Friday, May 04, 2007

Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts

Recipes and Remembrances of a Vegetarian Legacy.

Grains, Greens, and Grated CoconutsI have known Ammini online for over two years now, and ever since I found out that she was writing a book on vegetarian food from Kerala, I was practically standing in line for it. The book was published in February of this year, after long years of her hard work, and I had a copy in my hands almost immediately. It is called 'Grains, Greens, and Grated Coconuts'.

Well before that, I was able to try out some of her recipes that she had so generously shared. From a basic coconut chutney to a stuffed eggplant dish, they were flawless to execute and absolutely delicious. She maintained their authenticity and added precise measurements and directions, and I was not disappointed with any of them.

This post isn't a book review. It would be impossible for me to review it impartially having known about it and the author. Even then, it surpassed all my expectations, with over 300 pages of content, which included not just recipes, but the history, rituals, festivities, and anecdotes related to all aspects of cooking and eating in the part of Kerala that Ammini knows best.

All I can say is, take a look, and try it out for yourself. Here is the list of contents with some excerpts and photos from the book. I haven't read the whole book yet. Cookbooks are different from novels in that sense. It is nice to be able to dip into them every now and then. This is definitely one of them.

I have made a few things from the book, all of which received two thumbs up, and plan to try out several more. I will update the blog with how it goes. In the meanwhile, let me share one that I tried out last weekend, to accompany a brunch of idlis and sambar. This podi (the Malayalum word for powder) is a dry and spicy chutney that is served mixed with ghee or oil, with most breakfast dishes. I like to stir it into sesame oil until it reaches a runny paste consistency. It has a long shelf life since the ingredients are dry roasted. You might be taken aback by its simplicity, but it is fierce, in a good way. It is not overly spicy, but go easy on the chilies if you like your food mild. The original recipe calls for black sesame seeds, but I used the usual pale ones.

Chutney Podi Ingredients

Podi: Spice Powder Served with Dosa and Idli

1 cup urad dal (split, and without skin)
1/2 cup dried red chilies (cayenne, serrano, or Thai)
2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing) powder
Salt to taste, about a teaspoon

Wash the urad dal and drain. Spread it out on a paper towel to dry thoroughly. In a heavy skillet, dry roast the dal over medium heat until it is evenly golden brown in color. Add the chilies and sesame seeds to the dal, and keep stirring until you hear the sesame seeds popping. Add the asafoetida and remove it from the stove. Add salt, and let it cool to room temperature. Using either a coffee grinder or other dry grinder, process the dal and spices to a fine powder.

Makes 1-1/2 to 2 cups.

Chutney Podi End Result

Other links:

Ammini's Website
The book on Amazon

Bookcover and recipe posted here with permission from Ammini Ramachandran.


bee said...

i concur, it is a fabulous piece of culinary history. the recipes are a bonus. they are authentic and very good.

Anonymous said...

i have read such good reviews of the book that i need to grab it soon.

Roopa said...

wow this is really tempting me to buy it!

FH said...

Sounds like a great book.Love the excerpts in that link.Thanks:))

evolvingtastes said...

bee, have you made anything else from the book? i read your review too, which is wonderful.

evolvingtastes said...

Reena, Roopa, Asha, welcome to my blog. I hope you buy the book. If you like it, which I am sure you will, do let Ammini know too. I think she will appreciate it, as it is truly a labor of love, and not something she wrote for monetary profit.

bee said...

i've made the rip plantain kalan, thiruvathira puzhuku, chakka puzhukku, and a couple other things i don't remember right now. the recipes use more coconut than i'm used to, but tastewise there are no complaints.

evolvingtastes said...

I made the plantain kalan too, and loved it, even though I am not very familiar with plantains. Also tried the kadalakari, which is very good.

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