Ummi Abdulla, the mother of Mappila cuisine, shares an exotic mutton recipe
Ummi Abdulla didn't start cooking until she was 40, but over the next three decades, she would not only put Malabari Muslim cuisine on the global culinary map, but also earn the title ‘Mother of Mappila Cuisine.’ The cuisine which originates from Northern Kerala, was actually influenced by the food habits of Arab merchants who would come to the region to trade in spices. This sets coastal cuisine apart, as you’ll find a consistent Middle-Eastern relish in the dishes of the region, heavily featuring spices like black pepper, cardamom and cloves. Ummi has not only brought the Mappila palate in global perspective, but also travelled extensively, educating chefs and culinary experts about the complex cuisine. She has authored several cookbooks on the subject; her biggest seller would be the limited edition coffee table book, A Kitchen Full of Stories, which was conceptualised by Nazaneen Jalaludheen, her granddaughter. Both Nazneen and Ummi came down to The Westin recently, to give us a taste of their homegrown recipes. As you might imagine, we had a lot of questions.
“The book (A Kitchen Full of Stories) took seven years to come together; it was quite challenging. Everything from finding an editor to a photographer, and all other details were taken care of by my granddaughter Nazneen. All the pictures in my book were actually shot at our house in Kerala! We had quite a few tastings to see what worked and what didn’t. Eventually, I’d say it was a success, as the book is quite personal too,” Ummi reveals. One of the dishes we had the opportunity of tasting, courtesy Ummi, would be the Varutharacha Erachi, which is a wonderfully intense and peppery coastal meat curry, and we also got hold of the recipe.
VARUTHARACHA ERACHI CURRY (Mutton curry in roasted coconut paste)
Mutton 500 gm | Coconut oil 5 tbsp | Onions - sliced 3 large | Green chilies - slit (5) | Tomato - chopped 2 large | Ginger paste 2 tsp | Garlic paste 2 tsp | Coriander powder 2 tbsp | Turmeric powder 1 tsp | Red chili powder 1 tsp For grinding: Grated coconut 1 cup | Shallots - chopped 10 number | Fennel seed 1 tbsp | Garlic ½ cup | For tempering: Coconut oil 1 tbsp | Mustard seeds 1 tsp | Curry leaves - 1 sprig
INSTRUCTIONS:- ■ Heat oil, add tempering, sauté the onions along with the green chilies till soft. ■ Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic pastes and cook till tomatoes are mashed up. ■ Add the masala powders and fry briefly. ■ Add mutton and cook nicely, add water as required and cook with cover. ■ In a heavy bottomed dish, add the ingredients for grinding and dry roast till slightly browned on very slow heat. Add a little water and grind into a smooth paste. ■ Add the paste in mutton, adjust seasoning. Simmer for few minutes. ■ In a pan, heat coconut oil, temper with mustard and curry leaves and pour from top.