Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Prawn with Raw Mango & Drumstick in a ground coconut sauce- Chemmeenum Mangayum Thenga-arachu Vechathu

Excerpts from some of the comments I have received from my readers:

R1: “…..Love your passion for cooking…..
R2: “…And ah I shud say this, you are really turning me passionate about cooking, i was always on the lazy side when it came to cooking.Thank you!!!
R3:” ……today,I love to explore and taste new ones...better ones..And you are the one inspiration..Thank you…

Responses of some of my friends from junior college, when they find out about this blog:

F1: “….heard about your cookery site……couldn’t believe it…haha..:)
F2: “ Saw your blog today…..how come u ‘re into cooking?
F3: “ why you never baked a cake for me while in college?

Well……why the disparity in impressions between these two groups …..a group who knows me only through the words I have scribbled here and another group who knows me in the real world, in flesh and blood? Am I projecting a different personality to each group? NO, NEVER!

I am trying to find an answer for this inconsistency in opinions and come out clean here……..it’s going to be an introspective post…..so those who don’t have time to read the whole thing, please scroll down for the recipe part.


With the prior experience of “two cups of tea and an omelet”, I started cooking after marriage to feed our two hungry stomachs, returning from work. The glitter in CJJ’s eyes, in the initial days, when I served him a plate of “cooked” rice and a “not burnt” stir-fry or “ not-curdled” Pulisseri, gave me the confidence to try more . Every evening I was greedy to see his excited smile or his beaming face …… that made me pick up the phone and make an STD call to my mother, to learn a new dish. Besides, I was scared…..yes, scared that someone from my extended family might pass a remark that, “ohh…I saw C last week…..he has lost weight….I don’t think that girl is cooking anything…..poor guy! “. So I made sure that I gave him a glass of milk with two heaping tablespoons of Horlicks or Bournvita or a bowl of oats slow cooked in lot of milk and an egg, everyday!! Trust me, it worked! On our first visit to home, after a month – an eventful month of kitchen adventures – everyone had only one thing to say, “ Aww….C has put on weight!!! So she is cooking something, huh?

Well, the glitter in his eyes is still my motivation ………the confidence on our friends’ part to come home and dare to eat something I cooked, is my accomplishment and if someone asks for a recipe, that’s icing on the cake……and the fact that my parents and brother has not really enjoyed anything beyond a “30 minute Biryani” I cooked for them in the initial days of my cooking escapades, is my sorrow…….

Though my friends’ responses always leave me with a smile on my face, comments from my readers always gets me into a reflective mood as it makes me wonder if I really deserve those compliments or not. I am not someone who is really passionate about cooking. Neither do I consider cooking therapeutic nor do I find kneading the dough relaxing. An odd vegetable in the produce section may invoke my curiosity but that basic level of curiosity ends there, it does not exceed to the point of that peculiar vegetable making it to my shopping cart. A tiramisu or a Caramel Pudding might be my favourite desserts but that does not make me jump up and down when I see a new recipe for the same with a variation. Years back when my friend sent me the recipe for Fruit cake, she shared two equally good recipes and I tried one and it was a success. I bake the same cake, follow the same recipe year after year without even considering the second recipe in hand, as I am someone who sticks to a single recipe if that works for me and satisfies me and my family. BUT I have been writing a food blog for the last two years and two weeks! So I ask myself, “ Is it the blogging part that motivates me or am I really into cooking? If it’s the activity of blogging that I enjoy, why did I choose to write a food blog? It could have been any other topic! “

Well, I am a foodie, no doubt and food blogs had a charming appeal one me…..I developed some sort of infatuation with the idea of food blogging as I moved from one foodie site to the other. I was really taken aback by the way my predecessors featured a recipe……the creative component in all those blogs fascinated me. And before I knew CJJ pushed me into the crocodile pool!

As I learned to swim in the pool, I developed some misconceptions too. I blogged only those recipes which I thought “blog worthy” and since I was not a serious cook, my honeymoon period with food blogging was fading away until the day I wrote a post on Kanji & Payar. That was the turning point, the last U turn before food blogging had the probability of joining the endless list of my dead hobbies. The response and feedback I got made me believe that people love to read and learn about every day dishes as much as they appreciate an exotic creation. Exactly around the same, I came across a discussion forum where my post on Kerala Potato Stew was referred by a westerner, to the other members in the forum, mentioning specifically that it was a tasty Indian vegetarian dish usually served with a lacy pancake!!! It was hard to believe that Kerala’s humble potato stew could find a place with mighty Paneer Masala and Aloo Gobhi!! That’s the day I realized the potential of food blogs and the opportunity to be food ambassadors, inviting people around the world to enter our home kitchens and show them what we cook/eat on regular day ….the opportunity to share a slice of our culture presenting it’s cuisine in all its nakedness. In some way or the other, my dreams of becoming a travel journalist blended smoothly with the opportunity in hand, though that is not what I was really doing.

