From My Kerala Kitchen: Pineapple Pachadi.

Last week I was on vacation in Kerala.  Somewhere between sunny and rainy, with the monsoon on it’s way out, it was beautiful.


We attended a wedding,  which was also beautiful, and I gobbled up a traditional banana leaf sadhya or wedding feast.

The sadhya is what everyone waits for at a Malayalee Hindu wedding. When the wedding post-mortem happens, the two things which are perhaps discussed and debated with the most intensity are:

a) How much jewellery the bride was wearing. (Seriously. Malayalees have a thing for gold.)

b) How good the sadhya was.

Rice and lentils are at the centre of the banana leaf sadhya, with neyyum parripum (mung lentils cooked with turmeric and ghee) and sambar being served along with the rice. The accompanying dishes, condiments and pickles are portioned onto the banana leaf before hand, with servers coming round to offer seconds as the meal progresses.

Sadhyas differ from region to region, but they will always contain avial, thoran, kootu curry, kaalan, stew and pachadi. Pachadis, I feel, are equal parts chutney, salad and curry. They consist of vegetables or fruit which are cooked in a spicy coconut and yogurt sauce, tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. And my absolute favourite kind of pachadi, since forever, has been the sweet and tangy pineapple pachadi. I always ask for seconds, and make sure I get a big spoonful. I actually ask for smaller portions of sambar as I’m being served, because I would much rather eat my rice with pineapple pachadi.

The dish, when you break it down, is simple: cooked pineapple tossed in a sauce of grated coconut, spices and yogurt and tempered with curry leaves. It’s sweet, big on texture, and bursts with flavour: sweet pineapples, tangy yogurt, smoky mustard seeds and fragrant curry leaves.  Some pineapple pachadis also have purple grapes in them, which gives an extra sweetness and juiciness, and I’ve always found the bleeding colours of the grapes pretty to look at.

pineapple pachadi

Since Monday is the Kerala harvest festival Onam, I thought now would be a good time to share a traditional recipe!

PINEAPPLE PACHADI (Adapted from Ammini Ramachandran’s Grains, Greens and Grated Coconuts.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 of a ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 3 tablespoons yogurt
  • Curry leaves
  • Coconut oil for frying
  • Water for boiling

METHOD

  • Heat water in a saucepan. When it begins to boil, add the pineapple pieces, turmeric, chilli powder and salt and cook for a 3-4 minutes. Drain.
  • Grind the coconut,  half the mustard seeds and green chilli to make a smooth paste.
  • Heat some coconut oil in a frying pan and fry the coconut-spice paste for 2 minutes. Then, add the pineapple mixture and stir well to coat evenly.
  • Pull the mixture off the heat and stir in the yogurt, till everything is evenly combined.
  • Next, get to work on the tempering. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the remaining mustard seeds and allow them to pop, then add the curry leaves. Pour this over the pineapple mixture and serve.

Chundal: Warm South Indian Chickpea Salad | Chundal Recipe

chundal in a bowl

I know I don’t post too many recipes from my home state Kerala on this blog, but I’d like to change that. I have been spending a lot of time discovering baking; and I often neglect showcasing Kerala cuisine because, perhaps, I find it too everyday and plain vanilla.

And also because when I do crave Kerala flavours, I usually don’t make a complicated curry- I rustle up a quick cabbage or beans thoran;  a chutney or even a simple raw mango salad spiked with chilli powder and tossed in a little coconut oil and feel  satisfied. And usually, these are so fleeting, I don’t manage to capture them in a post.

But I would like to change that now. I feel I don’t cook the food of my region often enough; so this warm chickpea salad would be a good place to start the rediscovery. Why? Because it’s so very simple, plus, it’s a festival dish. And also because I have some real memories attached to it.

Chundal or sundal is a chickpea salad made with brown Indian chickpeas, and in Kerala it’s made as an offering during the Navratri festivities. The last three days of Navratri are observed in Kerala with homage to Saraswati, the goddess of learning. As kids, we’d place our books in the puja room on the eighth day of the festivalto be blessed by the Goddess. We weren’t allowed to study, write or even read for a day- so you can see why I remember this festival so well! We always made sure our teachers didn’t give us any homework, either! On the tenth and final day, our books were taken out, we used our fingers to trace the words ‘om hari sri ganaptaye namaha’  on a plate of raw rice (or just wrote it on a notebook) and sat down to study in earnest for an hour or two.

