Publication: Time Out, Bangalore
Leela D’Souza: Seamstress, Kitchen Diva
Leela D’ Souza, now in her seventies, says that as a young bride she could neither sew nor cook. Funny thing that, because all she does now is make pretty dresses for little girls and cook up festive feasts. “My childhood friends will be shocked now,” she prophesied. “But there was no choice; I had to learn how to cook. We lived in Andhra Pradesh for 40 years and got no Mangalorean food there. Friends who visited home asked for only Mangalorean food, so I learnt how to cook from my husband and from books.”
D’Souza gives credit where due. Her version of pork indad (vindaloo from Mangalore), is an absolute necessity on the D’Souzas’ Christmas table. “I use pork slices and dust them with salt and turmeric and then fry before making the curry,” she said. “The thick layer of fat must remain on each slice and I once tried to trim the lard away and make a lean version. One taste and my husband said ‘never do this again’.”
Indeed it is the lard that adds to the taste. D’Souza’s secret touch is the chopped mint leaves she adds to the masala which is ground to a paste and then fried over a slow fire. “This is the tedious part. It must be fried for a long time,” D’Souza said. “Then just add the fried pork and some water and let it cook over a slow flame till done. You could pressure cook it but it taste better if made the traditional way a night before.” She always keeps a jar of chilli-paste ground with vinegar in her larder. The pork, which develops intimate bonds with the gravy overnight, tastes delicate. Soft and tender, with a hint of the red chilli paste, the smooth gravy soaks into accompanying appams and has to be eaten before the cube of pork fat part ways with the soft meat.
The D’Souzas keep their Christmas tables loaded with pork indad, mutton curry, roast chicken, salads, appams and chutney till 3 pm. But the indad is said to run out much before that.
Leela D’Souza’s pork indad
Pork one kg (sliced thick)
Onion one (sliced)
Sugar three teaspoons
Masala (ground fine)
Long dry Chillies (deseeded) 10
Jeera one teaspoon
Pepper corns eight
Raisins one tablespoon
Garlic 12 cloves
Ginger one inch
Onions three (chopped)
Green chillies two
Mustard seeds half teaspoon
Cinnamon half-inch piece
Bay leaves two
Mint leaves 15 (finely chopped)
Tamarind a marble-sized ball
Oil three tablespoons
Salt and Vinegar to taste
Apply salt on pork slices and keep aside. Heat three tablespoons of oil in a pan, add the marinated pork, fry till golden and brown and keep aside. Fry the sliced potatoes till brown and keep aside.
Dry-roast all the spices, mix and grind to a fine paste. Add sliced onion to the same oil the pork was fried in and fry till golden brown. Add the masala paste and fry till the oil separates. Add sugar and continue to fry for a minute before putting in the fried pork. Stir well and add water to cover pork and cook on a slow fire till the gravy thickens. To finish, add some vinegar and adjust salt to taste and add the fried potatoes. Serve hot with sannas or appams. Serves four.