Like every Italian chef has a food story of his grandmother cooking, most of us here do too. I don’t have that story, sadly, but I have an idea of what it would be like because I have heard so much about it and have tasted a lot of other’s grandma’s cooking.
Weekends in southern Indian villages, for my mother’s generation, meant pressing balls of steamed rice to make tender and delicate noodles. Noodles as thin as hair that were paired with intensely spiced and flavored goat curry or a subtle sweet coconut soup.
Its such a shame that millennials don’t get to experience all that (most of them). The messy, tense and steamy kitchen, mixed aromas, trickle of sweat across the ajji’s (grandmother) forehead while she shouts for someone to come help her press that ginormous apparatus, that was cleaned and washed only on the weekends. Those are the real food stories!
Making Otthu Shavige is really an art. Just like pasta or egg noodles, otthu shavige requires a lot of patience, precise measurements and the knack to understand when the dough is firm enough to press. Only then does the noodle come out thin and non sticky.
I am not as skilled as those Ajji’s, d-uh! So I just make a fairly thicker version and add my own tweaks in the way I pair and present it. I like ice cream with chilled shavige, it is unbelievable! And, for a savory version, my cashew mutton curry!
- 1/2 kg boneless mutton (leg preferred)
- 7-8 whole cashew nuts
- 2 tp poppy seeds
- 1 tbsp oil
- 2 tp chilli powder
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tp fennel seeds
- 1 tp poppy seeds
- 1 inch cinnamon
- 2-3 cardamom
- 1-2 cloves
- 1/2 coconut, shucked and cut into small pieces
- 1 medium sized onion
- 2 tp coriander powder
- 2 tp red chilly powder OR 3-4 red chillies
- 1 tomato
For the curry:
- 1 medium sized onion
- 2-3 curry leaves
- 1/4 cup curd
For the garnish:
- 8-10 mint leaves
- 1/2 thinly sliced onion
- coriander leaves
- lemon wedges
Marinate chunks of mutton with oil, chilli powder, salt, chopped garlic for 8 hours/overnight. Try adding some rosemary at this stage for a different flavor. Separately, soak cashews and poppy seeds for 4-5 hours and grind to make a crude form of cashew milk, should resemble well beaten yogurt.
To make the masala, fry all the ingredients under “to fry”, with little or no oil, till fragrant. Add in the same order as mentioned in the list. Once cool, blend the ingredients with a few tablespoons of water to get a smooth paste.
Now, the meat! You can grill the meat (if the chunks are small), pressure cook it or cook it in the sauce for at least an hour. Because I like to experiment, I cooked in a slat dome for 45 mins and fried it in a pool of oil for a just a few seconds to get the most delicious meat I have ever eaten!
To start the curry, fry onions and curry in a wok on medium flame with 2 tablespoons of oil. Once golden brown, add the masala and continue to cook till it sinks to the bottom and the oil floats up. This way you know for sure that the masala is cooked. Add the chunks of meat (raw or fried) and cook for an hour if raw or just 5 minuted if grilled/ cooked in salt. Finally, add the cashew milk and curd and cook for another five minutes. Garnish with more fried onions and fried-glassy mint leaves, fried green chillies.