Becky & I have been unable to find sufficient time to spend on the blog recently as she has been moving back to the UK from Barcelona & I have been travelling & working in India. This is a little frustrating as we have tons of ideas & no time to do them, but also great as it means we have exciting things happening. I am cobbling this post together in between electricity black outs which are happening about every 4 minutes so basically I thought I would just show you some photos of my food highlights so far.
I was working in Goa until a couple of weeks ago at a new pastry company called Mona’s Pantry. We supplied quality desserts to local restaurants & for events. The quality of sweet treats in Goa is pretty terrible. Most people use artificial cream, compound chocolate & synthetic flavours, they look great but taste terrible. We found ourselves getting busy immediately & in the run up to Christmas we were working all day & well into the evening (with special breaks to swim in the pool). I found that I did not really get chance to know Goa or its food that much. Having said that most of the food I tried was poor & I think the place suffers from the same disease which affects lots of tourist towns – complacency – restaurants do not have to rely on repeat custom so they serve up any old rubbish.
Having said that I have eaten some wonderful things. There is a great place called Bhatti Village which is run by a lovely Goan gentleman & his wife who does the cooking. They don’t have a menu he just asks what you like & makes some suggestions depending on what they found in the market that day. It was lovely & we had the most incredible Crab Xacuti – I am determined to learn how to make that before I leave India.
I also feel in love with a restaurant called Navtarra & wanted to eat there most days. They serve great Indian vegetarian food & the best Dosa I have ever eaten. I have also loved the fruits, coconut water & of course, the spices. They taste so much more intense than at home, the cinnamon here is so fragrant I can’t get enough of it.
Since then I have travelled south. I spent a couple of days in Mangalore just because I heard the food was excellent, & it was (more on that in another post). I am now in Ooty in Tamil Nadu & heading to Kerala. I really want to eat my way around Kerala as the food has so many things I love; coconut, chilli, mustard seeds & curry leaves.
I haven’t had much chance to cook for myself but we did manage a trip to the local fish market at Mhapusa in Goa. I was spoiled for choice & decided to go for some massive tiger prawns, snapper, clams and a local delicacy called Bombay Duck. This is one of the weirdest fish I have ever seen, like something from a horror movie called The Deep. Once we got them home we really did not know what to do with them as they are soft & flacid with a rubbery skin. I am not squeemish but I didn’t like touching them.
We decided to leave it to the experts & got a local person to cook them. She battered them flat & coated them with a hot masala & semolina (this is a traditional preparation in Goa) & fried them until golden & crunchy. They were tasty but I was not keen on the mushy texture.
As for the tiger prawns & fish I found myself getting all sentimental & nostalgic for family beach holidays in Portugal & made a fish stew & some prawns flambeed in brandy. I also made a chilli prawn oil with the heads which was really delicious (I will share that recipe when I get chance). The prawns were incredibly juicy & tasty & we mopped up the oil with local Pao (bread). By the way, this no knead bread recipe is the closest I’ve ever gotten to making true Portuguese-style bread.
At the market they have a filleting station where you take your chosen fish. Whilst not the most hygenic (or indeed pleasantly scented) place I have ever been I did really appreciate the service. They filleted our snappers in a minute for the princely sum of R10 (10p or 15 cents).
All in all the food in South India has been exciting so far with only a couple of things which I didn’t like or were badly cooked. At any food stand, hole in the wall, railway cart or market stall you can find incredible, flavoursome treats, I love it here.