As I tried to feature traditional recipes, weaving stories from my childhood and adulthood, in an attempt to show how that particular dish is significant to us, I was also allowing myself to open the window to the world of traditional or old-world cooking. It did not take much time for me to develop a genuine desire to record the culinary traditions of my family and the one I married into. I did not want our grand mothers’ culinary legacy to go waste and the best way to cherish them was sharing those recipes with others.

So that’s the inspiration behind this food blog…….!

I hope I tried to bring both the groups - my readers and friends - to the same platform :)


This dish is a classic example of Keralites’ clever way of sneaking in some seafood into a vegetarian dish or vice versa or a good example of using the bits and bobs from the kitchen.

For boiling:
  • Around ¼ kg prawn/Chemmeen, peeled, deveined and washed thoroughly (I used 15 jumbo shrimp)
  • A handful of sour green mango, skin removed and cut lengthwise (add depending on the sourness you need)
  • 10-12 drumstick pieces of 1 inch length, cleaned and split lengthwise
  • 3 green chillies
  • 1 tsp ginger, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp chilly powder
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • Around 1 ¼ cup water
For Grinding:
  • ¾ cup grated coconut
  • 3-4 green chillies
  • A small pinch of cumin seeds/Jeerakam (Optional)
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
½ cup water to make the gravy

For Seasoning:
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds/Kaduku
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds/Uluva
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 2 small red pearl onions
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut oil
  • Grind grated coconut, green chillies, garlic, cumin seeds, turmeric powder with a dash of salt into a fine and smooth paste and keep aside. Add some water if your mixer gives you a hard-time and in which case, use little water from the one kept for making gravy to thin it out, so the dish will not turn out to be too watery in the end.
  • In a curry-chatti/earthenware, cook - prawn, mango slices and drumstick pieces, mildly spiced with red chilly powder, turmeric powder, salt, curry leaves, thinly sliced ginger and green chillies in 1 ¼ cup water or enough to cover all the ingredients- until everything is cooked well. To this add the ground coconut paste and pour water, suggested in the ingredient list or enough to get your desired consistency and bring to a boil in medium heat; try to stir occasionally when it bubbles start to appear and turn off the stove.
  • In a shallow pan, heat coconut oil and splutter mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, dry chilly and sauté small onions and curry leaves for a minute and pour it to the curry. Let it rest for minimum one hour for the sourness of mangoes to embrace the seafood flavor of the prawns and blend well with the creamy coconut paste.
  • Serve with warm rice/chappathi(flat wheat bread)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chakkakuru-Cheerathandu Avial/ Jackfruit seeds & Spinach stems in a ground coconut sauce- Re-creating a taste from my memory!

As I opened the vegetable crisper and grabbed the sorry looking raw mango, bought from the lndian store, along with a bunch of red swiss chard, and reached for the frozen bags of drumstick, jackfruit seeds and grated coconut from the freezer, I knew I will not be able to re-create that same taste and texture my taste buds still fantasize........yet the recollection of that plate of Avial my grandma served to me and my uncle that late afternoon decades ago, was chiseled on my memory like the rock carving of that gorgeous goddess at the Hindu temple. Like the brush stroke on an artist’s canvas, the pretty pink hue from the stems of naadan cheera/red spinach stained the ground coconut sauce and jackfruit seeds alike and floated beautifully against an yellow backdrop…….the beauty on the plate tickled my curiosity, the moment grandma served the dish and dazzled my taste buds the moment I had the first bite……the firmness of jackfruit seeds and the aroma from fresh drumstick pieces played beautifully with the coarse texture of the ground coconut sauce, with an undertone of mild sourness from the raw mango. For the first time in my life, I realized that the ever popular Avial has a not–so-famous sibling with a pleasantly unique personality!

That small slice of afternoon from my adolescence and this particular dish I was introduced to , still holds a special place in my taste memories as that was the only time I got to relish this dish. It could be my grand mother’s culinary brilliance to use up the bits and pieces of vegetables lying in the kitchen….or my grandma herself was reminded of one of her favourites, when the fish monger gifted her some fresh raw mangoes and drumsticks or she was just using her imagination and throwing some vegetables at the spur of the moment to come up with a dish that completely changed her grand daughter’s perspectives on the popular dish, Avial.

