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 🙂

Chickpea stuffed pepper, served with tomato sauce or curry

Last week I was annoyed or rather irritable with myself. Why you may ask? I went to a friend’s party and offered to serve some Asian Noodle Salad at the party and to  my disappointment, the noodles turned out to be soggy. I did hit a panic attack and was cursing myself for how I could go so wrong with the basics. I guess it was a question of performance under pressure….maybe not, I serve every Sunday at the Farmer’s Market  (the response has been very good) then what was it that really went wrong…..
I realised that the packet of noodles that I used were of a different brand from what I usually use and I also soaked the noodles in hot water for a longer period of time. Arghhhh……
It’s a lesson that I learnt last week that it is very important to take note of everything that I do in my home kitchen and not to take things for granted. Have you also experienced or felt disappointed with your cooking?

Stuffed pepper  was initially intended to be stuffed with potato, but I made used of the left over chickpeas lying in my fridge since past two days. The flavouring used is simple and the combination of pepper and tomato sauce has always been satisfying. I prefer to slightly cook the onions and tomatoes before putting them in a blender as the raw tastes of the paste gets subdued. Addition of cardamom in any sauce or curry will give any dish a sweet aroma and flavour.

2nos fresh pepper (green, red or yellow)

for stuffing
2cups boiled & mashed chickpeas
1tsp finely chopped green chillies
1tsp grated ginger
2tsp raisins
2tsp of oil
salt to taste

for sauce
1/2 cup onion, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1tsp cumin seeds or jeera
2nos clove
1 whole cardamom
1tsp coriander powder
1/2tsp turmeric powder
1/2tsp chilli powder
1/2tsp garam massala
1tbs of oil
salt to taste

cilantro for garnish

Cut the stems and top half-inch off the peppers and scoop out the seeds and membranes.
Mix all the ingredients for the stuffing. Stuff the peppers with the prepared mixture.
Heat oil in a pan and place the stuffed peppers to cook. Remember to keep turning them, so that they cook evenly from all sides.Cover the lid for about 5 minutes on medium flame, which will allow the peppers to cook properly. Turn off the heat once cooked.
Heat oil in a pan and add jeera, cloves, cardamom and onions. Once the onions are soft, add tomatoes and cook until soft. Allow it to cool. Once cold, mix in a blender to a fine paste. Transfer the paste to a pan and add coriander, turmeric and chilli powder. Let the mixture cook on a low flame for about 10 minutes. Add garam massala and salt to taste.

Place the cooked pepper in a dish or individual plates and serve the prepared hot sauce garnished with cilantro. Serve hot with roti or rice. Serves 2.
This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sandhya’s Kitchen and The Well Seasoned Cook.