Food From God's Own Country
It was our Sourdough Bread class with Sujit Sumitran that got us thinking on the possibility of a class on Kerala cuisine.The lunch was prepared by his wife Sudha and was so different and flavorsome that many of us wanted to learn how to make the dishes.So one fine day,we embarked on our journey of making appams and some wonderful dishes to accompany them at the Eighth Studio by Anurita Ghoshal at Bandra.Fish curry-rice is the staple of most Kerala homes while some have sambhar and rasam.Appam and Istew and Puttu-kadala (rice cake with coconut with chickpea curry) are also commonly eaten.
To make appams,rice has to be soaked and fermented (with yeast and sugar) and made into a batter.Some people add toddy.Appams have a soft thick centre and a thin periphery.My first one was at the Konkan Cafe at Taj President which used to have an excellent Seafood Thali.for just Rs 500! Haven't been there in years.They have an open kitchen and we would watch the chef make appams with wonder in our eyes.Now you can see it at some of the Kerala restaurants in the city which are present mainly in Fort,Chembur and Mahim.
Yes,Appams have a high glycemic index but when one combines them with Ishtew(with vegetables and coconut milk) or Kadala Curry(chick pea curry),the protein and fibre brings down the Glycemic Load.It's the combination that works....like rice and dal,idlis or dosas with sambhar.Yes,Indian food principles have a scientific basis.The sugar in Appams has also been replaced by date extract in one research study to bring down the glycaemic index (the degree to which a food item raises blood sugar)
We were ten of us and were divided into teams of two and made a dish each.Sweet and gentle Sudha taught us patiently and gave us individual attention.We discovered that Kerala cuisine is a pleasure for all the senses....it tastes good,smells good,looks good and the rustling of the appam and the touch of its crispy edge can warm the cockles of your heart!
Kodampuli is the souring agent of choice in Kerala cuisine and we used it to make Fish Curry with Mango.
Turned out to be aromatic and delicious!
Cooking Appams is easy once you grasp the technique of twirling the pan correctly however one has to be careful to get the batter consistency right.Appam pans are available in Matunga,Mumbai.They are of two types:Deep and Shallow.For beginners,it is better to use the shallow one.It's best to have more than one to that you can make more simultaneously and serve immediately.
We made a summery Cucumber Pachadi with a tadka of curry leaves,urad dal and chillies
The vegetarian Ishtew is a mix of vegetables with coconut milk and garnished with onions.What makes it special are the aromatic spices of Kerala : cinnamon,bay leaves and pepper.
We also made some spicy Prawn Cutlets,a party appetizer.Meat Ularthiyathu was a robust dish we learnt which had a special Ularthiyathu masala,coconut and onions.We also made an accompanying curd dish called Moru Kachiyadu which was like a kadhi and helped digestion.It's a dish in itself.Made it at home and had it with just rice!
It's not easy to find good regional food classes and yet it is the need of the hour.I don't mean the usual Methi Malai Mutter,Paneer Makhanwala or Mughlai chicken classes which are aplenty.Now is the time to go back in time and make those recipes our mothers and grandmothers did.
Attended a lovely conference "Archaeobroma: The Archaeology of Food" that reminded us to do just that.We were far healthier when we had slow, home cooked food that was balanced and in the right proportions.Ofcourse accompanied by physical activity.We need to reconsider ancient grains and cooking techniques.Even baking bread in the old world style (sourdough way) is far more easier for our bodies to digest.
Let's not look only at one nutritional component and think we have the whole picture.Let's not read labels on packaged foods and think they will provide the nutrition our bodies need.Nothing can replace natural food.While doing it the old way takes more time,that's not too much a price to pay if we have to live longer, healthier and happier lives.