My grandmom would make a large batch of chundal and my cousins and I would eat a bowlful after our ‘earnest’ study session. But you don’t have to wait for a festival to make it- it’s a great snack or side, and super-quick and simple to make.

CHUNDAL

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup chickpeas, cooked and water drained (canned chickpeas are also fine.)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon red chilli flakes or 1 red chilli pepper, crushed/scissored
  • A few curry leaves
  • A pinch of asafoetida powder (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons grated coconut
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  • In a large pan, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the crushed red chilli/chilli flakes, asafoetida powder if using, and curry leaves. Sautee for a about a minute.
  • Add the cooked and drained chickpeas, salt and stir-fry for a minute or two.
  • Sprinkle the grated coconut and mix gently.
  • Pull off heat, garnish with with a few more curry leaves and serve.

Asafoetida is often added to mimic the flavour of onions/garlic in Brahmin cuisines, but here it lends a subtle smokiness which I love 🙂

Celebrating Mangoes: Mango & Ginger Chutney | Spicy Mango Chutney Recipe

mango and ginger chutney

This post is about mangoes. And eating mangoes. But I am going to share a little story first. But I’ll give a picture of mangoes in hopes you will not stray from the page.

Kerala green mangoes

My great-grandmother was a really wonderful person. She was the only person I knew who didn’t have a jealous bone in her body. She passed away when I was in twelfth grade, and I still think about her often. She had 5 children, and twice the number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She was also the only person I knew who was always genuinely happy and pleasant. Mainly because all she wanted in life was to see everyone around her happy, well-fed and well-settled.

She was a strict vegetarian and never even looked at a piece of meat or fish in her life. Until one day, when we had one of our summer family potlucks, I was grabbing a chicken leg from a plate of biryani (so my cousin wouldn’t get to it, of course!) and I bumped into her and dropped that masala and ghee laden chicken leg right into her lap, on her snow-white saree. Pretty much everyone gasped- they didn’t know how she would react. But she just laughed, said ‘Oh my god! Now someone please clean this up,’ and looked at me and said ‘It’s ok. If kids don’t spill, who will?”

She was also a severe diabetic- she was supposed to control her intake of root vegetables and natural sugars in addition to regular sweets and chocolates. But she had a secret stash of Cadbury’s chocolate in her room. I don’t know if anyone else knew, but I did. She loved mangoes too, and never passed them up during the season. She also taught me how to relish them, Kerala-style. She’d take one of these small, fibrous mangoes that grew in our garden, slice the skin off the top and squeeze the juice all over a small mound of red rice and eat it with a pinch of salt. I know it may sound like a strange combination, but it’s pretty darn good. Comfort food, Kerala-style- and it couldn’t get simpler. Those mangoes are small and green, and are great for curries. But most of the time, we’d just slice a bit off the top, and squeeze out the flesh and juice by hand, kind of like eating  Fla-Vor-Ice  popsicles.

DSC03640-001

The flavour and juice of mangoes go very nicely with rice, and I made this chutney in an attempt to capture that. There is no coconut or onion to give it texture, so it is a viscous chutney which feels more like a spiced puree. But that is kind of what I was aiming for. I added ginger and green chilli for extra heat.

ingredients for mango chutney laid out

MANGO & GINGER CHUTNEY

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium to large sized mango, roughly cubed (Use a mango which is not too ripe- the flesh should be firm and a little tart.)
  • 1 1-inch piece ginger root, peeled and roughly diced
  • 1 green chilli, sliced
  • A few curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon oil (I used coconut oil because it’s the backbone of Kerala cuisine and flavors- but you can use any flavorless oil as well.)
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  • Heat the oil in a shallow pan. Once it gets hot, add the curry leaves. Once they crisp up a bit, add the ginger and green chilli.
  • As the ginger softens and turns a slight golden hue, turn the heat to medium and add the cubed mango pieces.
  • Swirl it around, not more than a minute, stirring gently so that the flavors infuse and the mango begins to release it’s juices. You just want to soften the mangoes a little, not break them down.
  • Pull off heat, and blitz in your blender till it becomes pulpy. Add salt to taste.

Allow to cool before consuming. It tastes good with a little plain rice, but I sometimes eat it like a dipping sauce with plain tortilla chips or tapioca chips.

mango chutney with tapioca chips