It was in 1963 that I first tasted the Spice Cake. I prepared it in the cookery lab as part of my nutrition and cookery course I had taken for my undergraduate studies. In those days we did not have spice powders like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg; these spices had to be crushed on a grinding stone (ammi) and then sifted. Because of this additional labour involved in making this cake I didn’t attempt the spice cake at home for a long time. Now we are able to get very fine powders of cinnamon and cloves in the stores. Life has become easy for me to take up the baking of spice cake. Though nutmeg powder is also available it never tastes fresh. Therefore I grate the nutmeg on a fine grater just before adding to the flour.
This is a special preparation I came up with for Easter. I have always wanted to make a chicken and rice preparation without messing with grinding ginger and garlic, coconut, kus kus, and chopping mint, coriander, tomatoes, and chillies. These are not only time consuming but also very spicy. I wondered how it would be if I made a chicken rice without the strong flavour of ginger and garlic. Here is a recipe for the faint hearted (stomached) but with all the rich aroma of chicken and rice. The stock that is used to cook the rice is made when the chicken is cooked, saving further time and effort of obtaining stock. To make it festive, one can garnish it with fried cashew nuts and raisins but my family relish it as it is.
My aunt Cynthia was always introducing new recipes to the family. This is another one of her innovations. We used to look forward to this preparation from January onwards when good quality cauliflower floods the market. This year it has been a bit late in coming – I have found good cauliflower only now in Chennai. The egg-coated cauliflower makes a wonderful side dish. It is a semi exotic preparation as it is both unusual and seasonal. I have added ginger garlic paste to the beaten egg to introduce some variety to the flavour. This dish was very popular with my colleagues who asked me for the recipe and prepared it often at home for their families.
Kootanchoru is a speciality of Thirunelveli cooking. In feudal times the labourers/workers were paid in kind i.e., rice, dhal, and whatever vegetables were grown in the farm. All these were cooked together to form a one-dish meal (kootu – everything together; choru – rice). Later on the landowners added groundnuts and maybe other pulses which were available to make it rich. Kootanchoru is not a vegetable fried rice. The rice, dhal, and vegetables are all cooked together and the dish must be soggy and mushy. It is usually served with pickle and fried appalam; the crisp appalam is a wonderful contrast to the soggy rice.