Ah me, jet lag hours seem long. It is 0525 in the am, I can hardly believe it, and I am wide awake with mean jet lag after flying in from India yesterday. Or was it today? All I know is that I woke up in Fort Cochin, pre-dawn, at some point in the last 36 hours and now I'm sitting here, pre-dawn, not entirely sure what day it is, with nothing to do. Giles has put a wash on, I made an emergency breakfast out of delicious defrosted Cranks wholemeal bread (sliced up at room temperature and then tucked away in the freezer in freezer bags), Nutella and black tea. (No milk, you see - Sainsbury's doesn't open until 7am).
Anyway, I'd like to say that Kerala all looks like this:
But what am I saying? God, I'm so bourgeoise. A couple of open sewers, a leprotic (is this a word?), stoned tuk-tuk driver and I go all Valley Girl and start squealing Gross Me Out!!!!
But this isn't about me and my hygiene issues, this is about food.
The thing I noticed most about Kerala is that absolutely nowhere was anyone eating my Keralan curry, which I wrote about back in November:
Yes, there was a lot of stuff cooked in coconut milk, as coconuts literally grow on trees in that part of the world, but it was all pretty tomatoey. I won't say it was nothing special, because it was lovely, but to my narrow, London eyes, spoiled by the Cinnamon Club and Moti Mahal and other Pukka Indian joints, curry has to work pretty hard to be surprising.
It was more the side dishes, extras, drinks and puddings that were unusual. Tea-time on the shores of Lake Kumarakom brought banana fritters; at Munnar hill station it was all about pancakes stuffed with coconut, raisins and cashews tucked up at both ends in a pretty parcel; for pudding at Malabar House in Cochin I had three dainty chocolate samosas on a mango coulis. Yes! Chocolate samosas!
I'm also newly in love with bindi, Okra, ladies' fingers, or whatever you want to call them. Some people think they are gross, which I can understand, but they are my new craving. All over Kerala they are diced up with coconut (obviously) Nigella seeds (I think) onion, turmeric and a bit of chilli and called 'Vegetable Thoran'. This is probably a very obvious dish to a lot of people and me putting it in inverted commas would be like someone discussing such interesting European breakfast foods such as 'croissant' or 'toast'.
Last for now is the marvellous and delicious drink called a Cochin Cooler, consisting of mint, ginger, honey, lime juice and soda. Dipsomaniacs could add a splash of vodka or rum. It sounds familiar and it tastes familiar but I'm pretty sure I've never had a cocktail with ginger in it. Anyway, I'll be covering the Cochin Cooler and the banana fritters, as well as a rice pancake called 'appam' in more detail soon. Right now, I've got some jet lagging to do.