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Courgette and Almond or Pistachio cake

Courgette and Almond or Pistachio cake

This cake has been a favourite of all my friends for a long time. It would be requested for birthdays on a regular basis. It is only recently that I have been experimenting with the recipe to make it successful as a gluten free treat.…

Romanesco and Almond soup

Romanesco and Almond soup

So as I promised via my instagram page here is the recipe for the soup and bread I made for my tea yesterday. Romanesco and almond soup with garlic missi roties. First up The lovely Romanesco. Kind of a mix of broccoli and cauliflower and…

A tea plantation in Kerala

A tea plantation in Kerala

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.

Story telling through dance

Story telling through dance

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…

More from Kochi

More from Kochi

If you do visit Kochi there is plenty to keep you occupied for a few days. The Dhobi Khana Washing Collective is very interesting for a visit. You need to go earlier in the day if you want to meet any of the workers. They…

My first Biryani attempt

My first Biryani attempt

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 stageĀ  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.

Enjoy!

Portuguese church stuff

Portuguese church stuff

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…

Out and about in Fort Kochi

Out and about in Fort Kochi

I started and ended my trip to the south of india in Kochi. I stayed in Fort Kochi which is right on the edge of the city and is actually an island. The main city seems to be much like any other big city in…

Patterns from above

Patterns from above

Just a short post today.

I wanted to share these images with you taken from the plane window when landing at Abu Dabi airport on the way to India. I was flicking through my photos wondering what to post next and these struck me as having a lot in common with the rangoli’s in the previous post. Although on a much larger scale they to are patterns drawn on the earth surface by human beings. They are plotted out and one point is connected to another.

We do seem to need to make our mark.

A little bit of rice flour can make all the difference.

A little bit of rice flour can make all the difference.

When I am walking around I often look down and notice the surface I am walking on. I have shared in a previous post how clues can be found under your feet that help to piece together the history and life of the place you…