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Kerala on a platter

TALK about Indian cooking and the vision that immediately comes to mind is one of parathas, mutter panneer, methi aloo and even idli, dosai. Traditional Kerala cooking has often taken the backseat. Set in the south-western coast of India, the demand for pepper and other spices drew traders to its coast more than 2,000 years ago. Visitors to Kerala have been plenty and "It was trade and food that launched Kerala in the hospitality business and today, the State is one of the world's favourite destinations".

Flavours of the Spice Coast by Mrs. K.M. Mathew features essentially Kerala cooking. The recipes are segmented into nine chapters — meat, egg, fish, vegetables, rice, pickles, desserts, breakfast delights and teatime favourites. Meat oolarthiyathu, meen peera pattichathu, idichakka thoran, paal ada pradhaman, puttu, avalos unda, are some of the traditional favourites. And almost all the dishes are with coconut — gratings, milk or oil, adding to the taste and flavour.

The ingredients are listed in order of use and the number of people the prepared dish would serve. The dishes are easy to prepare and the ingredients used are the ones always in store. So one is saved the trouble of having to run to the nearest grocery to get some unknown herb or spice. The easy-to-cook, tasty dishes take minimum time to prepare, an added boon for those pressed for time.

Puttu maker

The visuals that go with each recipe are eye-catching or rather mouth watering, so much so one is tempted to rush into the kitchen and cook up these sumptuous surprises.

The aroma almost wafts out of the pictures by K. Madan Rangan. The last page features a double spread of the sadya. Salim Pushpanath has captured the essence of Kerala cooking complete with the red rice, avial, papadam, parrippu, payasam, kaddu manga...

Kanji payar thoran (Whole green beans)

One chapter deals with "Notes from the kitchen" with a list of some of the lentils used. There are also pictures of the urali, puttu maker, meen chatti and appam chatti, and a short note on the spices and condiments. With 105 pages and priced at Rs. 995 one wonders if the book is aimed exclusively at the NRI market. In their forewords, Mrs. Thangam Phillip and Ashwathi Tirunal, Princess of Travancore, have abundantly praised and congratulated the culinary skills of the author, and at the end of the book one is left in no doubt as to why.

Mrs. Mathew's first recipe appeared in the pages of the Malayala Manorama, when they "sandwiched a recipe for mutton between reports on prime ministers Nehru and Churchill". Since then she has published more than 20 cookbooks. And no Syrian Christian bride's trousseau is complete without a set of those books. It is her conviction that nutritious food need not be rich and expensive. Even the humble tapioca is given a place of honour on her table.

Flavours of the Spice Coast, Mrs. K.M. Mathew, Penguin Books India Ltd., Rs.995.


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