I knew the entire experience of re-creating this dish long forgotten would not let me relive those moments with my maternal grand mother and uncle yet it was like going back to my roots or rather reconnecting with my past ………I was aware of my limitations while creating such a humble dish which grandma made combining native variety of vegetables, while I used a set of frozen ingredients ……….yet the whole experience was worth especially when CJJ who had his own doubts in the beginning, appreciated the dish, even with the funky taste of the frozen jackfruit seeds!! Now, I know what tops my priority list of must-eat dishes in my next trip to home!

Ingredients: (Approx.)
To Cook:
  • 1 cup Chakkakuru/jackfruit seeds, cleaned and cut into medium pieces (I used frozen)
  • 12-14 one inch length Cheera-thandu/red spinach stems (I used red swiss chard)
  • A handful of raw mango, skin removed and sliced ( adjust as per the sourness)
  • 10-12 drumsticks pieces of 1” length, cleaned and split lengthwise
  • 1-2 green chillies, slit opened lengthwise
  • A small piece of ginger, thinly sliced
  • ¼ tsp red chilly powder
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • Water to cook the veggies
  • 1tbsp homemade curd (Optional) *
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
To grind:
  • ¾ cup grated coconut
  • A small piece of ginger, peeled
  • 3-4 Indian green chillies
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • A pinch of cumin seeds/jeera
  • ¼ - ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Grind grated coconut, ginger, green chillies , garlic, cumin seeds with salt and turmeric powder into a coarse paste and keep it aside.
  • In a “mann-chatti” (an earthenware from Kerala), cook jackfruit seeds, stems of red spinach, drumsticks, sliced raw mango, ginger and green chillies by adding some water (very little, just to cook the veggies) along with salt,turmeric and red chilly powder. When the veggies are cooked well, add the ground coconut paste and stir well to coat all the veggies in this ground mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. Adjust the salt. Crush the curry leaves in coconut oil and pour it to the veggie-coconut mix. Stir gently and turn off the stove. Close with a lid and lock in all the aroma and flavours to embrace each other.
Note *: Addition of curd is optional as traditionally either mango or curd is used as the souring agent. Here I have added both as the raw mango I got last time did not really have the desired sourness.

Related Posts:

Avial Chakkakkuru-Maanga curry


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Manga Chammanthi- A tongue tickler with raw mango & coconut…

A couple of raw mangoes the neighbor woman gifted while she folded the dried clothes hanging from the clothes line ……that slender Kaanthari-mulaku she plucked from that chilly plant growing happily at the corner of the compound wall and the young sprig of leaves from the curry-leaf plant swaying in the evening breeze, …….a small pile of coconut flakes, as white as Thumba poo, grated from a freshly cracked coconut…….she arranges everything on a round stainless steel plate which begins to look like an artist’s palette ……..she slowly walks to the corner of the work-area and starts to grind everything with a sprinkle of salt on a flat grinding stone, Ammikkallu with an elongated rolling pin made of stone, listening to the rustic yet rhythmic music from the rubbing of stones, as she moves the rolling pin back and forth ……then she gently scrapes with the edge of her palm to bring all the ground coarse paste to the middle of the grinding stone, to roll it into a round shape…………that coarse paste with a pale green hue is the most simple treat a Kerala woman could whip up with the simplest of ingredients available from her own backyard, to jazz up a boring meal or to kick- up a bowl of rice soup, Kanji…………..!!!!

The taste of this raw mango and coconut Chammanthi , ground on a flat grinding stone is incomparable. Yet, you can re-create a similar taste using a small wet grinder ……with a handful of frozen grated coconut and that raw mango with identity crisis, sold at your local Indian store. With the variety of raw mangoes I get here, I usually take equal amounts of grated coconut and sliced mangoes (with skin removed) and a couple of Indian green chillies. Firstly, grind the mango slices and green chillies and then add grated coconut with a sprinkle of salt and grind till it becomes a coarse paste. Add 4-5 curry leaves towards the end and pulse 3-4 times till the leaves are mixed thoroughly with the paste.

The proportion of mango and grated coconut depend on the sourness of mangoes. If you re lucky to get some good raw sour mangoes, then add more coconut and less mango to get your required level of sourness. Hold yourself back from that strong temptation to sneak in a shallot or a small piece of ginger. Keep it simple and it tastes awesome!

Though I usually try to anglicize the name of a dish to help my fellow Indians and non-Indian readers comprehend the dish properly, let me not try to do the same this time as I can’t think of an equivalent name or comparison for this one. This is not to be misinterpreted with the ever popular Chutney. For Keralites, both are two different things; Chammanthi is a dry coarse paste where as Chutney is a liquid-y dip/sauce. Try making it at home; it sure can invigorate your senses :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 Kitchenmishmash.blogspot.com. All rights reserved.