Archive | May 2013

Orchids galore!

You my dear friends, who have been following me here since last year, know by now that without any doubt the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok Hotel in, yes of course, in Bangkok/Thailand is my most favourite hotel of all those beautiful hotels I have stayed in.

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You also know, that the floral genius Khun Ken, displays every few months one of his incredible creations for the guests to admire.

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This time, in order to herald in summer, Khun Ken has ‘decked the hall’ with this striking display of purple orchids.

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So, come and lets board an imaginary plane and fly out to Bangkok where we can sit in the lobby once again with our tea, coffee and/or drinks and those absolutely delicious Macaroons 🙂 and enjoy the view.

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And if you feel up to staying on for lunch or dinner later, join us on The Verandah for one of  Chef Pierre Rimoneau’s specially created dishes, showcasing fresh white asparagus imported daily from France alongside green asparagus from Thailand Royal Projects. This Asparagus Season lasts until 31st May.  Come back for recipe later!!

Carina

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Surfing on Mango Wood

For the last 10 days I have been at war – at war with the twice annual flu-bug! Not nice at all, especially in our heat. But in the end I emerged as the winner – thanks to my Doctor, some antibiotics and of course because of the loving tender care of my husband!  🙂

So here now is the conclusion, as previously promised, of our short ‘sojourn’ in Kovalam.

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For our last evening at VIVANTA by TAJ KOVALAM  the golf buggy took us right down to the shore of the Arabian Sea to the hotel’s new contemporary restaurant appropriately named “BAIT”, a very rustic looking place befitting its location.

Our table was set not inside the restaurant, but outside, close to the edge of the beach.

The smell of the sea, the crashing of the waves against the huge bollards along this strip of private beach, competing with the soft sound of music coming from the main restaurant, set us into the right mood to look forward to Chef Elangovan’s promised culinary surprise for that evening.

We could hardly wish for a more romantic setting – the tiny flickering lights of hundreds of fishing boats way out at sea, the clear stars above us high up in the sky, candles on our table and all over the garden.

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But to top it all, we had a huge full moon shining down on us, sending its silvery light across the water.

It was then that we decided that we will come back here in a few month time – just for a little break again.

Chef, for this occasion, had prepared indeed a very special treat for us. Something, I must confess, I had not come across before on all my travels around the world.

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Red Snapper on Mango Wood

Ingredients:

Red Snapper Fillet                     300 g

Green chilly                                   10 g

Salt                                                a pinch

Small onion                                  5 g

Curry leafs                                  a few

Ginger & garlic paste                 1 tsp

Turmeric powder                        ½ g

Tamarind or lime juice               1 no

Coconut oil                                    5 ml

Mango wood or

Tamarind wood slab                    2 nos

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Method:

Make paste out of chilly, ginger, garlic, turmeric and tamarind or lime juice.

Grate the small onions and mix with marinate paste and coconut oil.

Apply the marinate all over the fish, rest for a couple of minutes.

Grill the fish in hot pan on both sides

Place the fish on mango wood slab and bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

Before serving garnish with sprig of curry leafs.

Accompaniment with roast baby potatoes and char grilled vegetable.

This is a truly delicious fish dish, light and delicate in flavour. I will have to go out hunting for Mango tree slabs from a ‘friendly’ timber merchant since I have a feeling that this preparation will be arriving on our table a few times soon.

PS. Since I have been talking about ‘Mangos” here I cannot get a well known song out of my head; a song which I learned whilst living for 3 years out on the wonderful island of Trinidad/W.I. and was made popular in the James Bond Film “Dr. NO”.  “……..Underneath the Mango tree me Honey, And me can watch for the moon …..”

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Carina

(Photos: CS and JS/Manningtreearchive.com)

VIVANTA BY TAJ – KOVALAM

…… and Prawn Mango Curry

(Part 2 of 3)

We arrived in Kovalam early afternoon, having stopped for lunch en route down south.

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Turning right into the approach road to our hotel for the next few days was like driving through a colourful picture postcard. Just in front of the hotel entrance are a few large trees showing off their seasonal blossoms in all their glory. The road was thickly littered with fallen petals (just like at one of our many wedding functions here) in bright red and orangey yellow. In order not to spoil the magic I just concentrated to photograph the crowns of the trees, because for once I did not want evidence of everyday life turning up in my shots.

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Slowly we went through the strict security control into the property and uphill towards the actual hotel entrance where we were greeted with huge smiles, a cheerful “Namaskaram” (Welcome) and a pretty necklace made entirely out of tiny local seashells. As much as I like fresh flowers, they sadly do not last long in this tropical heat – but those sweet necklaces do!!!!

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A fluffy hot towel to refresh our faces and a cooling tender coconut drink arrived. Check-in was completed in no time

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and soon we were driven in a golf-buggy uphill to our room, where our luggage was already waiting for us.

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A short refreshing nap, shower and a change of clothes put us in the right mood to enjoy the view of the Ocean from our little terrace – and savour a decent cup of coffee.

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A short time later we were joined by Mathew Thomas, GM of our hotel and also a close friend of Jo’s from Cochin.

