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 🙂

Food at Coral – dinner with strangers

 Roasted herbed potatoes & chickpea salad

Coral is based on the concept of a Salon ( “sal-lawn”). A salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine taste and increase their knowledge of the participants through conversation.

Coral is set in a bungalow sponsored by Prahlad Kakkar creating an ambiance; by cutting off from traffic and noise of busy Mumbai with flowing conversations over good food and drink. Coral dinners are facilitated by my husband, Pawan and me. I love to cook and Pawan came up with the idea of bringing in food and conversations together and thus Coral was born.

Muhallebi  rice flour based dessert

It’s been a year since we started Coral and I’ve enjoyed setting up various menus. The idea is to focus on different cuisine, serving a 4 course meal. We want to provide a home cooked meal, native to a region that we may have never visited but possesses a culture that is brought out through its cuisine. It can be a dish from Pandi curry  from Coorg or Muhallebi  from Turkey.

Pandi curry with kadambuttu (rice balls)

Coming up with the menu can be a tough task and especially when I have not tasted the cuisine recently. I try to include dishes that you don’t get easily in Mumbai and some that are inspired. Sometimes non availability of ingredients, requires  substitution to bring it as close to it’s authentic taste. Recently we had Indonesian as the theme and it was challenging. I’ve never tasted an authentic Indonesian meal and the closest would have been a nasi goreng. Indonesian is  close to Malay food. Flavours are very simple – lemon grass, galangal/ginger, coconut, plam or coconut sugar. Blogs have always been my major source of information and inspirations. I’ve always been asked about the menu and how did I manage to get the recipes – the credit goes mostly to blogs. Getting the right information and creating a satisfying palate to go with our guests is a task that I’m trying to perfect.

Chilled avocado milkshake shots (made with palm sugar & coconut cream), Indonesian Corn Fritters (Perkedel Jagung), Indonesian fried chicken with crunchy flakes served with sambal terasi (red chili paste) &Yellow rice combo  – Coconut milk & lemon grass flavoured rice served with chicken rendang & shredded fried egg

Rujak Serut – chilled mixed fruit salad (jackfruit, mango & Malay apple) served with Indonesian dressing – palm sugar, tamarind paste, lime and coconut

Here is the FB page in case  you’re interested in knowing about Coral dinners. Post by various guests who experienced Coral – Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal, Eats, Feeds & Digs & Mizohican.