Easter, the holy festival to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, just passed us by. After rejuvenating the mind with prayers and clearing the body through a vegetarian diet throughout the lent period, get ready to embark on a journey through a world of hot recipes.
Though the soft and feathery palappam, mutton stew and Kallappam are specialties from Kerala but the experience is never complete without tasting the Kuttanadan tharavu or duck roast. It doesn’t matter if you are from Kochi or Angamaly, or for that matter from Palakkad, to experience the real taste of duck roast, it should be either from Kuttanad or Kumarakam.
When the piping hot duck roast from Kuttanad is served, one seldom remembers the success story of the duck roast, as it had made the journey across the backwaters of Kochi. Let’s hear the story of the journey of Kuttanadan duck roast to dining tables in Kochi straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
Though Easter is celebrated in March, the preparations start early during the months of October and November. The eggs hatch at the end of October. The ducklings are first fed rice and later protein powder mixed with water is given. Dry fish mixed with chicken feed is given for 30 days along with boiled paddy grains. They are allowed to enter the fields after four days.
There are two varieties of duck in Kuttanad. Ash coloured ducks with mixture of grey and narrow while lines known as charatharavu and the other ones with mixture of green and black colour like that of red snapper fish called chempalli tharavu.
By February, the ducks are all sent across to various towns as Easter closes in.
Here's the recipe for authentic Kuttanadan duck roast
1-2 kgs of duck (cut into 12 or 15 pieces). 6 cardamom pods 5 cloves A few pieces of cinnamon 4 large onions, chopped 12 garlic pods, finely chopped 6 green chilles, finely chopped 12 curry leaves 3 tbsp vinegar 2 tbsp crushed pepper 12 cups water Salt to taste
Kuttanadan duck roast can create fireworks on your palate. We can try to recreate that magic with Kuttanadan duck at our homes. All you need is one or two kilos of duck. The duck should be cut into 12 or 15 pieces.
Heat cardamom, cloves and karuvapatta pieces in a dry pan and powder using a grinder. This is the traditional masala mix that is used for preparing Kuttandan duck roast.
The masala mix and pieces of duck should be put in an earthen curry pot with solid base and sufficient width for boiling it. Add three tablespoons of chopped ginger, 12 cloves of garlic, six finely chopped green chillies, 12 curry leaves, three table spoons of vinegar, two tablespoons of crushed pepper and 12 cups of water and add necessary salt. Partially cover the pot with a lid and cook on medium flame for about 30 minutes.
By this time, the duck will be cooked and the gravy will thicken. Remove the pot from flame only when two and a half cups of gravy remain in it. The cooked duck should be transferred to another bowl.
Take another large round bowl and heat oil. Add four big onions, finely chopped, and deep-fry for about four minutes. Add the cooked pieces of duck to the same oil and sauté for about 4-5 minutes. Take off the pan. To the same oil, add the gravy to and boil for two minutes.
As the gravy thickens, add the meat and fried onions again and mix well. Cook for another five minutes till gravy mixes with the meat pieces thoroughly.
Use of more oil and fried duck, vinegar, green chilies are all hazards to both health and to the heart. The percentage of carbohydrates and fat present in the dish is frightening indeed. However, one can take an exception and have it once in a while. But things can go horribly wrong if one gets hooked to Kuttanadan duck roast and the dish becomes inseparable from the diet becoming an everyday affair.
The old-timers in Kuttanad used to work hard in the fields and backwaters and their bodies were accustomed to eating large quantities of duck roast. However, most of us hardly break a sweat and spend most of our time under the fan or in AC rooms. For people like us it is dangerous to have duck roast everyday.