Down memory lane – evergreen Coorg and a recipe

I’ve been procrastinating this post for a while now. I’ve been missing Coorg and Mumbai rains have reminded me of my childhood memories of  Coorg.

My mom was brought up in Coorg and is a ‘Coorgi’. My mom always took my brother and me to Coorg during our summer vacations. We spent a lot of time, eating the local delicacies prepared by my grandma and running around in the fields. Ah! those where the days! From a very young age, we are aware of Coorg’s popular spices. The landscape is serene and greenery is reflected by the sky even. We would experience fresh greenery out there,  there are times when i just feel like packing myself back in time.  I still get my supply of local spices from Coorg –  pepper, cardamon, coffee and sometimes honey too.

The local cuisine is influenced by what they grow and it is prominent in most of the Kodava  dishes. The meals are simple and fish consumption is rare. The food is mostly cooked in the meat’s own fat and the use of ghee or butter is very less. Most of them are farmers and consumption of rice is high; a fairly large number of rice rotis with coconut based veg or egg curry is consumed before heading out to the fields. Being one of the largest coffee growing regions, coffee is consumed more than tea. Coffee is made differently by adding black jaggery instead of sugar or regular jaggery and is consumed with or without milk. The flavour is very different and may take some time to get used to. Coconut is used; but not as much as Kerala or Mangalore – even though both are it’s neighbours.

Pandi curry (Pork curry) is the most popular dish and a true Kodava err…or a half Kodava can make the dish well. It is a recipe carried  forward from generations. This dish is so important that no Kodava wedding can take place without it. The ingredients are mostly local and pandi curry gets it’s flavour from kachampuli – a local vinegar, which is a potent, souring agent. Here is all the information that you need to know on how kachampuli is made. As this is the most important ingredient, bearing no substitutes, without this there is no pandi curry and any attempt in making it without it will only result in failure. Kachampuli is mostly available in Coorg and is not found elsewhere. Kachampuli is not only used in pandi curry but is also used in preparation of fish fry and chicken.

Pandi curry is deep brownish-black in colour. It gets it’s colour  not only from  kachampuli but also from coriander powder. Dried Coriander powder is also an important ingredient which not only gives gravy like coating but also gives it a colour. The powder  roasted in a pan until brown and added to the meat. The blend of simple spices is what makes this dish unique in nature.

Traditionally the curry is made from wild boar hunted in the forest. Kodavas belong to a warrior clan and are very fond of hunting. A combination of flesh and fat is suggested while making the curry. The meat cooks in it’s own fat without the need of any other fat/oil. Kodavas believe that the pandi fat is the true essence of pandi curry.

Want to know more about Coorg and it’s culture, hop on to Rushina’s blog and also find ME making some akki rotis 🙂

Fresh coriander is used only as a garnish

Ingredients for pandi curry

2kg pork – fat and flesh mixed, cut to medium size

25-30 garlic cloves, skinned and crushed

10-15 fresh curry leaves

3-4 green chillies, crushed or slit

1 medium sized onion, sliced

1/2tsp turmeric powder

1tsp red chilli powder (you could add more if you like it spicy)

4tbs coriander powder – dry roast in a pan until brown

1tbs kachampuli

salt to taste

For dry Massala

2tbs cumin seeds

2tbs peppercorns

5-6 cloves

2nos – 2 inch cinnamon sticks

(dry roast the above until brown and grind in a blender when cool)

Mix the meat with the ingredients, except for coriander powder, kachampuli and dry masala with enough water to cook the meat. Cook on medium flame for about one hour, mixing every now and then. If you would like to cook it faster you could also pressure cook and transfer it to a pan for the next step. Once the meat is half-cooked or about to being done, add the powdered dry masala, browned coriander powder and kachampuli. Allow it to cook for 15-20 minutes to blend in the flavours. Check for salt and spice at this stage. If you like pandi curry dry, burn the excess water, just enough to coat the meat. Serve hot with Akki roti, Kadambuttu or as a dry starter. Serves 6. Cooking time is about 1.5 hours.

Pandi curry is better had the next day. Always heat pandi curry in a pan and do not microwave. The more you heat and the longer you keep; tastier it gets. You can refrigerate pandi curry  for a week. Kodavas like to wash down the grease/fat  with hot water after the meal.

Kodavas also enjoy their pandi curry with rum, so cheers to that!

Me! Dressed up in Kodava attire and wearing my grandma’s jewelry, passed on by my grandma to mom and now to me 🙂

How I started using peanut butter in my diet….

Peanut butter has been my first product, ever since I started retailing i2cook products. You will be surprised that I hadn’t even tasted peanut butter (PB) until, then. I’ve noticed that a lot of you detest peanut butter or rather are not used it. I was one amongst you.

I was never brought up on PB and it took me some time to get used to it. I realized that PB is a MUST in my diet.  I started looking up on the net and found that there are some thousand recipes to gawk at ( I LOVE food porn, especially – food gawker). I took it up as a challenge to come up with some recipes that will not only make me like PB, but also give me variety for my everyday use.

Here is what I came up with

– Banana and peanut butter smoothie

– No bake peanut butter and oat cookies

The result – an instant win 🙂

Ingredients for Banana & PB Smoothie

1 banana, peeled, chopped roughly

2tbs natural peanut butter

1tsp cocoa powder

raw sugar or honey to your liking

1/2 cup milk, yogurt or soy milk

ice (optional)

peanuts for garnish (optional)

Combine all the ingredients in a blender with some ice until smooth. Drink chilled. Serves one.

