Pondicherry in the kitchen

I cook for fun. Translated that means I cook to save my life or to make sure I come across as politically correct. I also get inspired by Nigella Lawson. Actually, I also cook to have fun sometimes. As I did this time, when a colleague handed me a copy of the just released book Pondichery Kitchen by well-known linguist Lourdes Tirouvanziam-Louis.

I was intrigued. A cultural melting pot, the union territory is also known as a food lover’s paradise. I was not to be disappointed. Sure, pronouncing some of the dishes altered the contours of my tongue, but undeterred I went shopping on a Sunday morning and much to the amusement of the vegetable vendors, bought, what they figured was a strange assortment of shoots and leaves.

When it came to the cooking, I cheated a bit and chose two of the easier recipes. Everyone else was thrown out of the kitchen, with just my five-year-old son allowed in as an observer.

First up was the Cottamali Podinna Koji Curry or the Mint & Coriander Chicken. This curry, as the author points out, is actually quite easy to prepare. And if green’s a favourite colour, you would love the way it looks too.

I altered the recipe a bit, since the original (see box) sounded too hot for my liking. (10 chillies and 15 garlic cloves? Good Lord!) I added just five of each and also replaced ghee with vegetable oil as the cooking medium.

The rest was quite simple really. I was in no hurry so I let the chicken slow cook in the onion, green chillies and garam masala paste for a good 10 minutes. Then came the change agent — the coriander and mint paste. Hey presto! The pan turned greener than pesto in a jiffy.

Five more minutes later, after I switched off the gas, I added the coconut milk and the lemon juice and let the juices seep in a further five minutes before bringing it to the table. Paired with plain white rice, it tasted good enough to be served to royalty. Time taken: 20 minutes to assemble the ingredients and a further 15 to cook. Impressed?

The Mimosa Muthaiy looked easier but took more time. I got a little ‘outside’ help with the prawn paste and separating the egg white and the yolk, before I got to work. The recipe is straightforward but the real trick here is how well you present it. If prizes were given out for beautiful looking dishes, this one would rank pretty high. I served this to a two friends who had turned up unannounced, along with the red wine they had brought along. They had just one glass of wine, but finished off not just all the 12 Mimosas but even the lettuce and tomatoes!

Mimosa Muthaiy (Eggs Mimosa)
This hors d’oeuvre is named after mimosa flowers. Apparently the fine particles of the egg yolk resemble the flower.
>> 12 eggs
>> 1 tsp white pepper powder
>> 1 tbsp oil
>> 5 garlic cloves, crushed
>> 8 prawns boiled and ground to paste
>> 1 tsp coriander leaves
>> 10 lettuces
>> 2 tomatoes, sliced
>> 2 tbsp lemon juice
>> Salt to taste

>> 2 tbsp oil
>> 1 tsp free salt
>> 1 tsp black pepper powder
>> 1tbsp white vinegar

>> Boil, cool, shell and cut the eggs into halves and remove the yolk
>> Set aside four yolks for decoration and mix the rest with salt, pepper, oil, and garlic and prawn paste. Add the lemon juice and coriander leaves
>> Stuff the white of the eggs with this mixture
>> Place the eggs on a plate on a bed of lettuce and tomato slices
>> Press the four yolks through a tea strainer so that the fine particles fall on the eggs and the lettuce. Refrigerate
>> Mix the seasonings together and sprinkle over the dish just before serving cold. (Goes really well with garlic bread)

Cottamali Podinna Koji Curry (Mint & Coriander Chicken)
>> 1 kg chicken curry cut
>> 1 tsp turmeric powder
>> 8 tbsp coriander leaves ground to paste
>> 20 mint leaves ground to paste
>> 2 cups of coconut milk
>> Juice of one lemon
>> 2 tbsp ghee
>> 1 tbsp aniseeds
>> 1 piece cinnamon
>> 2 cloves
>> 1 crushed cardamom
>> 4 onions sliced
>> 10 green chilies
>> 15 garlic cloves crushed
>> 1 inch of crushed ginger
>> salt to taste

>> In a pan, heat the ghee (we used vegetable oil instead), and add all the whole garam masala, onions, the sliced chillies and the ginger-garlic paste. Cook on low heat till the onions change colour
>> Add the chicken and fry till it’s a light golden brown in colour
>> Add the turmeric, coriander and mint pastes along with the salt and continue to cook. Remember to keep the gas on low heat.
>> Hang on for about 15 minutes to make sure the meat is tender. Switch of the gas, add the coconut milk and lemon juice and keep the pan covered for a further five minutes. Let the juice seep in.
×Serve hot with rice

The book & the author
Lourdes Tirouvanziam–Louis is a PhD in sociolinguistics. A well-known scholar, she lives in Pondicherry with her husband, Dr Bernard A Louis. Pondicherry Kitchen introduces the multi cultural Pondicherry cuisine to the rest of the world. Even in India where the cuisine changes every few hundred kilometres, Pondicherry stands out as a meeting point of Tamil, French Mughal and even Portuguese cuisines.  

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