Archive | August 2012

FAREWELL TO THE KING

Today is the 4th and last day of our ONAM celebration.

King Mahabali has been here to meet with his subjects and now it’s time for him to go back to his own kingdom, only to return next year, 2013.

Something to look forward to… So, we bid him farewell until next time. Namskaram.

FORT COCHIN and Ginger, the Cat!

It was last Friday we once again went to Fort Cochin.

For convenience sake and to avoid the heavy traffic of Cochin, we opted for the long stretch of the Bypass, from our house which took us through Vyttila Junction, past the office of EMIRATES Airlines and the Whyte Fort Hotel on the other side, through Kundanoor Toll, Thevera Cross Road onto Willingdon Island.

The Thoppumpady Bridge connecting the Willingdon Island to Fort Cochin/Mattancherry peninsula was not as crowded like the usual melee at the Thoppumpady Junction. JS and I prefer the Beach Road at the extreme end running parallel to the coastline of the Arabian Sea.

JS was born here in Fort Cochin and this surely is one of the many reasons why this place is special to us. The atmosphere, the ambiance is somewhat difficult to describe – it is … hmm yes … it is just special! But one thing is for sure, we always have this feeling like we have stepped back in time, just a few steps… mind you, but enough to leave the hassle and bustle of Cochin far behind. Surely most of you know that special feeling you get when you visit places from your past with their happy memories.

For example, there is always one spot we simply have to pass, the Veli Grounds, where we can see the giant old tree  to our right (see picture above) which is decorated and illuminated every year during the Christmas and New Year season and of course, during the famous Fort Cochin Carnival. But what we found now was a giant bee’s hive further ahead at the junction. So huge and menacing looking from below – neither of us has ever seen anything like this before.

Having been stung viciously by bees in our own garden in England a few years ago, I am naturally a bit, shall we say “wary” of them and we made a quick exit from that place.

The entrance to K.B Jacaob Road also hosts a group of other huge trees with wide-stretched branches that is a treat to the eyes and indeed a silent welcome to the visitors to Fort Cochin.

But since we wanted to get to Kamaalakkadavu at the extreme end of Fort Cochin, we took the K.B. Jacob Road, now a main thoroughfare, for quicker access.

Soon we reach Kamaalakkadavu where the Chinese Fishnets loom above, facing the main island of Vypeen. A very popular tourist place – a must on every visitors “do-do” list and despite the fact that so much has been written about those Nets, I too will broach this subject and other attractions of Fort Cochin in my future blogs.

But for today, we buy our fish from our favourite vendor and whilst he is attending to one of the quick auctions, JS and I take in the sight (and smell) of the sea, watching the ships coming from the Arabian Sea and now passing through the channel into the harbour. We watch the men working the nets, like acrobats in a circus, dancing fearlessly across the wooden leavers – it never stops to fascinate us and we hope that this ancient art of fishing will somehow never die out.

We also watch the many little boats coming in to deliver their individual catch to be auctioned and a queue of people (and a few of the more than well-fed little cats) are always ready to walk off with their choice of fish from the auction place. And now that our own purchase of today, cleaned and cut to our liking, is ready, we have to say good-bye for now to this charming place and head for home.

But talking about cats – there is one cat we always look out for, GINGER, but we can not see her. We are dog people in our house, but this Ginger is a bit special. When I lived in Trinidad, W.I, we had just the double (or is it the other way round now?) of Ginger, to keep company to our dog and her puppies.

But just when we were nearing our car, we saw her – sound asleep in the groove at the bottom of one of the huge trees. Judging by the expression on her sleepy face she was enjoying the tranquility of Fort Cochin. We did not disturb her – but just took this photograph instead….

Ciao, Carina

(Text and Photos © Carina/Manningtree Archive.)

Chemmeen Ularthiyathu – Nicely fried Prawns

For any of you who like prawns as much as we do, here is a quick, easy but so delicious Kerala dish. If you do not like your food too hot, start off with less chillies etc. as given in my own recipes – but, again if you are like us and “..like it hot” experience and add 1 or 2 more; the same goes for garlic. Whatever you fancy – as long as you enjoy your final preparation.

