Thursday 30 December 2010

Kerelan Fish Curry

Surely the best way to taste authentic Indian is to eat in an Indian household. Oooh but it gets better than that when Leelu, a Kerelan housewife teaches you how! So to start off with the first of many recipies this is her Fish curry. We used Tuna here and it was fresh and cheap but it's too expensive at home I think I would go for a white fish. This recipe is best cooked one day prior to eating.

  • Finger of ginger
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • 5 shallots
  • Kerelan Curry leaves (the ones I was talking about before, vibrant fresh ones, not your standard dried curry leaves)
  • coconut oil (1 tbsp)
  • tsp black mustard seeds
  • Marsala - 1/2tsp turmeric  + 1/2tsp Fenugreek grinded +4tsp chilli powder
  • taramrind
  • 500g Tuna or firm fish of your choice
Finely chop the ginger, garlic and shallots. Heat a pan to medium heat and add coconut oil, when hot add mustard seeds to the pan until they pop. Once the popping starts then add the chopped ingredients. If you have Keralan curry leaves you can add half now.
Now (and this is the best thing I learnt from Leelu) mix your Marsala (spice mix) with a little water so it doesn't burn in the pan. Now add to pan and cook until mix separates slightly.

Now add 4 tsp of tamarind with 1/2 a cup of water and add to the pan. Add 1tsp salt and boil, after 5 minutes check for seasoning. You may also need to add another cup of water to the pan. Now add the tuna pieces, cover and cook for 20 minutes on a medium heat.

This recipe can be made with prawns, just use a little less water and cook for half the time.

Thursday 23 December 2010


So, a few hours into our drive home from Munnar to Kerela I noticed a couple of small shacks selling something by the bottle with painted letters TODDY on the doors. I asked Jose, our driver what Toddy was and if it was anything like a Hot Toddy or indeed was it alcohol at all? He didn't seem to understand and so we left it there. An hour later as we were feeling dreary we pulled into a backstreet bar. "Are we stopping for lunch, it's quite early!" and Jose replied "I bought you here for Toddy... here, the best"

Okay, so we sat down in a partitioned family room none the wiser to what was coming. I wasn't expecting the open, slightly dirty bottle of milky water looking solution in front of us. It has mosquitoes floating at the surface but we were given two glasses, so guesses were we were start pouring! Ah, not before we were given a tea strainer... so, at least we can filter out those mozzies then. Nick took the first brave sip and said he quite liked it. I went for it, fully aware the waiter and Jose were staring at me in anticipation of how I would react. "Mmm...interesting" (faint smile)
Oh Jeez, we were given a whole bottle of what smelt like a spirit but how I can only describe tasted like a Spanish white wine and garlic sauce for Clams. Rancid.

After a moments of asking what the hell it was we were drinking, and an attempt to stall the sipping, we learnt it was a Palm wine. A mildly intoxicating drink that is made from Coconut Palm sap. It's tapped, bottled and left for a couple of hours before drinking. It is supposed to be only guess is that ours had been left over night as it had surpassed the sweet stage and developed into something pungent and acidic. Ah well, I came to India to try new things and it was an experience, though no more toddy for me please.
All the empty soda bottles ready to refill with Toddy

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Shala restaurant, Fort Cochin

We found this cute little restaurant in Fort Cochin called Shala that promote the work of the local housewives by having them cook in the kitchens. Wow, it was wonderful and cheap and there were only a choice of 4 dishes that night so you know everything is fresh and for one night only. Best bit - cucumber lime and mint whizzed up with ice and soda water.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Food experiences of Mumbai

