Pick tender leaves and shoots (flowers too) from plants growing away from polluted areas.
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
2-3 green chillis, slit
•2-3 dry red chillis, broken into large bits
4 cups packed Cassia tora leaves and tender shoots (chop finely for a more intense flavour)
2 tbsp grated coconut (optional)
A pinch of rock salt
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions for a couple of minutes, then add the chillis. Cook for a minute, then add the thaaté thoppu. Stir to mix, cover, and cook on a low flame until the leaves are tender. Add salt to taste and sprinkle on fresh coconut if using.
Eat in moderation – it does have a mildly laxative effect!
1 1/2 kg pork, with fat and skin (some bone in if possible) cut into 1″- 2″ pieces. For a succesful pandi curry, you must ideally include a good portion of fat. Try a mix of pork belly and shoulder cuts
1/2 –1 tbsp chilli powder, or to taste (reduce chilli powder and increase pepper in the roasted spice mix for a more warming version)
1 tbsp turmeric (less if the turmeric is strong)
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger, ground to a paste
10 -12 cloves of garlic, ground to a paste
A pinch of salt
Separately roast the following:
2 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp peppercorns
On medium-low heat, roast each of the spices in a heavy pan, taking care not to scorch them. The coriander and cumin should be an even, dark brown. This is key to developing the deep colour and flavour of pandi curry. Roast the mustard until it sputters, and very lightly roast the peppercorns. Cool, then finely powder all the spices together.
Marinate the pork in the ingredients in the first group for at least half an hour. You can add the roasted spice powder to the marinade, or braise the meat in it briefly, before the hot water goes in.
• 2 – 3 medium onions, finely sliced, or chopped
• 2 – 3 green chillis slit
• 2 tbsp oil, or use a nice bit of fat, separated from the pork
• 1 tsp kachampuli*. (Always use less than you think you’ll need, and add more if required)
• Salt to taste
In a deep pan, kadhai, or wok, heat the oil (or fat) and fry the green chillis and onions until soft and translucent. Add the marinated pork, and stir well to mix. Add some salt and fry for 8 – 10 minutes, till the masala no longer smells raw, and the pork is dry. If you haven’t added the roasted spice powder, add it now, and stir to mix.
Add 2 – 3 cups of hot water, or enough to half cover the meat. Use your judgement, since some meat can release a fair amount of liquid when cooked. Bring to a low boil, stir thoroughly to mix, then cover and cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, until tender. Check for salt before the meat is completely cooked.
Add the kachampuli and simmer for a couple of minutes.
The second version is similar, but with more varied spices, and a slightly different sequence of cooking. It makes a kind of dry braised dish. This is definitely one for those who like it spicy!
Pandi Curry 2.0
1 1/2 kg pork, with fat and skin (some bone in if possible) cut into 1″- 2″ pieces
1/2 –1 tbsp chilli powder, or to taste (reduce chilli powder and increase pepper for a more warming version)
1 tbsp turmeric (less if the turmeric is strong)
2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
10 – 12 cloves of garlic
3 – 4 green chillis, or to taste
1 cup “sambar onions”, or finely sliced shallots
Rub the turmeric and red chilli powder into the pork, then mix in the ground ginger garlic mixture, and a pinch of salt. Set aside for 1/2 hour.
•Separately roast the following:
2 tbsp coriander seed
1 tbsp mustard seed
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp peppercorns
1/4 tsp fenugreek seed
2 – 3 cloves
1″ stick cassia
Prepare as in the previous recipe, with the coriander and cumin roasted dark, and the remaining spices more lightly.
Grind together to a fine powder.
Place the marinated pork in a deep pan, kadhai, or wok, add one cup of hot water, cover and cook until tender. Add small amounts of water if it looks like it’s drying out before its cooked. Add salt to taste before the meat is fully cooked.
Add 1 tsp kachampuli, and cook on low heat for a few minutes, then add 2 generous tbsp of the roasted spice masala and cook till dry.
Serve as usual, with kadambuttus, and wedges of fresh, fragrant limes.
