A few weeks ago I had a quick visit to Liverpool. I’m not really sure why but had never been before, so it was one of the cities on my list to become aquainted with. I stayed for one night in the Ibis Styles which […]
Over the summer I had the joy of going to Andalucia Spain to look after these two beauties. They are Pippin (the ginger one) and Luna. They have beautiful natures and were such good company.
Whilst there each day I walked past a row of fig trees along the road that were laden with fruit and no one seemed to be collecting it much had fallen on the pavement and split open spilling out their velvety red insides. I decided to collect some and ended up with a bag full! There was no way I could eat them all before they went bad so the only option left was to cook them up and make some preserve and that way I could bring a little taste of Spain home with me.
The place I was staying had a lemon tree so I picked a lemon to use to. First of all I washed and cut the figs into four and then added the zest and juice of a large lemon.
It was all placed in a heavy bottomed saucepan and slowly heated until the fruit started to soften down. Add some cinnamon to taste (I added two heaped teaspoons full). Then add some sweetness. I had agave syrup, which I had bought thinking it was honey, doh. So I used that up which was just over three quaters of a bottle. It actually was a good choice as it’s not too sweet.
Then bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour. The fruit will break down and become a lovely thick sauce but at the same time will retain some of the chunks of fruit.
While the fruit is cooking prepare some jars by boiling them in a big pan to sterilise. Finally add some cubes of butter and stir through until it melts it will give a lovely shine to the mixture and a buttery taste. Fill up with the preserve while the jars are still warm put a circle of greasproof paper on the top and put the lid on tight. Leave to cool. Keep in the fridge as there is not loads of sugar to keep as long out of the fridge but it will last a month or so in the fridge. It was very lovely on toast and crumpets but also with museli and yogurt or even warmed up and poured over a nice vanilla icecream.
I LOVE tea! That is an understatment. I can’t start a day without a bucket of tea. I will spend good money on good tea like other people do wine. I particularly love black tea and notice all the subtle differences between ceylon orange pekoe, assam, earl grey, dargeeling, lapsang souchong or russian caravan my favourite of all being smokey earl grey from Fortnum and Mason although I do generally start the day with a good old Yorkshire Tea, strong and black. When I used to teach pretty much everyone in our office loved a cup of tea. Whoever was making it would line up four or five mugs one tea bag in each all of which would end up in my mug for the strongest darkest tea you can imagine. Now all you tea conisuers out there will recoil in horror at the thought of that I am sure but you get the picture. I LOVE tea.
Seeing how this lovely substance looks as it grows was great. I have never seen a tea plant in real life at least not to my knowldge. On a tea plantation the bushes are kept very low so the leaves are easy to harvest which happens every two or three weeks. The fresh new leaves are harvested ready to dry and make the tea. It was amazing to see the beautiful delicate white flowers it produces with striking yellow centres.
Tea is big business in this area and sustains many many families who live and work with this plant, from growing and harvesting to production of the dried black substance we use to make the drink. As you travel around tea plantations are obvious by the shape and size of the shrub and the texture of the leaves even from a distance. It is common to see people out working at picking the fresh new leaves ready for production.
It seemed very appropriate on this leg of my journey to have a cup of masala chai at a stop overlooking some of these lush green plantations. This is definitely the best view whilst drinking masala chai all trip!
As an artist I am always looking for creative ways to immortalise a great memory. For this one (as for quite a few of my Indian adventures) I made a little book. I love how my special memory can be contained within a small space and kept safe to look at when I want to relive the event. If you are interested in seeing more of these Indian memory books have a look at www.sarahgracedye.com for now here are a few images from the one about this experience.
Kathakali dance is a traditional dance from Kerala. Whilst in Fort Kochi I spent an evening at the Kerala Kathakali Centre which is the best place to experience this kind of storytelling dance. You arrive early to sit and watch the fascinating ritual of applying […]
Before I start, just to be clear, I am sharing with you what I did to make a biryani pure and simple. I am not claiming this to be a definitive recipe but it did taste good and I would do it again. I took most of the recipe from a fantastic book I bought while in Tamil Nadu by Sabita Radhakrishna. The original recipe is for mutton biryani but I have changed it to a vegetable version simply because I had vegetables around I needed to use up.
First of all you need to rinse some basmati rice several times to get rid of some of the starch. Then leave that to one side while you prepare the curry sauce. Place two large tomatoes roughly chopped in a blender with three cloves of garlic, a good amount of root ginger, a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon and some chillis (either dried or fresh and the amount depends on your own taste). Blend them together and this will be the base of your sauce.
Next prepare your veg. I used potato, cauliflower, sweet potato and onion. Peel and chop into similar sized chunks except the onions which should be in long slithers. Gently heat some oil, ghee is good, I used rapeseed because that is what I had to hand. Add four cloves, some curry leaves and a little more chilli and quickly toast being careful not to burn them. Add the onion and gently fry until golden brown. Whilst this is cooking chop a generous bunch of fresh coriander and then add it to the browned onions. stir around and allow to cook for a minute or two before adding the tomato sauce mix.
Let the ingredients mingle together and fill the room with delicious aromas. Add some salt and pepper to taste finally adding the chopped veg. Pop on a lid and leave to cook until the veg begins to get tender. It is important not to over cook the vegetables as they will cook some more when the dish is assembled so al dente is what you are looking for at this stage. If it gets too dry add a splash of water but it shouldn’t become too wet as this will result in a stodgy end result so keep a close eye on it!
While the vegetables cook place the rice in some boiling water to part cook. As with the veg it needs to be al dente at this stage and will cook more later. Gently heat some milk and saffron letting it infuse and turn the milk a beautiful golden colour. Take it off the heat and let it stand and continue to infuse. When the rice is al dente rinse under cold water to immediately stop the cooking process and leave to drain thoroughly. Squeeze the juice of a lime and leave to one side.
To assemble use a heavy bottomed saucepan with a tight lid the aim is to keep the heat and steam inside the pot while it cooks. Start with a layer of vegetables then a layer of rice and alternate to use up what you have ending with a layer of rice. Poke some holes in the mixture and pour in some lime juice and the milk. To cook the pot needs the heat to be defused so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan and cooks gently. I used a tawa (chapati pan) to put my saucepan on any solid frying pan would do. Leave on a low heat for half an hour and don’t be tempted to take a peek as you will let all the steam out if you do!
At this stage I suggest a large gin and tonic and some popadoms of your choice to keep you going as the biryani cooks through.
When half an hour is up lift off the lid and take in the delightful aroma filling the room. Spoon out into a dish and serve with some good thick natural yogurt seasoned well with salt and pepper. I have found this dish freezes quite well so it is worth making a big pan full so it provides you with several meals.
Following on from the previous post which mentioned the history of christianity in Fort Kochi I thought I’d share some images from the Indo-Portuguese Museum which has a range of artifacts from the sixteenth century onwards. The aim of the museum is to show the […]