Sunday Special - Kube Mutli (Cockles/Clams In A Gravy With Mini Rice Dumplings)

It's not too often that I find fresh cockles or squid in the fish market that I go to. On my recent trip there, the 'mogorle' (fisherwoman) in her shrill voice excitedly told me that I must buy the fresh cockles that just arrived. Knowing that this particular lady never cheats me, I immediately agreed to buy 3 'wantas' (which means batches in Hindi).

Depending on where they are sourced from, one needs to be careful while cleaning them. While in Mangalore, you can vouch for their freshness and cleanliness, in places like Mumbai, you often get cockles that are filled with 'ubeer' (filth), so it's really important to clean them thoroughly & then place them in the fridge for a good 30minutes so that they open their shells (gasping for breath - poor things) so you can clean them properly before steaming/cooking them.

While I often make a 'Sukkha' (dryish dish with coconut & spices) out of the cockles, this time around I decided to make the 'Kube Mutli' with my prized possession.

Sometimes I wonder who created a dish like the Kube Mutli. Mutli is also known as Pundi in Kannada & Tulu and Kube is known as 'Marwai' in local language. Whoever thought of adding cockles to rice dumplings swimming in a gravy made of coconuts!! Whoever it was deserves a pat on their back(s) cuz this is one of my most favourite Mangalorean dishes.

I have called it a Sunday Special cuz that's the day of the week when we have a grand meal. The entire week goes by in a mad rush & I resort to making simple dishes that are not too time consuming. I am not sure if many of us would try our hand at making this authentic dish in today's time & age cuz it took me a loooong time to make this entire dish from scratch. But it was worth the effort since I am slowly beginning to learn the importance of 'slow food' in this age of fast foods & instant gratification & zero nutrition, I hope you make it too - someday, when you have at least a good 2 hours on your hands.

Here's a snapshot of how a batch of cockles looked like. Gorgeous arent they? I call them the gems of the sea

Kube Mutli

You Need:
About 60-70 cockles, washed, drained and meat retained in only one shell (kerl) of each cockle while discarding the other (else you'l have a clutter of empty shells & loads of tiny disappointments :-)

600-700gms Chicken (If you are unable to find cockles in the city where you live) - This variation is known as the 'Kombi-Mutli'

For the Mutli:
250gms (uncooked) boiled rice (also called as 'Ukdo' in Konkani, 'Ukda' in Hindi & Marathi & Idli rice in English) - washed and soaked in water for at least 1 1/2 hours

Salt to taste

For the Gravy:

4 long red chillies (kumti mirsang)

1 tsp coriander seeds

4 peppercorns

1 tsp jeera/cumin

1/4 tsp mustard

4 cloves garlic

1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi

2 handsful grated coconut (to be ground along with masala)

1/2 coconut (1 volen) to extract milk (roce) OR 4 tbsps coconut milk powder dissolved in 500ml warm water

1 small onion roughly chopped (to be ground)

1 small onion finely sliced (for frying)

1 small ball of tamarind (as per taste)


To make the Mutlis:

1. Drain the soaked rice completely and grind it fine along with salt. While grinding add very little amounts of water only if required (if you are grinding in a mixie you may require to add small amounts of water just to get the blade going) - Trust me, this can be a painful job! If you have a 'gatno' (grinding stone) or a wet grinder - then consider yourself blessed!
2. Place the batter in a thick bottomed vessel or kadai on a slow flame & allow it to roast a bit - this process is called as 'ubzounche' in Konkani which involves partial cooking of the batter by placing freshly ground wet batter over slow flame to help it arrive at a dough ball kind of consistency which then allows you to make small mutlis (balls) out of it & then steam them in a 'tondor' (steamer)
3. Give the batter a stir or two and switch off the flame when you can see that dough looks a little transparentish. Allow to cool for not more than a minute
4. The next step is a little tricky - try & make balls - a little bigger than marble size, without burning your hands, but if you wait for the dough to cool too much, then it becomes hard & you wont be able to make that kind of a 'little dimple' impression on each mutle (thats the singular form of the Mutli)
5. While you are busy making the mutlis, place sufficient water in a tondor/steamer & bring it to a boil.
6. Place the mutlis in a steel bowl and then onto the 'shelf' inside the tondor. Cover the lid & steam for 15minutes. Switch off the flame & open the cover. Place a thin muslin cloth (called as 'Bairas' in Konkani) over the mutli bowl so that the vapour falling off the tondor cover doesnt make the mutlis soggy. Allow them to sit for a while till your gravy is ready.

To make the Gravy:
1. Heat a pan & dry roast the following one by one -  dry red chillies, sliced onion, coriander seeds & grated coconut. Remove & allow to cool
2. Grind the roasted ingredients with the rest of the ingredients - peppercorns, garlic, jeera, mustard & haldi to a fine consistency. If you have a thin roce (coconut milk) extracted out of the coconut (not powder method) you can use that to grind the masala

3. Heat a big pan (large enough to accomodate the gravy+mutlis+cockles) and add some oil. When the oil is hot, fry the sliced onion to golden brown
4. Add the ground masala and fry well. Add the masala water (from the mixie) and bring it to a boil. Add the roce/coconut milk and boil for 1minute
5. Add in the mutlis. Cook for 5mins on slow fire
6. Add the cockles and salt to taste & cook for another 2-3 minutes.
7. Turn off flame and allow it to rest for 5mins (this allows the mutlis to soak in the gravy)
8. Serve hot!

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