THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With over 9,00,000 monthly blog hits, 60,000 Facebook fans and more than 24,000 email subscribers for her blog, Maria Jose Martin is one of the most popular food writers in Kerala’s blogosphere. So we were curious where she turns for inspiration, when it comes to home-cooked comfort food. We speak with the Bahrain-based blogger to find out about her top food guides that contain delicious Kerala-style recipes that really work.
Lip-Smacking Dishes of Kerala by Nimi Sunilkumar
This book is a good introduction to Kerala-style cooking because it has deconstructed recipes—which represent the quintessential Malayali palate—laid out in a simple manner for beginners. Yet it covers a wide variety of recipes, ranging from simple banana fritters to the Thalassery chicken biryani. It was my parents’ gift to me and is a special one as Nimi is a food blogger, too. I’m very proud and happy to see a wonderful cookbook written by one of my fellow bloggers.
The healthy, steamed kinnathappam. Nothing is more sophisticated to me than this rice and coconut sweet cake. Add jaggery to the mix and things hit a higher level.
The Epicure Cookbook by Ummi Abdulla
I owe this book to my food blogging career. Though I knew about Malabar food and its specialities, I didn’t have much knowledge about it, until I browsed through this cookbook’s pages. Besides traditional Malabari fare, this particular page-turner has a great variety of recipes listed, including Ummi’s own award-winning dishes and a few modern day dishes from different regions in India, all of which are simple to create, with easily-available ingredients.
It has to be the mutton pepper fry. The combination of coriander, fennel and black pepper in this dish makes it delectable.
Flavours of the Spice Coast by Mrs KM Mathew
Mrs KM Mathew is one name I’ve associated with cooking, even before I’d developed a vague idea about the culinary arts. During my childhood, she was a household name—unlike today, where we have numerous celebrity chefs. Though she published several books over the years, this one has great variety—from categories like street-side snacks and healthy vegetarian options, including my favourites like payar-cheera thoran, to recipes for special occasions, like duck roast.
The chicken piralen. It is a little extravagant though, as it’s marinated in a rich-yet-well balanced blend of spices before cooking and it is coated with the flavoured coconut gravy at the end.
Suriyani Pachakam by Bava R Lukose
The title is the reason why I bought this book in the first place. Being a Syrian Christian from Central Travancore, I could relate to the recipes in the book—it almost felt like reading my family’s recipe book. Within it you will find ‘everyday recipes’ like thoran and moru curry as well as some traditional palaharam (snacks) recipes like kumbil appam, chakka vilayichathu, etc, which are commonly found in Central Travancore Christian kitchens.
Biting into a crisp kuzhalappam—a cannoli-like rice flour snack—takes me back to my parents’ kitchen and helps me relive many happy childhood memories.