In the spirit of Jacob’s cookery classes and to prove I was listening to the teacher (and not being mischievous and misbehaving!), I share three Keralan dishes here that I created on my return from India. I have modified them slightly because of the non availability of certain vegetables and added a few extras for my greedy desires! The spices in India have much more depth and substance than those sold in Europe, so I modified the amounts to compensate for this too.

  • With Jacob, we made Vendakka Mappas (okra in creamy coconut sauce), but here I use courgettes instead of okra, and added some vegetable balls for fun!
  • We made Aubergine Vindaloo but here I use mushrooms instead of aubergines and I had no choice but to omit the tamarind and the sprig of curry leaves;
  • Vegetable Pulavu is pretty much as Jacob taught us but I added some spinach to this classic rice dish for some Popeye power!

Courgette Mappas with vegetable balls, Mushroom Vindaloo and Vegetable Pulavu

I served all three dishes to my guests in one dish, all cozy together and ready to be devoured with a fork! Even as a newbie chef, I can say that all three were exceptionally tasty and the guests loved it. The problem with success is that now my guests are waiting for the next Indian night… !

Preparing to cook, Keralan style!

The key to cooking for a chef who cannot multi-task in the kitchen (someone like me!) is to prepare all the ingredients beforehand and put them in nice little dishes just like the TV chefs! Basmati rice is best made the night before for something like the Vegetable Pulavu dish, so cook the rice and store it in the fridge.

Once you have prepared the ingredients, line them up in order (Jacob taught me this!) and keep them near the hob and pans. Here I cooked three dishes at the same time – the Mappas first, quickly followed by the Vindaloo, and 15 minutes later I started on the Vegetable Pulavu. It makes Keralan cooking so much easier!

For Garam Masala, I prefer to make the powder up myself instead of buying pre-prepared. Just crush and mix together the following parts, using a teaspoon or tablespoon for the measures:

  • 1/2 cloves
  • 1/2 cinnamon
  • 1/2 cardamom
  • 1/4 fennel


Courgette Mappas with Vegetable Balls

2-3 servings

Courgette Mappas ingredients… garlic, onions, courgette, red chilis, ginger…

Prepare the following in nice little bowls  😉

  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • green chili slit lengthwise (I use red chili paste instead)
  • small piece of fresh ginger, chopped
  • 1 large courgette, chopped into sticks
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons of coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1 and 1/2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of garam masala (see tip above for a home-prepared method)
  • large pinch of crushed black pepper

Optional for a finishing touch

  • mustard seeds
  • 2 dried red chilis
  • curry leaves

Heat the oil in a pan and get it hot! Saute the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilis for a few minutes.
Add the courgette sticks and fry until sautéed for 10 minutes.

Courgette, onion, ginger, garlic and chilis sautéing

Add the chopped tomatoes ans fry for 1 minute.
Add the chili powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and toss well for a minute.
Add salt and the coconut milk (and add vegetable balls if using them), and boil for 5-7 minutes.
Add the garam masala and crushed black pepper.

Courgette Mappas with added spices and vegetable balls

Simmer for a few minutes and remove from heat.

Courgette Mappas with veg balls simmering

Heat oil. Add mustard seeds and when popped add the red chilis and curry leaves.
Pour over the Mappas. Serve.

Mushroom Vindaloo

Jacob explained to us that vindaloo is an Indo-Portuguese fusion dish and is usually always cooked with meat, although Jacob does not. One of his students provided the recipe for an aubergine vindaloo, and here I modified it to a mushroom-based vindaloo instead of aubergine. For me, Indian cooking is all about experimentation to bring out the best of fruit and vegetables with spices and cooking techniques.

2-3 servings

Prepare the following in nice little bowls:

  • 1/2 inch of fresh ginger
  • 4 garlic gloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • small pinch of cumin powder
  • 4 handfuls of mushrooms, quartered
  • a tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • a tablespoon of turmeric to coat the mushrooms
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • two onions, chopped (shallots can also be used)
  • small pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chili powder
  • optional: small ball of tamarind paste
  • tomato puree

Using a blender, create a ginger-garlic paste by mixing the fresh ginger, the garlic cloves, the mustard seeds and the cumin, and a dash of white wine vinegar, as shown below on the left.

Vindaloo spices and ginger-garlic paste (left)

Place the mushroom in the bowl, splash on the vinegar, add the salt, and coat them with the turmeric.

Mushrooms tossed in turmeric

Heat the oil in a pan, make sure it is hot! Add the onions and smear them with the hot oil.
Add the coated mushrooms to the pan and turn the heat low.  Keep it low and let the ingredients reduce, stirring continuously.

Add the chili powder and the turmeric powder.

Mushrooms with spices

Add the ginger-garlic paste.
Stir and let the spices cook until the oil surfaces at the edges.

Add the tamarind paste (if using). Simmer.
Add the tomato puree. Simmer until the tomato aromas appear.
Stir well and remove from the heat. Serve.

Mushroom Vindaloo simmering

Vegetable Pulavu

3-4 servings

Vegetable Pulavu spices

Prepare the following in nice little bowls:

  • 2 cups of basmati rice, pre-cooked the night before
  • 2 tablespoons of oil
  • 8 cardamom
  • 2 inch stick of cinnamon
  • 8 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 40 black peppercorns
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste (see above for details under Vindaloo recipe)
  • 2 small bay leaves or 2 all spice leaves
  • 3 tomatoes, blanched and chopped
  • 2 handfuls of steamed mixed vegetables of your choice
  • pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a pan, hot hot hot!
Add the spices to the pan: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, black peppercorns.
Add the onion to the pan.

Vegetable Pulavu onions in spices

Add the ginger-garlic paste to the pan.
Add the small bay leaves or all spice leaves.
Add the tomatoes.
Add the mixed vegetables.

Pulavu veg and spice mix, pre rice

Add salt to taste.
Add the rice and fold into the pan mixture. Serve!

Originally published: Thursday, February 7th, 2013 at 21:38 in Aproned Angel, Monologues


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2 Responses to “Indian fusion dishes from Kerala”

  1. Julia says:

    Ohhh how yummay – will have a go at these dishes next week. Thanks for sharing – wonderful pictures too – you could be a food illustrator Jx

    • Well I could do with 8ch giving me some photography lessons (I keep hinting for him to come visit me again soon!) and I could do with a macro lens for my Canon EOS 450D… 8ch mentioned that I could buy close-up filters to screw onto the front of the lens that I already have, which would act as a magnifying glass. Could be something to try, eh?! Anyway, let me know how you get on with the dishes… give me a shout if you need any help! x


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