250 gms dried fish (or use about 100 gms dried shrimp in this recipe)
2-3 green chillies, slit
3-4 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ground coriander
2 tsp red chilli powder or to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
Grind together 1 tsp dark roasted cumin and 1 tsp mustard seed, roasted until it sputters
1 tsp kachampuli or 2 tbsp tamarind extract or a generous squeeze of lime juice over the finished dish
Salt if necessary
Prepare the fish and bitter gourd:
Thicker cuts of dried salted fish should ideally be soaked for 10 – 12 hours, in several changes of water to allow the salt to properly leach out. If you need to speed things up, pour hot water over the dried fish and let it soak for about an hour. Change the water a couple of times. When the salt fish has softened enough to slice easily, cut or flake it to the size you want. Rinse, and drain. Meatier fish like king mackerel may need to be cooked briefly to soften it. Add a little turmeric to the cooking water. Shrimp need careful picking through and cleaning to make sure no grit remains.
Trim the ends of the bitter gourds, then slice down the length. If the seeds are tender, leave them in. Otherwise, scoop them out and slice the gourd into even half-rings about 1/2 cm thick. Parboil the bitter gourd to rid it of some of the bitterness. Do not overcook. Drain and set aside.
Heat the oil in a deep pan, kadhai or wok. Add the onions and slit green chillis. Fry till they soften.
Add the bitter gourd, fish, and all the dry spices. Mix thoroughly and cook on medium heat for 3 – 4 minutes. Add two cups of hot water, cover, and cook on medium-low heat for 20 – 25 minutes or until the fish and bitter gourd are tender, and the onions have broken down to thicken the sauce. Add more water if necessary. Check if additional salt is needed, then add the tamarind (I prefer tamarind in this dish) stir, and cook for a few more minutes.
Best eaten with akki ottis or steamed rice.
For a delicious vegetarian option, follow the same recipe (minus the fish, of course) and add a few cloves of crushed garlic along with the onions, and 2 – 3 tbsp of jaggery towards the end of cooking.
Vary the ratio of bitter gourd, onions and fish to your taste. I like to use equal quantities and the result is surprisingly mild.
Cooked in a shallow, 9″ – 10″ wide earthenware pan known as a “wodu” or “odu”, oduputtu is made from an unfermented rice batter, seasoned with salt. Sometimes a little fenugreek seed is ground along with the rice. So far, so simple. What really makes it unique, however, is the seasoning that is applied to the pan. No oil is used, but before the batter is poured, the pan is rubbed with a lump of resin, known as “banda” (bun-dah). This is the hardened exudate of the Indian Copal tree, Vateria indica. It releases a delicate fragrance but very little smoke.The resin vaporizes quickly, leaving barely discernible traces on the crisp base of the oduputtu, which takes on a subtle, elusive, fragrance that may as well be in the scented air.
Rice pancakes with a fancy air about them.
1 cup raw rice, soaked for 2 – 3 hours
2 tbsp soft, cooked rice
1/4 tsp salt
A small lump of “banda”
Grind the soaked raw rice and the cooked rice together to a smooth batter and add the salt. Add water as needed to make a batter with a consistency a little thinner than single cream.
Heat the pan* on a low, steady flame until it is evenly heated. Keep the heat on medium-low. Grasp one side of the pan with a piece of cloth and rub the banda firmly onto the heated pan, working in a circular motion. Breathe in that delicate scent.
Quickly pour in about 1/3 cup of batter, tipping the pan as you pour to coat the inside, leaving a margin of a few inches around the edge. Wait until the surface bubbles disappear and the batter looks just set. Place a lid over the pan. Remove the lid after a couple of minutes.
When the edges start to turn golden brown and lift away from the pan, slide a knife around the edges and lift the oduputtu out.The puttu is cooked when the base is crisp and insides soft and white.
In my grandmother’s home , these were most often eaten with butter and honey as a teatime snack, or, quite on the other end of things, with a sheep’s head curry, as part of a more substantial meal.
2 cups fine thari, soaked for 1/2 hour, then drained
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly powdered cardamom
1 tsp ghee
A large, deep, heavy bottomed pan, preferably with handles
A sturdy wooden spoon
A nuuputtu wara or, if you have strong wrists, an idiappam or shavige press.