And with a good price for prawns in the market right now, we sure will make much use of this wonderful harvest of the Sea in the weeks to come, but, as always, you are most welcome to join our table.

Chemmeen Ularthiyathu    –   Nicely fried Prawns

1/2 kg prawns, shelled and deveined

¼ tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp chilly powder

2 biggish pieces of Kukum (Kudam puli), washed and soaked in water

¼ of the inside of a coconut , sliced smallish

1 large sprig of curry leaves

Glass of water (just enough to cover the prawns)

Salt, to taste

Method, Stage 1: Cook prawns with all the above ingredients here, covered, for 6-8 minutes on medium heat. When prawns are done drain and keep aside.

 

1 ½ Tbsp of Coconut Oil

1 handful of Small Onions (Ulli), peeled and thinly sliced

2 tsp of fresh ginger, julienned

5-6 garlic cloves, peeled and julienned

3 green chillies, split

1 sprig of curry leaves

Method, Stage 2: Heat oil in vessel. Add sliced onions, garlic, green chilly and curry leaves. Sauté until onions turn slightly transparent and golden. Now add the following:

2 tsp of Coriander powder

1 pinch of turmeric powder

¾ tsp of chilly powder

Black pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

Stir continuously for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Add cooked prawns and stir-fry gently for another couple of minutes. Before serving sprinkle just a few more drops of oil over this dish.

Serve with Rice.

(Text and Photos © Carina/Manningtree Archive.)

Naimeen-Moilee

Naimeen-Moilee

1 kg Sear Fish (any nice firm white fish will do)

2 large onions, sliced

3 green chillies, finely chopped (use less or more if you like)

1 piece of fresh ginger, scraped and cut julienne

3-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

1 large tomato, sliced

1 medium capsicum (whatever colour you have), sliced in rings

Juice of 1 lemon

½ ltr Coconut milk (I make this from powder)

A pinch of Fenugreek seeds

1 tsp Turmeric powder

Some Curry leaves (don’t worry too much, if you cannot find some)

2 Tbsp Coconut- or Vegetable Oil (use more oil if you like, we don’t!)

Some flour to thicken gravy

How to cook:

Heat oil in vessel and brown fenugreek seeds quickly, don’t let them burn

Add onion rings, ginger, garlic, curry leaves and green chilly. Sauté for a few minutes.

Now, if you like your gravy a bit thicker, mix some flour with little water in a cup, making sure there are no lumps, and mix into the gravy.

Add turmeric powder, lemon juice and some of the coconut milk, stir and add your fish. Turn heat right down, cover and cook gently for a few minutes. Add some more water if needed.

Before the end of the cooking add the sliced tomato and the capsicum rings as well as the rest of the coconut milk.

Stir very gently and cook for another 5 minutes.

Yum!

Disclaimer

Let me make it clear, I am not at all a Chef or Cook – I am just like you – yes, you! – I enjoy cooking (most of the time), eating and learning from others how to cook their favourite dishes from around the world, and I really enjoy reading my 250 plus cookbooks like other people read novels.

So please take note – all the Kerala recipes you will see here are intended for our European friends who like to taste the food we serve here in our own home, and on the other hand, the ‘foreign’ recipes are meant for our Indian friends and come from my large collection accumulated over decades.

So, if you like to join us at our table – you are most welcome! ENJOY. 

My own little heaven in this city

I have to be honest with you, I hate shopping! With a capital H!  Shopping for essentials that is, like for groceries, vegetables, things that got broken and need replacing, that sort of shopping. In fact I do get a bit frazzled on days like that, since I find it such a waste of time and energy to drive a long way into town, when I could spend valuable hours at my computer writing. But once I have reached my destination on the other hand, I do enjoy having a quick banter with some of the sales staff, always friendly and ready to help, in my favourite supermarket and to see the genuine smiles greeting me everywhere.

One lady in fact knows my shopping list better than I do at times and she is able to remind me to stock up on certain staples which I had forgotten. And before you comment, yes, I invariably make a shopping list before I leave home but more often than not somehow it gets lost in the depth of my bag.

