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HindustanTimes Mon,01 Sep 2014

Non Fiction

Essential Kerala Cookbook
PTI
June 24, 2003
First Published: 13:31 IST(24/6/2003)
Last Updated: 13:37 IST(24/6/2003)

The Essential Kerala Cookbook
Vijayan Kannampilly
Penguin India
2003
Cookery
Pages: 291
Price: Rs. 295
ISBN: 0-14-302950-9

Cookbooks are just about everywhere. And they are available by region, by category of food, by menu, and a whole lot else. But rarely does one come provided with the history of food in the region.

The Essential Kerala Cookbook not just provides a vast range of dishes from the region, but helpfully also provides a background to the food, which helps understand the dishes so much better. And as Kerala has a unique blend of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, its food reflects the blend in its cuisine too.

And for a fan of Kerala cooking, possibly the only thing better would be the dishes themselves. The range of recipes are comprehensive, from the widely known (and appreciated) appams and avails to the lesser known, but surely as delectable (at reading them definitely makes them sound so) dishes like Erisseri or Pazhavum Pachakariyum Chertha Pachadi or a whole range of Thorans!

And this was just the vegetarian. For non-vegetarians, the range is so much wider. Not only are there varieties of meat (irachi) and fish, the ways of preparation also differ considerably. And though the meen (fish!) tradition is fairly new to Kerala, again the differing blends have made it a melting pot for the dishes.

And as for coconut, well there are more dishes that have than those without. So for anyone without a liking for coconut, Kerala is definitely not the place to go for food. (It has much else on offer, though). Which is why possibly the book has no separate section for coconut dishes. From Vazhuthananga Thoran (stir-fried aubergine with coconut) and Varutha Meen Parukari (fried fish curry with coconut milk) to Varutharacha Kallummrkaya Kari (mussel curry with fried coconut), Puttu (Stemaed rice with coconut) to Kozhukkatta (savoury rice dumplings with coconut), not forgetting Kasuandiparippu Chertha Thenga Halva (cashewnut and coconut halwa), it will be more than difficult to stay away from coconut as it part of the spice and cooking medium families too.

And do not afraid that these tongue twisters are prepared with too many spices. Kerala food, we are informed is minimalist and tries to retain the flavour of the vegetable. There are separate sections on pickles and sweets. While the former looks interesting, for many, the sweets section will not be a whole lot different from other parts of south India.

So well, for all, or those without a fear of coconut, dig into karis and thorans and round it off with payasams!


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