You can carry your PB smoothie in cute little bottles to work.

Ingredients for No bake PB & Oats cookies

1 cup rolled oats, lightly toasted

1tbs butter

1 1/2 tbs sugar

200gms natural peanut butter

1/2tbs raisins

Heat butter and sugar in a pan, on medium flame. Heat until the sugar has melted and bring it to a light boil.Turn off the stove and mix peanut butter and oats. Allow it to cool enough for you to shape them into desired shape. Lay them on a tray to dry and refrigerate for atleast two hours or overnight. Store them in an air tight container, refrigerated. They (can) last for about two weeks.  I got 16-20 small cookies.


Why PB is good for you

  •  Peanut butter is considered as the “real food” and is stated has the best sport food.
  •  Peanut butter is perfect for dieters. It can satisfy you sooner and won’t keep you hungry for too long. Small amount can quell hunger faster.
  • It is packed with nutrients, which help you build and repair muscles.
  • Fat is good for you – the monounsaturated fat is good for your heart.
  • Peanut butter sandwich is healthier and better than a fast food burger.
  • Natural peanut butter (with oil formation on top) is healthier than the commercial ones, in which the oils get converted into harder and saturated (trans-fat).

Useful links

Harvard Health Publications

CNN Health

Home Cooking

The art of ravioli making at Botticino,Trident

A special sit down lunch

I  recently had the pleasure of being invited to Botticino at Trident for lunch. The restaurant presents traditional Italian cuisine from regions of Piedmont, Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Lazio presented with a contemporary touch. A well designed menu with good wine and conversations flowing, an afternoon well organized by the host and the restaurant.  The theme of the afternoon lunch was ravioli making, where the head chef of the restaurant, Vikas Vichare showed us the art of making ravioli.

Ravioli is an art of perfecting  shape which transforms into a divine taste. A perfect ravioli should melt in your mouth, allowing the flavours (stuffing) to ooze out and tickle your senses.

Ravioli can be made with an electric pasta machine or by hand using a rolling pin, which is a more tedious process. As the chef explained, the dough is kneaded harder than our Indian puri dough. The process of kneading and transforming into thin sheets is a visual treat.

Chef  Vikas used a stuffing of boneless chicken coated with cream and mascarpone. Stuffing can be anything that you like – eggs, spinach and ricotta, or mushroom. Herbs also play an essential role in flavouring ravioli.

Processing pasta dough for making pasta sheets

Filling and cutting into a perfect ravioli

Ravioli of chicken and mascarpone with mushroom cream and pinenuts

Lunch was carried forward after the demo. Each course was well presented by the chef himself, accompanied with some red wine – Nipozzano Cianti 2007 Riserva.

Amuse Bouche – Caprese salad, which is tomato and buffalo mozzarella served with basil and extra virgin olive oil

Pear and pecorino salad with arugula and balsamic dressing

Chilli and fennel crusted snapper with olives, potatoes and orange sauce

Home made ice creams – stracciatella, lemon cheesecake and sea salt and burnt sugar

Chef mentioned in one of his interviews that Botticino, infuses each dish with elements of their own without compromising on their authenticity. True to it’s word,  flavour in each dish was so distinct that every dish had a character to it. The taste, texture all seemed to match so well, that at the end of each course you were left with a satisfied smile.

A new thing that I learned is that you need to acquire a taste for grappa. Botticino has an exclusive collection of grappa; as the restaurant mentioned it’s an acquired taste. Indians are now catching up to the taste of grappa. Grappa is also sprayed in the morning cuppa of coffee in Italy to kick start the day.

Going alone? Fret not. You will always have company at the bar

Thank you Nikhil for a lovely experience. Nikhil blogs at Nonchalant Gourmand.

Want to make ravioli at home, here are some links to help:

Pioneer Woman

Delicious Days

Summer Salad – Avocado and Bacon Salad with Tomato Dressing

 Salads can serve as a meal and are the best bet during summers. What better way to use seasonal fruits and veggies to supplement your diet.

I love avocados and that the fruit camouflages really well when added in a salad or sandwich or in rice paper rolls. As a kid, I would see some of them mix sugar with their avocado mix to have it plain. I detested it! However, I liked it when my mother would mix avocado with other fruits to give the fruits a creamy coating. How I miss it now!

The addition of bacon to give it a crunch. However, the vegetarians can negate it. The original recipe also calls for some cheese. Avoid using feta, it’s flavour conflicts with bacon. You don’t want anything messing around with your bacon ;).

Ingredients for salad

10-15 medium sized salad leaves (rocket, lettuce)washed and pat dried or dried in a salad spinner

2 -4 crispy bacon strips, torn in bits

1/2 avocado, cut in strips

few raw red onion rings

mozzarella or amul cheese for garnish (optional)

Ingredients for dressing

3 medium sized tomatoes, lightly cooked, de-seeded and  skinned

1 garlic clove

1tsp red wine vinegar

1/2tbs olive oil

pepper & salt to taste

Grind all the ingredients for the dressing and refrigerate.

Break salad leaves and arrange them at the bottom of the salad plate or bowl. Add avocado, onion, bacon and garnish with bacon bits. Add the chilled dressing just before serving. The remaining dressing can be refrigerated for a week. Serve with some bread slashed with some butter or just dip into the dressing. Serves one.