It’s been a bit quiet on the kitchen front lately. Temperatures have been above average for much of the month, and looking at the carpets of leaves that have shrivelled and fallen from the trees, it could almost be a picture of autumn. But there’s definitely no nip in the air!
It’s been a time for salads and light meals that don’t involve spending too much time around a hot stove, unless it’s a summer barbecue.
Earlier this month, we were back at Collin Regehr’s farm, to collect some of his outstanding raspberry crop. As planned he has expanded his acreage, and we arrived there to find his family and friends at work, gathering the delicate berries before they wilted in the heat.
Returning home from the Fraser Valley with a haul of the best raspberries around, this was the perfect opportunity to try a cool raspberry gazpacho recipe from “Modernist Cuisine at Home“.
Just last month I was dreaming of being in India during the mango season again. Well, what do you know – I made it! The month of June has been filled with wonderful mangoes – Malgova, Benisha, Badam, Mallika, and, thanks to the recent European Union ban on import of Indian mangoes, the markets have been filled with lovely Alphonso’s too.
With something less than their usual lofty price tag, there was a lot more to enjoy. But the real bonanza came in the form of an amazing haul of wild mangoes that came my way from the homes and estates of friends.
From what I can tell, kaad maangé trees seem to fruit abundantly in alternate years, and it appears that this was a fruitful year.
With a choice of mangoes from five different trees, each with a unique flavour, I’ve had my fill of kaad maangé curry for the season.
There was, however, a recipe that I had wanted to try and recreate – one that my grandmother used to make. It was usually prepared with brined wild mangoes (uppukuttuh maangé) in a spiced buttermilk base. My mother’s description of this dish of sweet-salty mango eaten with mounds of steaming white rice is mouthwatering!
Towards the end of our family visits to Coorg, large packages would start collecting in the kitchen. Paper packages of freshly roasted coffee powder, spices like pepper and cardamom, jams and pickles, and bags of thari. This was to last the months till our next visit.
If my grandmother had her way, she’d make sure that the quantities were enough to keep a platoon with the healthiest of appetites well fed for a couple of years! The idea of not having home grown rice or thari especially didn’t sit well with her. She was a devoted customer of trucking services like that of TVS, using them to send out farm produce, most memorably, baskets of juicy Coorg oranges. In preparation for their journey, straw lined baskets would filled with the fruit, covered with hessian cloth (burlap) and sewn shut with a big darning needle threaded with jute twine.
Where has the thalia puttu gone? I’m talking about the hearty “idli batter with a touch of coconut and a swig of toddy” puttu which has been missing for far too long on my dining horizon. Am I eating in all the wrong places, or has it really slipped so far in the puttu rankings that it doesn’t make the list anymore?
On our trips to Coorg when I was a kid, I could always count on thalia puttu, savoury or sweet versions, being on the menu in most of the households we visited. Now it seems that its fluffy cousin, the sanna of Mangalore and Goa, has usurped its place. And I’m wondering why?
Let’s see. Both sannas and thalia puttu require a period of several hours of fermentation to leaven the batter, so it can’t be about a lack of time. Could it be that the typically denser thalia puttu, with a portion of urad dal (black gram) is considered too “heavy” in today’s calorie conscious world? If that’s the reason, more’s the pity, because the gram would make it the more nutritious choice.
Or, perhaps it’s the scarcity of toddy to help the batter rise and shine? No, that can’t be it, because that would take sannas off the menu too. Besides, there are plenty of recipes that don’t use toddy for the leavening process, relying instead on yeast, a pinch of baking soda, sugar, and even coconut water.
Whatever the reason, I think it’s time to put thalia puttu back on our plates.
Around this time of year, with mango season afoot in India, I confess to just a twinge of mango envy, and not a little nostalgia.
Picking through a few select memories, I find myself dreaming of long ago summers, and of coconut leaf mats, spread with rosy mangoes from my aunt’s farm ripening in fragrant quiet in my grandmother’s store room.
In boarding school, much longed for treats of Neelam or Malgova mangoes after lunch, came charged with the additional, if dubious, thrill of encountering a mango seed weevil scuttling out of the kernel, and the ensuing schoolgirl hysteria that it would set off!
In blisteringly hot summers in Delhi, my father, the official fruit (and fish) buyer in the family, would bring home baskets of mangoes from INA market, to be demolished in sittings that saw some of us put away four or five mangoes at a go. (I’ll not be naming names, besides Dussheri, Langda, Chausa… ) To say nothing of all those mangoes consumed in milkshakes, in ice cream, and with fresh cream, or in savoury delights like chutneys and pickles. There were so many ways to love this fruit and all those wonderful Indian varieties to choose from!