But there is something which really makes me calm down – a quick hop into my own little heaven in thiscity, a very private little courtyard, which is stocked with a beautiful array of orchids and other shrubs. And, time permitting, I like to sit for a few minutes on the cool low walls and just take in the sound of the birds chirping, the perfume of some of the orchids and my ‘faithful companion’ – my NIKON  – happy to take yet some more pictures for our archive.

Driving back home now, the ever heavy traffic, the noise and pollution, suddenly seem to be bearable, I simply close my eyes and can but smile in memory.

(Text and photos: CS/Manningtree Archive)

Vimalayalam Revisited!

Vimalayalam Revisited!

Text and photographs by: Carina S (www.manningtreearchive.com)

This year I had an influx of visitors, from abroad as well as from within India. All of them, without exception, had on their “shopping list” items made out of Banana- and Palmyra fibers, which over the years have become so very popular with the Life-style and Fashion Conscious.

To save our visitors traipsing all over Ernakulam in the heat or the Monsoon, I decided to take them each time to the Vimalayalam Welfare Centre on Chittoor Road here in Cochin, where they could browse (and shop!) to their hearts contend – and that is exactly what everybody did.

The Centre, a voluntary non-profit society, was founded in 1961 at Ernakulam as a Training-cum-Production Centre with the sole aim of helping women and girls from the lower income groups in and around Ernakulam. Over the past 51 years it has surely come a long way`  A special loom, developed at this Centre and known as the “Vimala Loom” is now also used by many other Centres in India for making table mats from Palmyra fiber. This fiber can be dyed easily and therefore the Centre can deal with special colour requests. – you just stipulate your colour requirement and your mats will be dyed and woven to match your very own special dining-room colour scheme.

Those table mats are one of the favourite items to be exported to Europe and to the USA –  with this years’ “must-have-colours” of aubergine, black-and-silver (to match Giorgio Armani’s candlesticks), Jaipur-pink, English-racing-green and so on. There is hardly a boundary when it comes to your design and imagination. The matching bottle holders are also always a popular gift item. And what to do with the “oh so hot straight from the ‘oven-to-table’ dishes?”  Just choose matching baskets to bring them to your dining table – not only very versatile but also a joy for everybody’s eyes. And a cheerful bunch of flowers from your garden, or even a bunch of Curry-leaves or Parsley in a crystal glass or silver beaker, completes your table décor.

Another absolute hot item to take with you are the bags. Bags in all shapes and sizes – our European visitors in particular stocked up plenty to go with their summer-wardrobe (keep your leather bags for autumn and winter for a change). Again here, time permitting, colours and shapes can be chosen to match your own outfits. And all these items are available at a highly competitive price.

And now, that Kerala has joined the ever growing band of “Anti-Plastic Bags” Campaigners around the world, why not go out to the local Markets with one of those extra large palm-fiber bags from the Centre. This would serve two purposes right away – the “NO Plastic Bags” campaign as well as helping the more then deserving group of peoples at this Centre.

Their Embroidery section is a delight – Sarees and other fabrics can be embroidered to your own design – the stitching is so delicate, so feminine. And what about their beautiful tablecloths? Their delicate embroidery had the visitors, who back in England during the long, dark and miserable winter-evenings pursue the art of tapestry and embroidery, particularly in raptures.

The Centres cut-out-work is also very notable. For Mum’s (and Muthasshi’s) stepping into the Children’s Department is such a pleasure, that I have seen some of my own visitors buying Baby- and Toddler Dresses, in the hope to find somebody ‘back home’ who might be needing these in time to come. Their wonderful smock-embroidery reminded me of the time all those years ago, when my own Mother took such pleasure in dressing me in beautifully smocked dresses and overcoats. What sweet memories!

