From craft sourdough bread to herb-flavoured cheese, here’s a look at Coimbatore’s culinary artisans
The last year has been one filled with origin stories. And no we aren’t only talking about pop-cultures biggest superheroes making it to the big screen. From single-origin chocolates to organic millet granola bars, the culinary sphere has created its own unique narrative by adopting the small-batch artisanal food trend. We talk to Coimbatore’s food craftsmen who have redefined the city’s palate by creating products that not only look good and taste better but have a handmade story that is different.
Umeshwari Machani remembers growing up on a diet that included millets for most of her meals, an option that was not readily available for her children. Having created her own millet muesli for her house, the entrepreneur decided to extend a small batch to test reception in the market. “I didn’t think there would be many takers for the cranberry almond and cacao nib muesli, since most of us still prefer a traditional breakfast,” she says talking about her breakfast cereal that first made its debut at the city’s Gourmet Bazaar in 2016. However, following an unprecedented success run, Umeshwari and her co-founder husband, Srivardhan Sethuram set up their brand Monsoon Harvest. Looking to bring back heirloom millets like ragi, kambu thenai, varagu and samai, the brand has created a range of baked granola bars, toasted millet muesli and crackers. “The idea was always to create something with local produce. We work closely with farmers from the millet growing regions of north Tamil Nadu for our raw material.” Using palm jaggery and freeze-dried fruit in their products, Monsoon Harvest uses no fructose corn syrup, artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Hand measured before grinding, roasting and mixing the ingredients, the founders keep a close eye on each step of production. Adopting a Quentin Blake style of illustration, the brand’s quirky packing is as much an attention grabber as their signature dark chocolate and orange peel muesli or the choco chip oat clusters with ragi flakes and banana cereal. Look out for the brand’s savoury nut and seed snack bars that is set to hit markets soon. Muesli starts at Rs 230 onwards.
The sweet life
For some, the best part of their morning cereal is the sweet-flavoured milk left at the bottom of the bowl. A similar sentiment nudged entrepreneurs Sangeetha Karunakaran and her husband Murali Natarajan to create the newest flavour for their artisanal ice cream brand, Sage. The Breakfast Cereal Milk ice cream, though, is not the most outlandish of their creations yet. Debuting their brand in the second half of 2017, under their umbrella company Eden Go Fresh, the two started out by creating a range of superfood infused flavours like turmeric, beet and matcha, before introducing the ragi millet waffle cone to complement their ice creams. “We also tried introducing a moringa leaf ice cream, but we weren’t able to procure a large enough quantity to sustain production,” shares Sangeetha. Fuelled by the lack of preservative-free icecreams in the Coimbatore market, the duo first created desserts that their six-year-old could enjoy like Belgian dark chocolate, tender coconut and strawberry before moving towards over the top fusion flavours like smoked cardamom and beetroot and ginger. “We use full milk and use fruits and ingredients that are locally available which gives it a gelato like consistancy. We recently also launched a black pepper, black sesame and peanut butter gelato range.” With their flagship store at the Coimbatore airport and another one set to open in Coonoor by March, the entrepreneurs have set their sights on the artisanal bread market next. Rs 100 onwards.
Not loafing around
If you want in on the artisanal bread game in Coimbatore, Deepa Pathmanathan, a home-baker who sells handcrafted breads on her social media page called Sweet Sprinkles may just be your person. Though an expert in making exotic buttercream frosting cakes, a curiosity about baking artisan breads took over a couple of years ago and since then there has been no stopping the self-taught bread baker. From hand kneaded plain country loaves, walnut and poppy sourdough, focaccia, rosemary and paprika to chilly raisin sourdough loaves that can set your tongue on fire, Deepa bakes them all. “Artisanal bread is not your run-of-the-mill baking experience as it involves a lot of science. It requires knowledge about temperature, proportions and various blends of flour to make each loaf,” says Deepa. She further explains that the mother culture is the key to making breads and an open crumb structure with large holes is a sign that the bread has had a long natural fermentation. “The dough needs to be treated gently and this translates to flavour,” adds Deepa.
Cheesy does it
Regular store-bought cheese is now passe. With locals discovering the wonders of the camembert, feta and gouda, the demand for hand-crafted artisanal cheese is slowly becoming a growing niche in the city. But entrepreneur Deepika Senthilkumar was ahead of the trend curve when she launched her brand, Ela-The Earth Store in 2015. Started out to cater to the demand for indigenous dairy (A2 milk), the by-product was initially only a means to create a longer shelf-life for their farm produce. “The primary objective was to make the best use of our free-range farm milk from Pollachi and introduce people to small-batch cheese,” shares Deepika. Starting out by offering cottage, cream and mascarpone cheese, the 31-year-old has created an Indian flavour palette that includes honey, cinnamon and palm sugar, red wine and shallots, and pepper and garam masala versions. Catering to a select clientele, the cheese and flavoured herb butters are only made on order, while at their new food venture—The Perch, a slow food restaurant—Ela’s products are available on demand. Cream cheese starts at Rs 100.