Sunday, February 20, 2011

Adventures with Coconuts

Recipe: Beef and Tapioca

Last week, I was able to fulfil one of my lifelong ambitions - to successfully dehusk a coconut. In my parent's house in Kerala, there was an interesting contraption they used to dehusk a coconut. It looked like an arrow pointing to heaven with a lever on one side! And when you pulled the lever, the arrow head opens up and pulls apart the fibres of the husk from the coconut. This contraption was supposed to make coconut dehusking easier.

With instructions from the most experienced coconut-dehusker, our house-help, I hit the coconut hard on the arrow head such that it punctured the husk. Held it steady and then pulled at the lever. And... it just slipped of the arrow-head (Flop 1). Then I tried again, this time I found it very difficult to even budge the lever (Flop2). And after many more flops, I finally managed to do it right (finally a glimmer of hope). I had to do this on all sides of the coconut (and with a little help from my brother to pull the lever), I was able to get it completely dehusked. And then I pulled apart the loose husk from the nut to reveal my first ever successfully dehusked beauty! I laughed victoriously and suddenly felt like a super-hero! (how's coco-woman for my super-hero name? Now to get my cape and costume ready...)

After I did my first coconut, I went on to do another one and then another one. I finally stopped after dehusking 12 coconuts in a row! After that it was difficult to stand outside and dehusk anymore as it was past 6pm and the mosquitoes were eating me up. I had to escape indoors with what was left of my poor arms and legs.

I felt like I had done over 100 crunches after all that coconut dehusking. This definitely works out the muscles of the abdomen. So those of you who are aiming for that gorgeous flat stomach flaunted by models and film-stars, just dehusk about 10 coconuts a day... everday. And you are guaranteed to have a stomach as flat as a table-top! Forget those crazy diets and expensive gyms :)

We lugged our bounty of dehusked coconuts and a tiny bundle of the much sought after "kanthari" chilli, (the tiny chilli which is famous for its fiery nature and distinct smell) all the way to Bangalore.

Armed with a lot of tapiocas, coconuts and kanthari chillies, I was on the look out to make a really nice traditional Kerala dish.

Whenever I want to try something traditional yet new to me, my go-to cook book is "The Suriani Kitchen" by Lathika George. It is a delightful collection of memoirs and recipes that are traditionally cooked in the Syrian Christian households of Kerala. There was this one particular beef and tapioca dish which she claimed was common among Christians from Thrissur. Though I'm from the same place, I've never eaten or seen this dish. So I just had to make it. I made some adjustments to it as per my tastes - made it hotter (read more chilli) and also dry-roasted the powders before using them :)

BEEF AND TAPIOCA (Erachiyum Kappayum)
Recipe Adapted from The Suriani Kitchen by Lathika George, page number 108. For the original version of Lathika George's recipe, check out her delightful book (It was also published as The Kerala kitchen initially)


Grated Coconut - 2 cups
Kanthari chilli - 3-4 (optional)
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Beef - 1/2 kg - cubed
Water to cook the tapioca and the beef
Salt to taste
Coriander powder - 2 and 1/2 Tbsp
Chilli powder - 3 tsp (do adjust as per taste)
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Tapioca - 1/2 kg - washed well, skin removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
Coconut oil - 3 Tbsp and 1 tsp
Sambar onions/shallots - 1 cup - chopped
Garlic - 6 cloves crushed
Curry leaves - a bunch
Mustard seeds - 1tsp (optional)

Place tapioca with water covering it and salt as per taste in a deep pan and boil it covered till the tapioca is
well cooked.

Coarsely grind the coconut, 1/2 inch piece of ginger and kanthari chillies (if using) and mix this with the cooked tapioca. Coarsely mash the tapioca and coconut mixture.

Dry roast the coriander powder, chilli powder and turmeric without oil on a low flame till the raw smell of the powders go away.

Marinate the beef in the above dry roasted powders and salt for 1/2 an hr and then cook in a pressure cooker with a quarter cup of water till well done.

Heat the coconut oil. Saute the shallots till transparent. Add the remaining ginger crushed, crushed garlic and curry leaves and fry till the raw smell goes away. Add the cooked meat to this and mix well over a flame. Add the mashed tapioca and cocomut mixture to this and cook over low heat for 5 min.

For me, if its tapioca there has to be the smell of popped mustard as well, else I feel its incomplete. So, heat a tsp of coconut oil in a small pan. Pop the mustard seeds in it and then add 5-6 curry leaves as well. After the popping is done, pour this over the tapioca and beef.

This dish is so comforting and yummy and finger-licking good. I have no clue why we never tried to make this before. This delicious one-pot meal has stolen my heart. We all loved this dish.

I'm sending this dish to Ria for the Kerala kitchen of this month.


Plateful said...

I haven't made these in a while and had forgotten all about the tapioca in my fridge. Thanks for the delicious reminder!

Sneha Benny said...

Ammu chechy, You are tempting me so much with our famous tapioca dish. Both of us have been craving for this for a long time...

Sarah said...

@Nashira: Enjoy the dish.
@Sneha: So you folks make this at home? For some reason, I never knew about this dish till I read the dish :) When you come down to Bangalore, you can have as many tapiocas as you want. There are sometimes just too many coming from the farm.

Unknown said...

Aduthu pravashyam enneyum vilikkooo :)

Sarah said...

@Shrijith: Sure :) Better to call the both of you in a few months time for virunnu :)

Unknown said...

Ammu, impressed with your newly learned Skill. Keep it up.
Next time when you make kappayum erachiyum try it with pork instead of beef and see the difference. This is regular dish in Chelad and here also I make it very often

Sarah said...

@Sunisha: Thanks :) oh boy, i can imagine how delicious pork will be with kappa. will try it with the next batch of kappa.

Sunisha said...

Love your blog Ammu. Very interesting read! I'm not very interested in cooking though, I must confess ;) But tried the "KFC" chicken and it came out really well. Most of all, Rohit, my older one, went about telling everybody "My mother knows how to make KFC!" :)Hey, wanted to know...the pics in your blog...did you take them as well?

Sarah said...

@Sunisha chechi: aww thanks.. U r the sweetest! Glad that KFC (or rather the healthier version) was a success :) Yeah, I take the pics as well. Finding a real interest in food photography these days. Never realised I could take good photos till I actually tried. Took the initial tips from bro and husband :)

Juny said...

Hey cocowoman....Congratulation on your coconut dehusking...10 is a very good number for a first timer. The first time I saw that creative inventive device, i was thinking to myself..."cheers to the mallu who came up with such an effective idea". I look forward for your blogs dear...keep up the good work. I make a different version of this recipe...but will try your next time.

Sarah said...

Thanks Junes :) Do you want to do a guest post on your version of Tapioca and beef ? :)

Sneha Benny said...

Here it's very difficult to get good tapioca. The ones you get from the Indian store are not fresh. Mom makes chakka and pork. That is awsome !!! But beef and kappa I had it from my college. There it is called as kappa Biriyani !!!

tina said...

first time here....tapioca adipoli ketto....kure nalayi kazhichittu...kothipichu..

spoonfulofdelight said...

Thanks Tina :)


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