A sekala or any suitable steaming apparatus large enough to accommodate the dumplings
Small plates or squares of banana leaf to collect the noodles as they are pressed.
A spare pair of hands to help with the work.
Bring the water to a boil in the pan and add the salt, cardamom and ghee.
Add the soaked, drained thari and cook for 10 – 15 minutes on medium-high, stirring constantly once it begins to thicken. The mixture is ready when it forms a lump of dough that comes away cleanly from the sides and bottom of the pan. It will also be really difficult to stir at this point. Remove from the heat, cover with a clean tea cloth to keep the steam in and set aside for 10 minutes.
While you’re waiting for the dough to cool, begin heating water in your steamer. Line the inside with cheesecloth or layers of muslin large enough to fold over and cover the contents.
Have a bowl of warm water with a little ghee in it ready.When the dough is cool enough to handle, moisten your palms in the water, scoop small portions of dough out and press firmly into cylindrical forms, approximately four inches long and two inches wide. You can make these dumplings a little smaller or larger, depending on what size you plan to make your nuuputtus. They should however fit comfortably in the barrel of your press. Keep the bowl of water handy for the pressing process too.
The water in the steamer should be boiling by now. Arrange the dumplings inside, fold the cloth over to cover completely. Put the lid on and steam for approximately 30 minutes on medium heat. If you’re using a bamboo steamer, increase the cooking time by 10 minutes and do not overcrowd the baskets.
While the dough is steaming, prepare your press and a place to lay out the nuuputtus. Remove the steamer from the heat and open it to allow the steam out for a couple of minutes. You must work quickly, before the dough cools and hardens. Lightly moisten your fingers in the bowl of water, pick up a hot dumpling and begin the pressing out.
Assuming you’re doing the turning, have your helper ready to receive the noodles on small individual plates. Move the plate in a slow spiral motion to allow the noodles to pile up in tidy, compact swirls. Transfer the puttus to a surface lined with a slightly dampened cloth (to prevent sticking and also drying out) and cover with a tea cloth until ready to serve.
A delicate pulao, inspired by memories of Kashmir!
2 cups basmati rice
500gms assorted mushrooms (anything goes!)
1/2 cup dried mushrooms, chopped or ground and soaked in 1 cup hot water
•3 1/2 cups mutton stock
1 cup finely minced shallots
2 tbsp fresh ginger juice
1 –1/12 tsp black peppercorns (I like more pepper)
1-2 cassia leaves
1 1/2 tsp shah jeera*
3 tbsp ghee
1 1/2 tsps sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
2 1/2 cups of hot water**
Wash the rice thoroughly in several changes of water. Drain and set aside.
Clean the mushrooms if necessary.Pick apart or slice into pieces about 2-3 Inches in size. If using dried mushrooms, chop or grind them coarsely and pour one cup of boiling water over them. Let steep for 20 mins.
In a deep pan, heat the ghee. Drop in the cassia leaves, followed by the peppercorns. Stir for a minute, then sprinkle on the shah jeera. Stir for half a minute more, then add the minced shallots to the pan. Sautée gently until they turn translucent, then add the sugar to the pan. Continue cooking until the shallots begin to brown a little.
Add the mushrooms to the pan, mix thoroughly and cook uncovered until they begin to release moisture. Cover and cook for 3-4 minutes. Uncover the pan and add the rice and ginger juice, along with the hot water and salt. Stir to mix. Bring the mixture to a fast simmer and keep it there for a couple of minutes.
Stir, then cover, lower the heat, and cook on very low heat for 15- 20 minutes, or until the rice has absorbed all the moisture.
Allow to cool slightly before turning out onto a platter.
* If it’s not available, use the other “shah jeera” that looks a little like a caraway seed, but tastes like a milder cumin, or regular cumin.
Gooseberries should be scored through to the seed, sectioned, and evenly sliced. It’s not essential to slice the fruit, but it does help speed up the process of maceration, especially with the larger variety of gooseberry. Removing the seeds also makes the straining process easier.The gooseberries will typically release most of their juice in the first two days.
