For the better part of my teens, I was vegetarian by choice. Not dramatic, under normal circumstances, but since I am Coorg, it led to many interesting situations. Most often, when we visited relatives, my announcement was met with loud cries of shock and protest, followed by expressions of sorrow and disbelief. An aunt even questioned my suitability for marriage, vegetarian that I was. My grandmother would ask me, every day of the holidays, out of deep concern and affection, “What shall I make for you?” and exclaim, triumphantly, “Potatoes!” Somehow, the vast number vegetarian dishes on her extravagant table remained invisible to her. I soon grew accustomed to the sound of an omlette being hastily and violently beaten up in the kitchen, wherever I went, as compensation for all the meat I was going to miss. I could never figure out what all the fuss was about, because we had such a wonderful vegetarian repertoire of the freshest flavours possible, most of it sourced from the kitchen gardens attached to every home.

As it was, there were golden curries of pumpkin, cubed and cooked with tender skin still on (kumbala curry), faintly sweet and garlicky. From the back garden came deliciously fat, creamy double beans (avare), which were curried with ground coconut. Kuru curry was thinner, and ran to the edges of your plate, carrying a lovely contrast between fresh green shells and terracotta coloured, dried local French beans. There were lively, stir-fried greens, like kake thoppe, or chonde keere thoppe. The leaves were garden fresh, and all it took was an onion and a few green chilies to make a stir- fry perfect in its simplicity. Tiger-striped Mangalore cucumbers were fried soft and velvety, and given fillip with a little jaggery. And I would wait for the day when a pale, thin curry of ash gourd in curd appeared on the table. Delicate flavours, tender cubes of translucent ash gourd and a mound of white rice – it was all the lunch I needed that day. Comfort food meant thoge, a homely blend of vegetables cooked in a thin base of toovar dal.

In season came a parade of delicacies: wild mushrooms, tender bamboo shoots and enticing little mangoes that were made into a hot and sweet curry with a touch of jaggery. A large glass bowl on my grandmother’s table alternated between plain, solid curd and a selection of pachadis, made with cucumbers, the famous Coorg bitter oranges or sweet mangoes. And there was much more. Of course, things have changed. Going vegetarian is popular now, but we still seem to hesitate, doubting ourselves. Take me for instance – my mother-in-law suddenly turned vegetarian; when she came to stay for several months, I rushed out and bought a huge tome on vegetarian cooking and, abandoning this entire legacy, cooked for her from its pages.

Avare Curry

A creamy curry of broad beans

Ingredients:

  • 250 gms broad beans, shelled
  • Approximately 2/12 cups of water, to just cover the beans
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 scant tsp coriander powder
  • red chilli powder to taste
  • 2 green chillies, slit lengthwise
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • approx. ¼ cup coconut, ground to a fine, thick paste

For the seasoning:

  • 3-4 pods of garlic, lightly crushed
  • ¼ tsp mustard seeds
  • 7-8 curry leaves

Method:

  • Place the broad beans with the water in a small vessel and bring to a boil.
  • Add the salt, chopped onion, turmeric, whole green chillies and red chilli powder.
  • Keep on a low boil, until the beans are tender.
  • Work the ground coconut into the curry to thicken it.
  • Heat 2 tsp of oil and when hot, add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and crushed garlic pods.
  • Serve with hot akki ottis.

Cook’s Note:

Double beans take a long time to cook, so if you are in a hurry, place them in a pressure cooker with water, and all the ingredients in step 2, and allow to cook for one whistle. Let the pressure drop, and then follow the rest of the recipe, from step 4

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. Prashanth says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the broad beans curry last night,both of us relishing and rupa explaining me how simple the recipe was and she enjoyed cooking them.And was cooking the broad beans for the first time ,,and the flavours were coming together so well .And the plates were wiped out in no time.She has stopped asking for recipes from me and waits for you to post new recipes.And whenever she tries new recipes the coments card after the dinner say try again,never and do it very often and before i answer she said make again and again. Thanks a lot .

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      This is such a wonderful response Prashanth, thank you! It’s just great to hear how your experiments with these recipes are going, and best of all, I get the feeling of sharing good food with friends. I guess I’ll have to post much faster, now that I know there is someone out there, waiting eagerly for a new recipe : )

  2. Deepti says:

    Just today came back from Coorg vacation. We are vegetarians and had heavenly food in Coorg. Wanted to cook some of the veg dishes we tried there and came across your recipes. I have never cooked in coconut curry before, so I am excited and apprehensive at the same time :). Let’s see how my experiments go.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Welcome to The Coorg Table, Deepti. I’m so glad that you enjoyed the vegetarian food in Coorg -I agree that the food is superb! This is one of my favourite curries. We had it a few days ago, with akki ottis for breakfast. I can never get tired of it. I’m sure you will cook it well, just follow the instructions, they are quite simple. Good luck! Kaveri

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