KERALA – LAND OF SPICES

NAMASKARAM. Welcome to my blog – a blog primarily written for our many friends abroad, old and new, who are generally interested in our part of the world and our way of life, and also for Malayalees who live and work abroad, but like “to stay in touch”.  In short, I like to do my personal bid to promote this LAND OF SPICES – KERALA. This is also a blog which talks about food (oh no! I hear you groan – not another one)…

Food from India and particularly from Kerala  – which is now my new home and has become my life for the past decade…

Food from the country of my birth – Germany and in fact food from around the globe, mainly countries I actually have lived in (like Trinidad & Tobago, Lebanon, Italy, England, etc.) and from countries I have visited, most of them over and over again (like Turkey, Spain, Thailand, France, Singapore, etc.).

The majority of the recipes were given to me by family, friends, Chefs and Hostesses of many private houses, whom I cajoled and even begged at times to share with me their secret of a particularly delicious dish. As time goes by I intend to write about my visits to certain restaurants and hotels, concentrating on my new world in the hope that any visitors will like my personal table.

However, I try not to write about food alone – I hope to include fashion, events, exhibitions and many other things, with my trusted Nikon camera as my ‘constant companion’,  which just might interest some of you and hopefully will bring you back to my pages over and over again and, in time, to make me your friend.

And so what better time to start this blog now with one of the most important and auspicious festivals in the Kerala Calendar – ONAM.

O N A M

Life becomes a festival when gaiety and culture blend.

Onam delivers the message of both. – Anonymous

ONAM – will be once again celebrated with great joy by every Malayalee, wherever they are in the world. It is the equivalent of our Harvest Festival and marks the homecoming of the mythical Asura King of ancient Kerala, the legendary King Mahabali. On Thiruvonam (the main Onam day, which falls this year on 29th of August), King Mahabali is believed to re-visit every Malayali’s home and meet his people.

Most houses and offices will have their “Pookalam” (Flower carpet), depicting an intricate colourful design. Days before the festival season begins certain streets and markets are lined with flower sellers and we choose the colours and buy the blossoms by weight. Each family will have their own design and competitions are being held in most of the offices and Government institutions for the best and most intricate Pookalam. The making of a Pookalam is often accompanied with the joyful singing of traditional songs and dances (and no, sadly I do not speak Malayalam – so therefore I can only hum along with certain tunes).

Like at Christmas, when there are plenty of a “Father Christmas” around, during Onam most 4* and 5* Hotels, Malls, large and small shops have their own “King Mahabali” to attract and greet customers. Here in Cochin, Sebastian, the splendid doorman of the famous “Grand Hotel” on MG Road is without doubt the most photographed “King Mahabali”. I too, of course, joined the queue of people who came to take his picture prior to their feast of the “Onam Sadya” and hear him greet every guest with his sonoric voice “Namaskaram/Namaste” and to select the traditional offering of sweets from his basket – much fun especially for the Little Ones!

The feast, the traditional meal enjoyed by nearly everybody on Thiruvonam is known as “Onam Sadya” and I, like so many of the guests visiting this famous Hotel, will have previously ordered my “Onam Sadya” complete with traditional Kerala plates (to you known as banana leaves) to take back home with me. JS, my husband and I will have an enjoyable celebration of this all so important festival in Kerala’s calendar.

By the way, Onam is also the time when many of the girls and ladies like do wear their special Saree, unique to our State – known as the Kerala Saree (handloom material with gold designs and border) and their hair is adorned with sweet smelling Jasmine blooms. A wonderful site to be seen and the heady scent of all those Jasmine blossoms can leave you slightly dizzy.

So therefore let me sign off for today with a warm NAMASKARAM – NAMASTE to all of you Malayalees, from our house to yours

                                                             HAPPY  ONAM

Text and all photos: © Manningtree Archive

NAMASKARAM and Welcome to my Site

I feel like having given birth – a lot of research, heartache and at times sleepless nights have gone into the creation of this blog, and only time will tell, if this is going to be the success I hope and aim for.

But before I go on, I want to say a big thank you to my husband JS for all his help, especially for his tremendous patience in trying to teach me how to cope with this.

Official launch is planned for our festival of ONAM later on in the month – so remember me – be curious and come back to me – I will be waiting!

Ciao – Carina

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