle of the balls to get a nice aroma. While cooking the thair add a little Ghee to prevent it from getting stuck to the bottom of the vessel.
Method: Roast the fish. Scale and debone it. Grind the green chillies into the fish. Chop onions fine and mix with the fish. Extract lime juice pour over the fish. Mix well. Keep for 10 minutes. Add salt to taste.(Remember, dried fish is salty).