Friday, December 18, 2009

10 South Indian Pepper Curries

One Page Cookbooks
South Indian Pepper Curries

All recipes copyrighted. No reproduction / commercial use without permission.

1.: Milagu rasam ( Tamil pepper soup) Mix half a spoon of tamarind paste in a half a cup(100ml) of water. Add a pinch of asafetida,turmeric powder and two pinches of salt. Bring to a boil. Crush two pinches of black peppercorns, a pinch each of cumin, coriander seeds and tuvar dal to a coarse powder. Mix in half a cup of water. Add to tamarind water. Heat on medium flame till it starts to simmer. (This is the ancestor of the mulligatawny soup).

Black pepper -The bead sized, shriveled fruit of a vine has been the world's most popular spice for over 2000 years. Known as black gold, it found use in the ancient world as currency. Even today, Pepper alone accounts for 20% of the global spice trade.Though a native of India, Vietnam is now the world's largest producer followed by India and Brazil.

It is a little known fact that India had another pepper variety - the long pepper (Pippali : Sanskrit, Thippili : Tamil). This was what ancient Greeks & Romans sought. Black pepper was considered an inferior substitute (and was sold at one third the price of long pepper). Over time, long pepper virtually disappeared from world cuisine, replaced by black pepper. The western world acquired a taste for pepper as a seasoning and medicine at least 3000 years back. Ancient Greeks relied on the overland silk road for their pepper supply. As early as 30 BC, over a hundred Roman ships, (each carrying over 100 tonnes) sailed to India each year for black pepper, cloves and other spices, leading Pliny the Elder to complain "there is no year in which India does not drain the Roman Empire of fifty million sesterces" (USD 45 Bn in today's money)

The aptly named trade winds acted as a giant conveyer belt across the Indian ocean. Summer winds blew south east, taking ships straight from gulf of Eden to the west coast of India in about four months. The traders had 2-3 months to trade and and could leave with the winter winds blowing north west, taking them back home.

After the fall of Rome, the huge profits from the pepper trade helped the rise of the Arab and Persian empires, who controlled the most of spice route to Europe.Italy grew rich by monopolising the last leg of the spice route in the Meditteranean. The grandiose towns of Genoa and Venice bear testimony to the huge profits of this monopoly. The Portuguese sought a sea route to get to the Malabar coast, to break the Italian monopoly. Vasco da Gama managed to sail around Africa, reaching India in 1498, ushering in a portuguese monopoly, which lasted a century till the British East India Company and Dutch East India Company ( VOC) ended it. They in turn, came to control much of the spice trade for the next 300 years, becoming the richest and the most powerful corporations the world has ever seen, eventually morphing into huge colonial empires. It was only after all these years that the pepper prices fell in the west, making it affordable for the common man.

Not surprisingly, the Malabar coast boasts of a huge variety of Pepper based curries. Even today, long after Chili displaced Pepper, Kerala cuisine ( especially the Namboodiri cuisine) uses pepper extensively. Across India, the native pepper and not the introduced chili is used in food cooked for orthodox religious ceremonies and in many temple cuisines.


Universal garnish : Heat a spoon of oil. Add two pinches of mustard, a pinch of asafetida and curry leaves. Add to all these curries as a garnish just before serving.

Shopping List :

50 gms :Tamarind paste, asafetida, turmeric powder,.

100 gms: Pepper, cumin , coriander seeds, tuvar dal,Bengal gram, dry red chili, Salt, coconut oil, coconut milk.

200 gms :Mango ginger, green peppercorns, lemons, coconut
500 ml yogurt.

2.: Kuru Milagu Oorugai (Tamil Peppercorn pickle)Take a handful of sliced mango ginger ( a rhizome like ginger, but much milder) and a handful of green peppercorns. Mix in five pinches of salt and the juice of five lemons. Let soak for a week.

3.: Milagu Kootu ( Tamil Pepper - coconut - cumin stew) Blend half a handful of coconut, three pinches of black pepper powder and two pinches each of cumin , salt and a pinch of turmeric to a smooth paste. Mix in a cup of water. Add half a handful of boiled vegetables. Let simmer for a minute.

4.: Erissery (Kerala Roasted Pepper- coconut stew) Heat a pan. Add a handful of grated coconut and a two pinches of cumin. Stir and roast for 2 minutes. Blend to a powder with four pinches of black pepper powder and two pinches of salt. Mix in a cup of water and a handful of boiled vegetables. Simmer for 2 minutes. Add a dash of coconut oil and serve.

5.: Milagu kulambu ( Tamil pepper tamarind stew) Mix a spoon of tamarind paste in a half a cup of water. Add a pinch each of asafetida, turmeric powder and two pinches of salt. Bring to a boil. Heat a pan. Add two pinches each of black peppercorns, Bengal gram, a pinch of coriander seeds and a dry red chili. Roast for two minutes. Let cool and blend to a powder. Mix in half a cup of water. Add to tamarind water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 5 minutes.

6.: Olan (Kerala Coconut milk curry) Take half a cup of coconut milk. Mix in half a cup (100 ml) of water and two pinches each of salt and pepper powder. Add half a handful of boiled vegetables (Red pumpkin /Ash gourd).Cook on low heat for five minutes. Add a dash of coconut oil and serve.

7.:. Devasa morekulambu ( Tamil pepper yogurt curry) Take two pinches of cumin. Blend to a paste with three pinches of black pepper and half a handful of grated coconut.Mix in a cup of yogurt. Add half a handful of boiled native vegetables. Serve straight or simmer on a gentle flame for 5 min.

8.:. Molagu Vellam (Kerala pepper - buttermilk curry) Mix two pinches of pepper powder, a pinch of turmeric and two pinches of salt in half a cup (200 ml) of water. Bring to a boil. Mix in half a cup of yogurt and remove from fire. Served towards the end of a meal. (Consistency: Soupy).

9.: Milagu Jeera Podi (Tamil pepper - cumin powder) Heat a pan. Add half a handful of each of pepper and cumin. Stir and roast for a minute. Let cool. Blend to a coarse powder with three pinches of salt. Eat mixed with hot cooked rice, drizzled with ghee.

10.: Kaalan (Kerala Coconut – yogurt curry) Take a handful of grated coconut. Blend to a smooth paste with a pinch each of cumin, turmeric, two pinches of pepper and a little water. Mix in a cup of yogurt. Add half a handful of boiled native vegetables. Simmer on a gentle flame for 5 min.

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