by Kaveri Ponnapa
Tiny white neem flowers, exquisitely shaped and scented, looked forward to all year, barely had time to appear in their usual clouds of white and lime green on the trees before they dropped exhausted to the ground, turning brown and dusty almost instantly. The firebush hedge, normally fresh and vivid with flowers right through a Bangalore summer stands sparse and stoic, leached of colour by the heat and dust. Tiny sunbirds alight, and complain indignantly as they dip into brittle flowers in the already blazing hot mornings. Fat, juicy limes left out on the kitchen counter shrivel and dry out in less than a day. Plump ginger develops a sad, wrinkly look, unless it is refrigerated. It has been the hottest summer so far, without the hope of rain in sight.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about country cucumbers that marked the beginning of the summer months in Coorg. The chouthe mor pajji I wrote about is a popular summer dish, a cool, green, coconut and curd-based relish. The post evoked a number of responses, including one from a regular reader of The Coorg Table, who said he could eat it like a soup. It got me wondering what a cucumber soup using the same ingredients would taste like: delightful, and absolutely refreshing, as it turned out!
To begin with, I whipped a cup of homemade curd, lightly; diluted it with a little buttermilk; added coconut milk by the tablespoonful, tasting as I went along, until I had the perfect consistency. The flavouring came from a couple of teaspoons of very smoothly ground coconut, a flash of green chillies and a pinch of mustard seeds. The coconut must be very well blended, so that you have a silky base that slides down easily, without any slivers of coconut snagging in the throat. And the last step, finely grated, skinned and de-seeded cucumber, pressed gently between the palms of the hands to squeeze out excess liquid, stirred into the soup and chilled. You can vary the proportions according to taste: less curd, more buttermilk and coconut milk. More spice or less. A pinch of sugar, or none. Salt.
The cool, smooth soup, with the delicate, thirst-quenching crunch of shredded cucumber is an answer to the temperatures raging outside. The family’s verdict: “It tastes like chouthe mor pajji”. That was more or less the idea.
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa
Photo Credits: A.G.P Sathyaprakash
Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.
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