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Searching for warming winter dishes? Try recipes with pepper

First-time author Prasanna Pandarinathan relieves memories of her mother’s cooking in the cookbook-memoir ‘Ammi’

Pepper masala mutton chops (left) and Tanjore chicken pepper fry. (Photographer: Prasanna Pandarinathan)
Pepper masala mutton chops (left) and Tanjore chicken pepper fry. (Photographer: Prasanna Pandarinathan)

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Food establishes a connection to family and cookbook-memoirs—personal narratives with recipes—are record-keepers of culinary memories. Photographer and first-time author Prasanna Pandarinathan’s cookbook-memoir Ammi released this week. The title means mother in Urdu, and a stone-grinder in Tamil. For Pandarinathan it is the latter; her mother, Nirmala, used a traditional grinder, called ammi in Tamil, to make spice mixes every morning. It is a thoughtfully chosen name that combines the two translations, for the book is an ode to her mother’s cooking.

Also read | How recipe writing got a makeover

The author shared an excerpt of two recipes from her debut book:


Dad had a special liking for all dishes cooked in the style of his hometown, so naturally this recipe featured at the top of his best food list.

Prep time: 10 min 
Cooking time: 30 min 
Serves: 4

1 kg chicken 
3 tbsp ginger-garlic paste 
100 gm peppercorn 
1/4 cup oil
One-fourth tsp turmeric powder 
10 dry red chillies 
2 onions 
1 pod peeled garlic 
5 cardamoms 
5 cloves 
1 inch cinnamon stick 
A few curry leaves 
Salt to taste

Wash and cut the chicken into small pieces. 
Finely chop the onions. 
Dry grind the peppercorns. 
Break the cinnamon and the dry red chillies into medium pieces. 
Pour the oil in a deep frying pan or kadai and fry the cinnamon, cloves cardamoms, curry leaves, peeled garlic and onions till golden brown; add the ginger-garlic paste, broken red chillies, salt and turmeric. 
Add the chicken and fry for 5–7 minutes and then add half a cup of water; cover and cook on low flame. Keep stirring until it is drier and cooked. 
Add the pepper powder and fry for 5 minutes, remove from the stove. 
Serve with rotis or rice.

Note: You can use the same method for mutton pepper fry. You may also add 2 cups of coconut milk after adding the chicken/ mutton for a different flavour.

Also read | The many ways to warm up with paya this winter


I can’t remember a single time when mutton chops in pepper masala came out tasting less than perfect. Dad and my nephew Anush are testimony to that since we wouldn’t hear a peep from them until every last morsel on their plates was devoured.

Prep time: 10 min 
Cooking time: 40 min 
Serves: 6–8

1 kg mutton chops 
2 onions 4 tomatoes 
1 tsp garam masala 
One-fourth cup oil 
1 cup coconut milk
Half tsp turmeric powder 
2 tbsp black pepper powder 
2 tbsp chilli powder 
1 tbsp coriander powder 
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste 
A few curry leaves 
A few coriander leaves 
Salt to taste

Wash and rub a little pepper, chilli, turmeric, ginger-garlic paste and a little salt into the mutton and set aside for 30 minutes. 
Pressure cook the mutton to 3 whistles with 1 cup of water. 
Finely chop the onions and tomatoes. 
Heat the oil and fry the onions, sauté for a few minutes and then add the remaining ginger-garlic paste. 
Sauté and add the chopped tomatoes, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala. 
Cook for 5 minutes, add the coconut milk and the chops. 
Cook till tender and when the masala is dry add pepper and the curry leaves. Serve hot with rice or rotis or iddiappams.

Also read | A recipe for crispy pepper dosa from a Madurai temple

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