For every kilo of prepared fruit use 500gms of cane sugar.
For kaipuli or lime juice, use 2/3 cup of sugar for every cup of juice.
Pour into wide mouthed, non reactive dishes, stir to mix, then place in the sunniest spot in the garden.
Cover with a food net, or muslin if there’s likely to be much dust about.
Don’t forget the water bath!
Stir a couple of times a day, just to be sure the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. And remember to bring the dishes in at night!
After three days in the sun (or when the liquid level has reduced by about an inch), strain and bottle it.
Refrigerated, this syrup keeps well for up to two months.
Dry fried tender unripe jackfruit with brown chickpeas in a spicy coconut masala.
500 gms raw tender jackfruit
Clean and cut into small bite size pieces and cook in unsalted water until fork tender (a little added turmeric is optional)
1 cup brown chickpeas, soaked for a few hours in fresh water, then cooked until tender
Roast the following separately, then grind to a powder:
4 red chillies
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander Seeds
1 small piece of cinnamon or cassia
Grind the dry powdered masala along with the following ingredients and add 1 cup of water to make
1/2 cup coconut
1 inch piece of ginger
2 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes (or 2 tsps tamarind extract)
A few sprigs of fresh
4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
1 –2 tbsp of ghee
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Heat the ghee in a large pan, kadhai, or wok. When hot,add the mustard seeds,allow them to sputter, then add the cumin, garlic, curry leaves and turmeric. Fry on low for about a minute. Increase the heat to medium, then add the ground masala and cook it for about 7 to 8 minutes, add the cooked jackfruit and the chickpeas. Mix well and cook all for another ten minutes.
The wet, dark months of the monsoon bring about a mysterious transformation in an otherwise quite unremarkable plant known locally as “maddu thoppu”, lit. medicine leaf (Justicia wynaadensis).
This plant grows wild around Coorg, favouring moist, shady areas. During the month of the most intense monsoon rain*, mid-July to mid-August, a period known as “kakkada”, an extract is made from boiling the stems and leaves in plenty of fresh water. The extract has a peculiarly medicinal fragrance and the colour can range from shades of magenta, through to deep purple and, when at its strongest, indigo.
The extract is used to prepare various dishes like maddu kuul, which is simply rice cooked in the extract, maddu payasa, a sweet rice pudding, or maddu puttu, an unsweetened rice cake that can be eaten with ghee and honey, or a jaggery syrup. It may be an acquired taste, but maddu thoppu certainly has a loyal fan following!
An unsweetened rice cake with the texture of blancmange.
1 cup raw rice, soaked for 12 hours
3/4 tsp salt
5 cups of maddu thoppu extract
Making Maddu Thoppu extract
•Pack a large, deep saucepan 3/4 full with maddu thoppu stems and and leaves. Cover with cold water and cook on a very gentle simmer for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Make sure the leaves are immersed at all times. Strain and reserve the deeply coloured liquid and discard the stems and leaves.
Drain the soaked rice and grind it to a very smooth paste with 1/2 cup of the maddu thoppu extract. Add the remaining liquid and salt and cook the mixture on gentle heat, as you would a custard.It should begin to thicken in 10-12 minutes (sooner if the extract is freshly made and still hot).
Stir constantly and do not allow lumps to form. When the mixture is very thick and no longer of pourable consistency, (another 5 minutes or so), spoon it very quickly into ungreased thalis or dhokla plates. Thump the plates on the countertop to level the mixture but do not smooth the surface as it disturbs the beautiful sheen.
No access to maddu thoppu?
Try the same recipe with beetroot juice! This is something I came up with in a fit of monsoon nostalgia, with maddu thoppu a very long way away. It’s pretty tasty and, besides, beets are good for you!
Grind 2/3 cup peeled, chopped beets per cup of juice you plan to use and top up the measure with water. Strain and reserve the pulp for beetroot halva or a thoran.
Proceed as for the maddu puttu recipe. I like to add a little sugar and ground cardamom to taste. Sugar present in the beets and any added sugar will affect the way it holds together, so it has a softer set.