For the past couple of months, I’ve been shuttling between Bangalore and Kannur and although everyone who knows me has had to listen to me whinging about how much I hate travelling, the truth is, I think I need a little bit of palm-trees-and-golden-beach Kerala and open-sewage-will-get-run-over-any-minute Bangalore to fully feel like myself.
Currently, I’m in Bangalore, and as I’m typing this, I have a track record of cooking about 90% of all meals consumed thus far. It does mean that I’m obsessively planning what to cook, and it really does take up most of my mind space, but I think that’ll change with a little bit of practice? I have a friend coming over for dinner in half hour, and I’m making mum’s tomato soup, some wok-tossed french beans, yes, the same ones I talked about here, and my new obsession — jacket potatoes. For dessert, there’s going to be custard apple payasam. And hot chocolate, should the mood strike.
I had to put on a sweater yesterday which means I can start listening to Buble soon. Although my geyser isn't working at the moment and the water is ice-cold, I tell myself it’s a character building exercise every time I shower, which is every day mum, I know what you’re thinking. It’s also the perfect weather for staying in and watching a movie. I reached out to my insta community for recommendations last week, and boy did they deliver. I have never loved the internet more. Except maybe that one time Nigel Slater liked one of my tweets. For those of you interested, some of the movies I have since watched (and enjoyed) recently are The Incredible Jessica James, The Beautiful Fantastic and Barefoot in the Park.
Before I run to check on the potatoes, I’m going to leave you with a recipe for pumpkin leaf, coconut and shrimp thoran. The recipe belongs to Chandri chechi, our cook in Kannur, who also very kindly hand-modelled in the picture above. Thoran refers to a side dish that usually contains coconut — the Malayali version of subzi, I guess? Floral, with just a hint of bitterness from the leaves, savoury from the shrimp and sweet from the coconut, this is the sort of dish I’d make if I were on an episode of Taste and Anthony Bourdain no longer looked orange and I wanted to impress him. But really, it’s also the sort of dish I’d make even on my lonesome ownsome, on a Sunday afternoon to go with some rice and maybe a nice movie.
Pumpkin Leaf Thoran with Shrimp and Coconut
(serves 4 as a side dish)
250 g pumpkin leaves with stem
5-6 small shrimp, shelled and deveined, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
2 tbsp grated coconut
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil, if you prefer)
Salt to taste
The stem of a pumpkin leaf has a slightly woody outer covering — remove it like shown in this video. Cut the leaves into 1/2-inch shreds. Cut the stem into 1/2-inch cylinders.
Mix the grated coconut, onion, salt, shrimp, green chilli, and turmeric to form a coarse paste. Add the pumpkin leaves and stems to it.
Heat the oil in a kadai or a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and wait for it to splutter.
Now add the pumpkin leaves mixture and cook on a low flame for 10 minutes. Add more salt if needed.
Remove from heat and serve hot with rice or rotis.