Friday, August 21, 2009

Big Grandma's Coconut Chutney


My grandma's elder sister simple refuses to budge from our village. If we somehow spirit her away to our home here, she never lasts more than two days. Though she cannot articulate it, I understand. There are too many walls in the city, too many broken vistas, short steps, grey things. To a soul raised in green fields, under blue skies, the city can never be home.


She's the last of her kind. You see, she's never worn a blouse. Just that loosely flung sari that she wraps around herself in that unique village style. She told me about it. About how the 'blouse rage' spread through the land, how her sisters and friends took to it immediately. They tried with her too, but as she so charmingly and vehemently says "I couldn't wear it, no, no. I threw it off." Whenever she tells me this, I always imagine her running across the fields with a gaggle of people chasing after her, waving blouses in the air.

Anyways, big grandma makes the tastiest chutneys, the only way she knows how- on the grinding stone. Ask anyone in India and they'll tell you it tastes way better than what you blend in a processor. Its true.

She's a hardy soul, who worked in the fields all her life, even gave birth in them! You should hear the stories.....Oh, and big grandma's real name- "Chinna Ponnu"- which means exactly- "Little Girl". So true! :)


Big Grandma's Coconut Chutney
(adapted for making with a blender*)

1 cup packed Freshly Grated Coconut
1/2 lemon sized ball of Tamarind, soaked in water OR 2 tsp tamarind paste
2 large dried Red Chillies
1/2 tsp Rock Salt
1/4 cup water

Put it all together and let 'er rip. Add as little water as possible if it is too thick to blend properly. This is a very tangy chutney and it is best eaten mixed up with rice and a spicy fried side dish.

*These measurements are approximate. You can adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. Start with a little amount of each ingredient and pause as you blend to taste and add more.

15 comments:

  1. What a heartwarming post! I loved reading this. She's a woman of character, if you ask me. The thing about shying away from food processors - absolutely true. That's why I still use my pestle and mortar for pastes. You can taste the difference :)

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  2. Thankyou for this sight into another world.We are the same , again and again I see this.I also have such stories from here in Norway.

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  3. Ah Nya: Thank you! Very true about the use of stone for grinding- someone should find out the science of it...or maybe not. Let's just call it magic :)

    Alette: Indeed we are, Alette. We all are in some way or the other :)

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  4. Wow! This is really interesting post and also heartwarming :) Thanks for sharing it. And yes, you are so right, the taste and smell of blending it in processor and grinding it on a mortar is different.

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  5. Hi Mia,

    I found your blog through Foodgawker and had to click through immediately upon seeing the coconut chutney. That is exactly how we make it in Guyana and call it Coconut Choka!

    I love your Grandma's sister's sil batta. Wish I could have one of them. I one from my mom which is pretty impressive but wow, the one in the pic here is awesome.

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  6. Selba: Thanks! :)

    Cynthia: I've often found many similarities in the cooking of South India and East Africa. But I haven't explored South American cuisine yet and I'm amazed that the Choka is exactly the same..wow! I've got some work to do here!... We call it the 'Ammi Kal' down here and almost all homes have one. Indispensible part of my kitchen. Thanks for your lovely comment :)

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  7. The influence of the South Indian cuisine in the Caribbean is heavily present and very much a part of our food culture as a result to the indentureship to these parts.

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  8. Oh Mia, I forgot to mention, we fire-roast the coconut, grate it and then grind it with the ingredients. The fire-roasting gives it an extra-special flavour.

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  9. Cynthia: That's fascinating. I'm very interested in how our history shapes cuisine over time. Fire roasting is something I will try when I make this again. Thanks! :)

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  10. What an amazing woman! How easily we might say, "A blouse would be more comfortable" or "Electric appliances would be more convenient" to her and yet she looks so happy as she does her own thing! I envy her contentment and confidence in herself. Thank you for sharing a wonderful post and bringing such a wonderful person to our attention!

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  11. I can't quite tell you how beautiful I found this post - what an incredible, remarkable person, really the last of her kind. I love the blouse story, and the aproximate measurements of this chutney, and her name - 'Little Girl' - is so perfect. Thank you for sharing this, truly.

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  12. Tangled Noodle: There's an inborn simplicity and confidence that people who live their lives with the land have. Thank you for your comment :)

    Indigo: I'm glad you were touched by this story. Thank you!

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  13. Miu...this truly is what India is all about..culture..even in the kitchen.

    :)

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