With our changing lifestyles, our diets have evolved too, and, many favourites from a generation or two ago no longer appear at the table as casually as they once did.
For years we’ve been hearing that, in the interests of a healthy diet, we should drop the eggs, cut back on the coconut, and only dabble with ghee. Well, things have come full circle, and these days we’re being told that eggs are not so bad after all, ghee is actually good for you, and darned if coconut isn’t being touted as the new wonder food! (All in moderation, of course.)
Back in a less complicated time, you’d take these three unfairly demonized foods – coconut, eggs and ghee, and, without batting an eyelid, combine them in one simple dish to make something like thengé-motté pajji.
It seems like summer arrived long before the official date of 21st June this year. Temperatures have routinely been reported as “record-setting”, “record-breaking”, or “record-tying”. This time, three years ago, we were setting quite different records for June!
In uncharacteristic fashion for Vancouver, there have been too few showers to give us any respite from the heat. In equally uncharacteristic fashion, I have been a bit reluctant to spend much time in the kitchen, partly because it’s so warm, and, mainly because it’s so gorgeous outside. Menus have been centered around cool salads, lots of summer fruit, and an old Indian favourite that’s guaranteed to appeal to the most jaded of appetites – curd rice. Or, as it is most aptly named in Kodava Thakk, mor kuul.
On the road from Mysore to Coorg, just short of the town of Kushalnagar, is Bylakuppe, an area that houses one of the largest Tibetan settlements in India. Established by the Indian government in the early 1960′s to accommodate some of the thousands of refugees who had fled to India, it is today home to several generations of Tibetans in exile.
As far back as I can remember, Bylakuppe was always a point of particular interest on the journey to and from Coorg. The neat patchwork of fields on a gently undulating landscape contained relatively unusual crops for the area – tobacco, cotton, and corn. Colourful bunting, which I eventually learned were Tibetan prayer flags, fluttered above small cottages. Tibetan ladies, dressed in their traditional fashion, raked drying corn cobs on sunny rooftops. These were, for the most part, just brief vignettes as we drove by on the highway, always with somewhere else to be.
Out of eggs. And flour. And sugar. There’s no chance of getting fresh supplies anytime soon, and there’s a teatime deadline looming. Hungry grandchildren will come trooping in, expecting a sweet treat after school, or a hard day’s play. What’s a grandmother to do? Innovate, of course!
Looking around the kitchen to see what she has on hand, she notes fresh milk and homemade butter. There’s jaggery to sweeten with, so she boils up some bella joni (jaggery syrup). But what will bind it all together? Rice? What about some akki nuchhi (fine broken rice) gently roasted to give it a little bite?
That’s it. Quick! Mix it all up and steam it. Now, what do children love more than sweets? Easy, more sweets! Well, there’s some lovely Coorg honey that would go well with this…
The children have arrived and want to know “What’s for tea?!”. Without missing a beat, grandmother says “akki nucchi, bella joni pudding”. And a family favourite is born!
If you follow CoorgRecipes.com, you’ll be familiar with the recipe of the month feature, where readers contribute their family, or original recipes, to the site. Like many of you, I enjoy reading through these and trying out the recipes.
One recent contribution by Prithi Poovamma, where she shares a recipe for a dish that her grandmother served the family at tea time, caught my attention. It consists of the simplest of ingredients – broken rice, milk, jaggery, and butter, steamed together and served with honey.
My visit home to Coorg in early March was perfectly timed to catch the annual blossoming of the coffee plants.
A little rain had transformed the coffee bushes into an undulating green sea, bobbing with clusters of sparkling white blooms. Coffee blossom time in Coorg is a glorious sight, and the fragrance is just as lovely.
For the few days that the blossoms last, it feels like you’re enveloped in a cloud of light jasmine and citrus. Carried in on a cool morning breeze, the scent is refreshing and bright. By mid morning, it hangs heavy in the warm air, gently inviting you to slow down a little.