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Passionate about life

Yesteryear actress Menaka shares her favourite recipes.

MENAKA, THE Malayalam actress of yesteryear, today leads a busy life looking after her husband and children. The success of the Malayalam movie, `Vettom', which she produced, has not brought about much of a change in her routine. "I was a producer only in name; I hardly visited the set during the discussions or production," she says with a smile.

Love for cooking

Cooking has always been an obsession with her. She learnt it on her own, though observing her mother cook the traditional Tamilian dishes and her mother-in-law the Kerala fare helped her a lot. She is an ardent fan of the gourmet, Mallika Badrinath. "I have a collection of her books, and I have tried out most of the recipes. I also watch cookery shows on TV, be it in any language, and try out the recipes," she says.

Though Menaka and her daughters are strictly vegetarian, she likes to try out non-vegetarian recipes but substitutes the meat with vegetables such as mushroom or potatoes. "I love Andhra and Mangalorean food. I've even tried my hand at Thai recipes," Menaka says. She is fond of Kerala food, but would rather avoid coconut. "Coconut gives a distinct taste to any dish. I love food with a natural flavour; adding coconut just spoils it," she adds.

Painting and dancing

Painting is yet another of her passions. Tanjore, glass and mural paintings made by her adorn the living room of her flat. She attends classes to learn the Raja Ravi Varma style of paintings and wants to dabble in Kerala murals too.

"I love to dance and am a student of Padma Subramaniam," she says. Whenever time permits, she goes to Chennai to attend Bharatanatyam classes conducted by Padma Subramaniam. "I don't sing, though I've had to take music lessons as part of my training in dance. But I love to listen to soft music, be it in Hindustani, Carnatic or English classical," she says.

Here are two of Menaka's easy-to-prepare and tasty recipes:

Kathirikai thokayil


Kathirikai (green brinjal) cubed - 1 cup
Red chillies - 10
Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Tamarind - a small ball
Onion (chopped coarsely) - 1 medium-sized one
Salt - to taste


Heat oil in a kadai. Add urad dal, red chillies and coriander powder. Fry until the dal turns brown. Powder the dal and chillies and keep aside. Pour four to five teaspoons oil in a pan and fry the brinjal until it is cooked. Add a little water to the tamarind and make a paste. Coarsely grind the fried brinjal, tamarind paste, salt, onion and add the masala powder that had been set aside. Kathirikai thokayil is ready. It goes well with curd rice or kanji.

Keera Masiyal


Green spinach (finely chopped) - 1 cup
Onion (finely chopped) - 2 medium-sized ones
Green chillies (cut in a round) - 8
Green mango (skin removed) - 1/2
Green brinjal (finely cut) - 2 to 3
Tamarind paste - 2 tsp
Sugar - a pinch
Tomato (optional) - 1
Red chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
For seasoning
Mustard - 1 tsp
Red chillies - 2 to 3
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Bengal gram dal - 1 tsp


Cook spinach, brinjal, onion, green chillies, mango, chilli powder, sugar or jaggery, salt and tamarind paste for seven to eight minutes. Once cooked, mix well using a wooden ladle. Using a grinder will not give the desired taste. Season the mixture with mustard, urad dal, Bengal gram dal and red chillies. Keera Masiyil goes well with chappatis and even rice.


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