One of the best-kept secrets of the Coorg table® is the sheer range of fresh and vivid vegetarian dishes that appear regularly at mealtimes. Before market towns were established, vegetables were generally grown in small back gardens, or else foraged and gathered from estates and forests. Despite having access to towns and markets, both my grandmother and my mother-in-law had kitchen gardens, like every home in Coorg. My grandmother was an expert gardener and divided her day between cooking and gardening, working to a predictable rhythm. In her vegetable patch creepers trailed from a makeshift trellis; there were plump butter beans, French beans, fiery bird’s eye chilies, fat pumpkins and much more – always something to be plucked, fresh and flavourful and added to the menu of the day. This patch that had a life of its own, growing wild and unrecognizable during the monsoon months, only to be patiently brought back to shape under her direction each year, when the rains had gone. Since it was out of bounds, we could not resist the temptation of wandering through, playing wild games of catch and hide and seek, only to be shooed away for trampling the plants, pinching tendrils and plucking young vegetables before they were ready. A breakfast favourite frequently was, and often still is, as far as our busy schedules permit, an earthy kumbala curry, full of cubes of pumpkin, skin on, simmered in a bare minimum of spices, thickened with a small amount of ground coconut and seasoned. It arrives with golden slivers of crushed, fried garlic, a scattering of mustard seeds and deep red chilies floating on the surface. The gravy, which becomes creamy with the combined weight of some pumpkin pulp and a little ground coconut, is perfect for mashing the cubes of pumpkin. All it needs then is a spoonful of hot, melted ghee poured over the mixture, and broken off bits of akki otti with which to scoop it up. The green, stripy skins become perfectly tender and edible and provide a lovely contrast of colour and texture. My grandmother would put a little jaggery into the curry, while my mother-in-law left the pumpkin to show off its natural sweetness, and that is the recipe that I have given below. Faintly sweet and garlicky with a hint of spice, the combination of akki otti and kumbla curry is a generous and satisfying way to start the day.

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is a widely published independent writer on food, wine and heritage, based in Bengaluru. Her features appear in leading publications. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

  1. Rupashree says:

    I have tried most of the recipes that you have posted. And every time I cook ,I find the recipes so simple and yet so yummy and tasty. Sweet pumkin is one of my favorite vegetable . In this recipe I felt the flavors were very well balanced. Thanks soo much, for sharing this recipe . I was waiting for a long time for a new recipe from you , this time it was a vegetarian , was very excited . Always enjoy cooking your recipes. Thank you

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Rupashree, thanks so much for writing in. It’s wonderful to hear from you that you liked the recipes. Please do keep trying them out. The next couple of them are going to be vegetarian again, as we have some great dishes from Coorg, that are quite underrated,so do look out for them. Have fun!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Chayaa, thanks for writing in.The recipes taste as good as they look, if not better-I have a lot of fun styling the food. These dishes are favourites with my family and friends. Do try them out, I would love to know from you how they turn out.

  2. Bojamma Gandhi says:

    This recipe is an absolute delight. Like you rightly put it, there are various ways to make kumbala curry. My Mom has her own version too. I could eat this for all the meals through out the day. Thank you for putting in the effort to share this! I do utterly miss Kodava cuisine!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Bojamma, how nice to hear that you liked the recipe. It is so uncomplicated, maybe that’s what makes it so delicious. And if you have the luxury of a pumpkin grown in your own garden,all the better. If you try any of the other recipes,do share your experiences. Enjoy your kumbala curry!

  3. Mallika Bhat says:

    Hi Kaveri, I came across this blog today and feel determined to read each and every post of yours. It makes me lose myself here to your space, wander around and get swoon away. It’s beautifully written, sketching out your memories and painting them elegantly with your words. The recipes are simple and quick to adapt. I am also set to try out this yellow pumpkin curry today. Shall be here again to follow you. 🙂

  4. kaveri ponnapa says:

    Hello Mallika, welcome to The Coorg Table! Thank you very much for your kind comments,I do hope to see you regularly on these pages. The recipes are really very simple to follow, and quite delicious, I can promise, and my family and I eat these dishes very regularly. I hope you enjoy the pumpkin curry as much as I do. If you can find the time, next round, eat it with akki otts, the combination is perfect. Best wishes,Kaveri.

  5. Deepak Muckatira says:

    Hi Kaveri,
    Came across your webpage the other day when reading about the Kodava heritage. Tried your recipe for the Pumpkin (Kumbla) curry and it came out yummy (very close to how my Mom, and Grandmom make it ;-)) My roommates loved it!! Just one word to describe this dish ….simplicity at its best.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Deepak, I’m so glad that you enjoyed the kumbala curry, and your roommates liked it too. This is how my mother-in-law used to make it, and we all love it. It’s so simple, but perfect in every way. Do keep visiting these pages, and Happy Puthari! Best. Kaveri.

  6. Shanthini Rajkumar says:

    Hi Kaveri ! I love growing the yellow pumpkins both at home as well as in our farm. It’s one of my all time favourite veggies to eat as well as to cook with. Today I had the urge to try out something different from what we usually make and thereby stumbled upon your delightful recipe , pictures and all ! Old world family recipes are just so special and very little can compete with tried and tested recipes that have been handed down over generations. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Shanthini, it’s so nice to hear that you loved this simple but delicious curry.How fortunate to be growing your own vegetables on your farm, that’s a dream life, ad the best way to cook and eat. Yes, most of those old recipes seem to need very little added or taken away from them, they are usually perfect the way they come down to us-so many cooks have spent decades refining them, I guess! Do keep reading, and look out for the cookbook.Warm wishes.Kaveri

  7. Latha Parameswaran says:

    Hello Kaveri

    Very soothing yet refreshing to read your blog and recipes. There is whiff of old world charm combined with an elegance that ties it to the current day and age. I normally don’t like reading long blogs. I start and mostly skip lines and get to the end quickly. I don’t mean to exaggerate, but your writing is truly inviting with an almost delectably edible feel to it, 😊 making you want to keep going slowly till the end.

    I have not had the pleasure of meeting you at length in person, but I think the article in the Goya journal does justice in describing your personality and interests so perfectly for an outsider like me.

    You may not remember meeting me years back in our Koramangala office, but I know you and have read your blog and book ( thanks to Naresh).

    I have bookmarked your blog and hope to try some new recipes along the way.

    With appreciation and regards
    Latha

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Latha, welcome to The Coorg Table, I’m delighted you’ve enjoyed the writing enough to read through to the end of the posts! I love cooking and sharing my experiences around food, so I hope you will keep reading -and please write whenever you feel something about what you read here. Do follow The Coorg Table on Facebook, and I hope that we meet someday to share recipes and stories. Warm wishes.Kaveri

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hello Shilpa, please have a look at the end of the post -all recipes will be in my cookbook, which is a work in progress right now. Do keep reading! Kaveri

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Maria, I’m so sorry I missed this one-I hope not too long from now! Please keep reading, I will post here when the book is finally ready to go. Warm wishes. Kaveri

  8. Esha says:

    Hi Kaveri , your cooking and presentation exudes class and elegance. I’m in awe of your cooking and style. Could you please let me know as to when your cook book would be out. Best wishes.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Esha, I am delighted that you have been enjoying the page and posts. Thank you very much for writing these kind words, it makes me happy to hear from all this from you. I must be the slowest cookbook writer, but I promise you that the book is worth the wait-and it’s not too long now! Do keep reading, and write if you happen to like something. Warm wishes. Kaveri

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