During most of our summer school holidays, my sister and I accompanied our grandparents for a vacation to our native village in Kerala. A long train journey through the countryside across five states took us to our destination, reaching in the wee hours of the morning when the rest of the world was fast asleep. We'd wait for the sun to rise before catching a connecting local train to our beautiful, little village, the excitement of our "real" vacation keeping us wide awake. Pacing up and down the platform under the watchful eye of our grandfather, drinking piping hot "Milma" milk, watching the sky slowly change from a dark black to a mellow blue and admiring the blue Western Ghats at a distance before hoping on to the old, steam train, rushing to reserve our window seats. As the train slowly chugged on spewing tiny flecks of coal and lots of smoke, we stuck our noses out of the window grill wide-eyed at the flowers, the greenery, the mangoes and jackfruit. Soon we arrive at our village railway station that is only a flag-post announcing the station name, jumping off onto the cobbled stones that make the platform and unload our luggage, watching the lone other person there - the station master - waving a green flag as the train slowly pulls away. We walk towards our ancestral house, passing by the village pond, my sister and me asking our grandma, if we can bathe there? "Not today, maybe tomorrow", she says. We sight the house, the one with the red hibiscus bush hanging over the walls. As we approach the house, we hold on to our grandparents hands tightly, hearing the dogs bark wildly in the backyard. Our grand-uncle opens the gates for us, with our grand-aunt rushing close behind, welcoming us into the house. After ensuring that the dogs are securely tied up, my sister and I undertake a brave walk through the front yard inhaling the fragrant roses and jasmine of many varieties, discussing if the lone “bubbleemoose” aka pomelo was ripe enough to be eaten. Then we check out the backyard, eyes wide open at the countless mangoes hanging from the trees, counting how many jackfruit we can actually eat before the end of our vacation, watching the coconut plucker climb up expertly, giving the coconuts a firm shake near the ear to test the ones ready to be pulled down and throwing them down to his assistant who husks the coconuts with a sharp knife called “koduvaal”. By this time grand-aunt joins us, giving us a tour of the backyard pointing to the drumsticks, curry leaves, chillies, cheera or amaranth leaves, marachini or tapioca, chena or yam, chembu or colocassia, tamarind….. there is enough growing to make a lovely lunch! (End of Part I....to be continued.)
Maanga perukku is a lovely amalgamation of mango and coconut simmered with a few spices, that I first tasted at my native village. It is served as a side dish for lunch usually paired with rice, curry and a thoran. The mango used in this recipe is an almost ripe mango which imparts a sweet-sour note to the dish. The coconut has to be freshly grated - dessicated coconut will not serve the purpose. It is cooked on a low flame with ground coconut till the flavours of coconut and mango mingle without either flavour dominating the dish. On the whole this dish is sweet, sour and very, very delicious that will have people eating out of your hands!
1 cup mango, skinned and chopped into tooth-like bits
1 cup coconut grated
2 green chillies
1 tsp cumin seeds
a sprig of curry leaves
2 dry red chillies
1 tsp mustard seeds
salt to taste
2 spoons curd or buttermilk
In a thick bottomed pan, heat a spoon of oil. Add the mustard, red chillies and curry leaves and let it splutter. Add the mango and 3 tbsp water and let it cook slightly for 2 minutes.
Grind the coconut, cumin seeds and green chillies with very little water to a fine paste. Add this mixture to the mango and let it cook on a slow flame for atleast 10 minutes. Then add the curd or buttermilk and salt and continue to cook it for another five minutes, till all the flavours merge. Serve warm or at room temperature.The key to this recipe is freshly grated coconut. I'm probably the only soul around here who goes through the process of cracking open a coconut and grating it on a chirava. I do occasionaly buy freshly grated coconut from supermarkets but strongly believe that those grating-machines haven't been washed in eons!
This post goes off to:Click: Yellow for Bri (Read more about it here)