I have been so excited for so long to come to India and give my taste buds a fresh lease of life, authentic food from somewhere I had never been to before and flying into Mumbai I was popping like a mustard seed in a hot pan.
 I know it's not like me to post a picture like this one and you're probably wondering if I've encountered a technical error and not realised it yet. When I saw this beautiful plant growing from a dirty old cement container it made me think of the dining experience we've had here. We've been to a very lovely fancy restaurant in Fort Cochin, we've had a beautiful private meal on a houseboat on the backwaters of Allepy but one of my favourites still remains my first. The first meal we had was in Mumbai, we were recommended it by a local as a great veg restaurant which sounded good on two counts, it was close and it was veg, I don't think we were ready for meat on our first day after the horror stories you hear.It was a place called Sadguru and it was exceptional. The bill came to £3 for the two of us and it was the most exciting I had ever tasted. Thing is, these restaurants, some of the best food we've found are dirty. No, they're filthy and you wont be surprised if you see a dead cockroach in the sweep pile or a hole in the floor for a toilet. Whoever said you should judge a restaurant by their toilet hadn't come here!
The best thing about travelling around a country as vast and as steeped in history and culture as this one is that the food seems to vary so much from town to town, even if only in subtle flavour. We're in Goa now and the food is great but to tell you the truth I miss the food of Kerala. The Kerelan curry leaf was something of a revelation to me and quite unlike anything I had tasted before. It's fresh for a start like a delecate version of a kaffir lime leaf, fresh and green and vibrant. It's only similarity in taste is in a hint of citrus. Of all the dishes I tasted and loved, the ones in which I couldn't put my finger on what it was that made it so special, there I would find at some point a couple of aromatic leaves hiding in its sauce. They are strong and pungent enough not to have to use too many and are kept on the stalk until ready to throw in the pan.
I will be bummed if I can't smuggle a few of these back home!

Sunday 19 December 2010

Varkala, South India

 The idea of posting every evening beautiful photos and stories of my travels hasn't quite materialised. You see, Nick connected his camera to a computer and got a nasty virus type thing and now I am petrified to do the same. I have however had the idea of snapping a few inferior shots of things on the old mobile and sending them to myself to upload via email. Great idea in theory, but these Indian computers are slow and mentally challenging so let's just start with a couple at a time! Here is the beach at Varkala where we were a few days ago, staying in a beautiful Villa where we had breakfast on the terrace and were bought threaded jasmine chains in the evening with cupboard door handles made of taps. The restaurants on the cliff above the beach all compete for your choice with displays of their catch of the day. There was everything from crabs, to squid, tiger prawns, swordfish, tuna and snapper. The snapper was so good, skewered and cooked in a tandoor oven that we had it two nights running, it's odd bartering for your supper but pretty rewarding too. We drank beer from coffee mugs (alcohol prohibited here) and watched the sun set over the sea. A stifling hour long walk into town and never seen fish being sold like this. So fresh on the hill top ladies were sitting on crates and buckets selling fish covered in sand, a couple still flapping about.
We're off to Goa tomorrow, so will have to fill you in on Cochin and Munnar - note to self ;)

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Courgette, Sweet Potato, Walnut and Cranberry bread

I found this recipe on a blog adapted from a magazine and adapted it once again. I slightly undercooked mine but that made it all the yummier and moist.It's not like some breads that need butter and it tastes so good it's almost cake like but it's not.. it's's in it's own special category.
1 cup plain and 1 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup of apple puree v(I used an organic make I feed josh but often finds it's way onto my yogurt too!)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup grated courgette
1 1/2 cup peeled and grated sweet potato
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 180C
Butter and flour a 9×5x3- inch loaf pan and set aside.  Sift the first 7 ingredients into a medium sized bowl.  In a separate, large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, apple puree, and eggs.  Mix in the zucchini and sweet potato.  Add the dry ingredients and stir just to combine.  Fold in the nuts and cranberries and stir well.
Transfer batter to prepared pan.  Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 30 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on a rack for 15 minutes.  Loosen the edges of the bread with a butter knife and turn out on a rack to cool completely.  Can be prepared 1 day in advance.  Wrap in foil and keep at room temperature.

Monday 13 December 2010

I am in India!

