Fort Cochin – beautiful ugly … and a cookery class

By Emma. Pour l’article de Damien, cliquez ici. For photos of there, click here.

Desolate, ugly and, somehow, impossibly charming – such a strange description to fit a strange place, a place I really liked. The razor wire, the bizarre (and frightening) military billboard screaming the slogan “Hit First. Hit Hard. Keep Hitting”, the small piles of burning rubbish, the tankers and horizon-squatting plant, the theme tune to The Smoggies on mental repeat, the fluorescent candy floss, the animal bins and vintage ice-cream stalls, the Balaclaved babies in the balmy 30° evenings, shy affection behind parasols, hand-holding and twilight wanderings, Chinese fishing nets and seafood auctions, spirograph merchants and laughter  – hands down the seafront promenade in Fort Cochin is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen. Everything seems out of sync, out of place – families and lovers stroll eating ice-creams against a backdrop of what looks like a post-apocalyptic world. It feels surreal. Fort Cochin manages to be both technicolour and black and white. I should hate it but I don’t, I can’t. I actually think it’s pretty wonderful.

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Moving away from the sea, Fort Cochin continues to dance. The streets burble quietly, groups of schools boys conduct early morning cricket battles in the shade of an enormous tree, auto-rickshaws glide by impeccable classic cars and goats prance against perfect backdrops.

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We set up camp and swim through endless cups of delicious tea in the warm light of The Teapot café, wander warily through the gloom of the Jewish Quarter and make friends with speckled cows.

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In this oddly beautiful little corner of Cochin, my highlight was the incredible “Cook ‘n Eat” cookery class with Mrs. Leelu Roy. Droll, talented and absolutely formidable, Mrs. Roy chopped, diced, powdered, flipped and poured all the while keeping up a whirlwind of anecdotes, opinions and recipes. Mesmerising! I loved every minute of it! Et voilà the results of my scribblings: a little cache of recipes and the precious possiblity of future reproductions!

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A Handful of Keralan Recipes

Kerala Traditional Prawn Curry

Ingredients:

500 g prawns, peeled and cooked
4 tblsp. coconut oil
4 cm nub of ginger, peeled and minced
10 -12 garlic cloves, crush with back of knife – do not chop
4-5 shallots, chopped
2 tsp. mustard seeds
For the Fish Masala (spice mix):
½ tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. fenugreek powder
6-8 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder (Use only 4 tsp. for medium spicy)
4-5 tsp. tamarind (mixed in half a cup of water)
Salt & pepper, to taste

Method:

1. Heat the coconut oil in a wide bottomed saucepan.
2. Add the mustard seeds and when they start to splutter, add ginger, garlic and shallots. Sauté until soft. Do not brown.
3. Add the turmeric, fenugreek powder, chili powder and tamarind mixture.
4. Add a cup of water.
5. Add salt, to taste.
6. Cover to cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes.
7. Add prawns and cook for a further 3 minutes, gently stirring (until heated through. Be careful not to overcook).

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Aubergine Curry

Ingredients

1 large aubergine, chopped into medium chunks
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 green chili, chopped
I red onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, crush with back of knife – do not chop
3 tblsp. Oil
(Optional) 237ml coconut milk
For Vegatable Masala:
2.5 tsp. corriander powder
1.5 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. garam masala
½ teasp. turmeric powder

Method:

1.  Sauté aubergine, chili, garlic and onion until soft.
2.  Add tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
3.  In another pan, dry fry on a very low heat the turmeric, corriander, cumin, garam masala and chilli powder.
4.  When the spice become fragrant, add 1 cup of water to the spices.
5.  Add the mixture to the vegetables.
6.  If desired add coconut milk.
7.  Salt to taste.

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Dahl

Ingredients

1 red onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup thin orange lentils
590 ml cold water
½ tsp. Turmeric powder
The all important Masala:
3 tblsp. Oil
1 tsp. Mustard seed
6-8 garlic cloves, crushed, not chopped
4-5 shallots, crushed and chopped
1 tsp. Cumin powder
1.5 tsp. Chili powder

Method:

1. Wash the lentils.
2. In a saucepan, over a medium heat, mix the onion, tomato, lentils, turmeric power and water. Don’t cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a saucepan and add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds are popping, add the garlic and shallots. Sauté until soft.
4. Then add 1 tsp. cumin powder and 1.5 tsp. chili powder. Stir quickly over the heat and do not allow to burn.
5. Add this masala mixture to the lentil mixture.
6. Continue to cook until you have the desired consistency (neither too loose, nor stodgy)
7. Add salt, to taste, and chopped coriander leaves.

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Keralan Cabbage Thoran

Ingredients

300g white cabbage, shredded
1 red onion, chopped
1 green chili, chopped (don’t discard seeds)
1 small knob of ginger, peeled and minced
½ tsp. Turmeric powder
½ tsp. Cumin powder
1 cup dessicated coconut mixed with a little coconut milk
¼ cup water
Salt, to taste

Method:

1. Heat oil and sauté onion, ginger and chili until soft.
2. Add turmeric and cumin and stir quickly while cooking.
3. Add cabbage and water.
4. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes, until the cabbage become soft, though not limp.
5. Add coconut mixture. Stir and serve.

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Chapatis

Ingredients – Makes 10 chapatis

¼ tsp. salt
237 ml lukewarm water
454 g whole wheat flour
2 tsp. sunflower oil

Method: (I couldn’t believe how easy these were to make! Delighted!)

1. Mix salt, water and flour together. Knead in bowl.
2. Add 2 tsp oil
3 . On a floured surface, knead for 2-3 minutes
4. Form 10 balls.
5. Reflour countertop.
6. Dip 1st ball in flour. Use heel of hand press down to form a round shape.
7. Using rolling pin roll twice.
8. Flip and turn.
9. Roll again.
10. Repeat until circular shape of 1mm is achieved. Slap off excess flour.
11. Throw onto a hotdry pan.
12. Brush each side of chapati very lightly with oil. When bubbles begin to form, flip the chapati.
13. Cook on both sides until golden.
14. Repeat.

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4 thoughts on “Fort Cochin – beautiful ugly … and a cookery class

  1. Mmmm curry & dahl…recipes sound amazing. I can only imagine how they taste with proper fresh Indian spices compared to what you find on the shelves in tescos!

    • I’m definitely harbouring a dahl addiction! Nom! India is turning out to be completely unpredictible – flip of a coin whether dinner will be divine or toxic! Let me know if you try out the recipes. I’m really looking forward to another cooking class in North India – cookery nerd! A little parcel will be winging its way to you – Kashmiri chili: yeay!

  2. Yum. It’s making me very hungry and I’ve only just had breakfast. I could eat dahl morning, noon and night though! I’m looking forward to your next dinner party! xxx

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