Amid the superhighway of information on Facebook, there is no dearth of information for any topic under the sun. However, it is till rare to see one page being ever-busy with one recipe after the other. Curious and piqued by the constant updates, CE spoke to the ladies who maintain the page Recipes of Palakkad, to bring out some of the highlights of the cuisine which is as rich as the culture of the region — a meeting point between Kerala and Tamil cultures. Sumithra Prakash, Priyadarshini Shah and Subha Prakash dig out the bottomless treasure of Palakkad chamayal.
The most important part of the journey food (palakkada chamayal) is driven by rice. Rice is the staple food of South Indians. The first course is rice mixed with koottaan with a thoran / poduthuval / mezhukkuvaratti / koottu / thogial as side dish. The second course is rice with rasam along with the same thoran and pappadam or karuvadam. The final course is rice with curd/buttermilk with a pickle. The Palakkad cuisine is very simple and healthy. It makes use of minimum oil, on most occasions just for the tempering or seasoning. Coconut and coconut oil form an indispensible part of the cuisine.
Also, most recipes make use of seasonal vegetables that can be easily grown in our backyards.
Some of them are ash gourd (elavan), pumpkin (mathan), violet brinjals (katrikai), lady’s finger (Vendakai), yard-long beans (paira), bitter gourd (karela), yam (chenai), plantain (vazhakai), mangoes (mambhazham), jackfruits (chakka). In olden days, people hardly used vegetables like carrots, beans, beetroots, etc., and hence these are referred to as ‘English vegetables’ even today in most households.
Some of the most popular Palakkad dishes are keerai molagootal – greens cooked with lentils and coconut, rasakalan – a yogurt based gravy/kootan cooked with vegetables like ashgourd, pumpkin, plantain, drumstick and simmered in a coconut sauce, pulingari – this is an exception to most kootans as it does not make use of both lentils and coconut, instead, it makes use of a roasted spice powder. The puli kuthi upperi is another dish very unique to the Palakkad cuisine, in which vegetables are cooked in tamarind and then seasoned with a special spice powder. It is usually served as an accompaniment to keerai molagootal.
Seasonal fruit like mango and jackfruit are widely used in Palakkad kitchens. Jackfruit is used in a variety of ways. All stages of the fruit, from tender jackfruit to the ripened fruit are used. The tender jackfruit curry or idichakka thoran is one of the most popular recipes. Others include chakka curry, chakka erisery and chakka pulingari. These are prepared using the not-so-ripe and not the very tender jackfruit.
The ripened fruit is used in a variety of snacks and sweets — the most popular being chakka pradhaman and elai adai. During festivals or religious functions, a combination of these dishes are served in the form of a sadhya ( feast) on a plantain leaf.
There is an order and disciplinary code to be followed. The nose of the leaf always faces left, the order of serving the dishes and their particular location on the leaf are never changed.
- Spinach – 2 Big Bunches
- Tuvar Dal – 3 – 4 Tblsp
- Grated Coconut – ½ Cup
- White Urad Dal – 1 tsp
- Dried Red Chillies – 1
- Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
- Mustard Seeds – 1tsp
- Salt to taste
- Coconut Oil - 2 tsps
Pressure cook the dal. Clean and wash the Spinach very well. Chop it roughly. Boil the spinach in very little water for about five minutess. Allow to cool. Run the cooked spinach in a mixer for just a few seconds. Transfer the ground spinach into a vessel. In a small pan, heat a tsp of oil fry the urad dal and red chilli till dal turns light brown. Grind this along with coconut and cumin seeds into a paste using little water. Mash the dal well. Add the ground coconut paste to the dal. Add salt to taste. Bring this mixture to boil for 2 mins stirring constantly. Then add the ground Spinach. Check the consistency. Molagootal is neither very thick nor thin. Simmer for 2 to 3 mins. (Do not boil for long after adding spinach as this will result in discoloring the spinach). Heat a tsp of coconut oil, add mustard seeds. Once it starts spluttering add it to the molagootal.
Keerai molagootal is ready to serve.
Recipe by Kaveri Venkatesh, whose blog Palakkadcooking.blogspot.com is among the top (cooking blogs with a huge following)