I've been in India for the last week and don't think I mentioned it as it was a busy time packing up and going! Just had dinner and now sweating it out in an internet cafe so this is a tiny post to say that I haven't dissappeared and that I will post some of the yummy things I have come across when I get my camera to a computer. In the meantime I can see that 4 people from India have viewed my blog, this is exciting. Let me know who you are and if you have any recommendations for me? I'm here for a month and my eyes are bigger than my tummy- and that goes for anyone who has been!!
More later...

Friday 10 December 2010


So here it is. A snippet from our little trip to Morocco. Only a 35 minute journey on the ferry from the Spanish coast it's hard to believe within 15 minutes your half the way to Africa. It was so warm and sunny for a winter's day and our hotel Tangerina was simply beautiful. It is ownede by a Spanish lady and her German husband and every detail of the hotel thought out in case you go!

Our first of many mint teas of the trip.

Cakes out the back of a van - now there's an idea!
The most exquisite lamb and prune tagine I have ever had (better than mine) and with boiled eggs which I have always dismissed but actually work really well.
Cute guy in the spice shop! I bought Moroccon Saffron which I was told was ten times better than Spanish. Actually you can tell it is from the hit you get when offered a sniff! I bought various other goodies like real cinnamon bark that made the same spices I had at home smell like dust and then... an incredible blend that the guy did for me in a spice grinder which had all sorts in it from rose petals to dried ginger, have used that one lots already!

As an olive enthusiast I was greeted with olive heaven as I descended the stairs down into the underground market, oh my. Note the little tiled in dish for sampling, yes please.

Someone needs to have a word with this butcher about how to look friendly and approachable to customers!

Fresh goats cheese, strained in palm leaves.. couldn't believe my luck and for what must have been 80p too.
I have never seen preserved lemons this large! Look out for a recipe soon for when I use mine.

The thinnest and tartest Moroccan lemon tart, quite delicious.

Brekkie - even I couldn't stomach the cake at this time in the morning!

This last photograph is of the roses outside our room in the hotel. I have posted it because they were beautiful and also because if you like my posts sweet 'n' rosey perhaps you should end your viewing here today because some of you may not like what's coming next.

Ok. So you are still reading. Well I can't express what it felt like when in the morning we woke to the families of Tangier slaughtering sheep in their front gardens!I just googled it and found this quote explains its origins well.
"Eid-al-adha represents the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) and their hardships and trials that they faced in order to prove their love of God, they went through all the other tests and succeeded but the final and most challenging and extreme task for any human, for him to prove his devotion, was to sacrifice his own son, the beloved Ismaa’il, and that they chose to be blindfolded as they could not bear the sight of what was to happen, but once they lifted the blindfold they saw that in his place a goat was slaughtered instead and there stood Ismaa’il, smiling back up at his father.

The Hajj (pilgrimage) represent’s the above, which comes to a close, the night before Eid, with each person sacrificing an animal, a goat, sheep, lamb, cow and sharing the meat with the poor. The Sacrifice (Qurbaani) is obligatory upon every-able bodied adult, though I’m not sure if its obligatory every year upon the same individual? Its all about how much you can afford."
Miki Moore

Had we not been informed of what was going to happen that morning we would have been in for quite a shock with many a boy walking down the street with bloody jeans a scary looking knives but we were prepared and it was actually quite intriguing. There was a real sense of community and family closeness and pride in the boys outside preparing the sheep for the women inside preparing the meals to be had. The First day they eat the head with couscous and hang the sheep over the next couple of days. Then typically tagines are made and you don't return to work until the whole sheep is eaten. It was tough to watch and later I will upload a video but if you eat meat and enjoy lamb I think it is important you see these things.
My brother Cameron took this picture (quite a few of the above too!) and it must have been like looking in a mirror, for those that know him is this not his Moroccan look-a-like?!

Goodbye Morocco, another time soon I hope. If only for the ruby pomegranates and juciest olives!