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We all travel quite a lot and so there was much catching-up to do.

We of course had been over the past years many times to this hotel but then had stayed away  for some time, since we felt something was very much missing from this particular TAJ property.

But now it became very quickly clear to us that many things had changed for the better since Mathew had taken charge at the helm – once again, like previously before in the TAJ properties he had managed, he in only a short time had put his very own personal stamp onto this Kovalam property. For one the staff looked so much happier than before which proved to us, that his motto “…COME on, and not GET on” worked wonders here.

–         For more details on this property and bookings please refer to the following link: http://www.vivantabytaj.com/Kovalam-Kerala/Overview.html

This wonderful secluded property is build on a 10 acre hillside, but comfortable

Golf buggies take you more or less straight to your own front door.

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The swimming pool is so inviting and offers a much needed respite from the tropical heat and the staff is always there to attend to your slightest whim.

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And for you, who would not want to miss out on their daily exercise find a more than adequate gym within the complex.

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After a quiet dinner “a deux” and watching a beautiful floorshow by local dancers,

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we were ready once again to be driven back to our suite, where we sat on our little terrace

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enjoying our drink and watch the many fishing boats far out at sea, their lights blinking – like giant fireflies so far out there. It truly was a most romantic sight, the flickering lights out at sea in competition with the flickering stars up in the sky. Not a sound to be heard apart from the occasional bird in some tree nearby. This poses the question; do birds talk in their sleep? (Joke!)

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The breakfast buffet laid out in the semi open poolside restaurant “Jasmine Bay” is quite extensive and offers a wide choice of delicious Kerala and European fare.

We spent the morning down at Kovalam Beach (see my previous Blog entry) and taken lots of pictures to share with you.

For Lunch we were back at our Hotel, in our “Deluxe Allure Suite” for a brief rest and a cold drink before meeting Executive Chef Elangovan who, knowing how much we like prawns  “in all shape and sizes” and taking into account that it is the mango season here right now, he had prepared a truly wonderful Prawn dish for our Lunch and of course for you, my friends out there.

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(from left to right: Ankit Tandon, F & B Manager, Executive Chef Elangovan, Chef Vishnu and Basil)

Chef Elango (as he is popularly known) is a truly welcomed addition to VIVANTA  by TAJ Kovalam. He hails originally from the culinary city of Trichy in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.  He finished his further education in Malaysia before he returned to India and joined the TAJ Group of Hotels in Chennai before taking up his present position here in Kovalam.  He specializes mainly in his home cuisine – typical dishes from the South, from Kerala.

I briefly joined him and Chef Josephkutty in their kitchen to catch them “stirring the pot”,

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before we sat down and enjoyed his truly delicious Prawn Mango Curry

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PRAWN  MANGO  CURRY

200 g Prawns, peeled and deveined

100 g Mango , raw (green), sliced into medium size pieces

20   g Coconut Oil

10   g Shallots, sliced

2      sprigs of Curry leaves

5      red dried chillies, whole

3      green chillies, each cut into 3 pieces

5      cloves of garlic, sliced

Small piece of fresh ginger, sliced

A pinch or two of salt

1 tsp of red chilly powder (or more, if you like!! J

½ tsp of turmeric powder

5 Tbsp thick coconut milk (can be made from powder)

½ tsp of black Mustard seeds

Heat coconut oil in a wok, crackle mustard seeds, red chilly powder, curry leaves, green sliced chilly, ginger, garlic and sauté well.

Add sliced shallots and cook nicely, then add a pinch of turmeric, salt and the prawns. Add sufficient water and cook gently for a couple of minutes.

Add raw sliced mango pieces and cook this for 2 more minutes until prawns have turned pink and are done. Add thick coconut milk and add the tempering made out of sliced shallots, curry leaves, red whole chillies and a little curry powder.

Check the seasoning and serve hot with garnish of fried curry leaves.

Serve hot with the garnish of tempering, kerala paratha and/or plain rice.

That’s for today my friends – more from me and Chef Elangovan in a couple of days. Hope to see you then.

Carina

(Photos: Carina/JS-Manningtree Archive)

PARADISE OF SOUTH INDIA – KOVALAM

(Part I)

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We all at times have the need and urge to get away for just a few days in order to escape the pressures of everyday life with its problems and subsequent frustrations.

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And living here in Cochin we have quite a wide choice within Kerala itself to escape to.

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This is exactly what Jo and I did last week – as usual on the spur of a moment; Sunday night this was discussed, Monday morning we were off.

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So now get your own cup of coffee/tea/milk or cold drink and come with me “down South” here in Kerala.

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Only a few hours of leisurely drive took us past Trivandrum (the actual State Capital) and another 12 kms further South to the little town of Kovalam, right at the edge of the Arabian Sea with its warm water and gentle breeze and against the dense backdrop of those tall Coconut trees, swaying gently in the breeze.

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After all, Kerala is known as ‘the land of Coconuts and Spices” and coming in to land at the Airport in nearby Trivandrum, the site of the lushness of the land and those trees always makes our hearts do a couple of extra beats and our blood flow a bit faster.

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And despite our extensive travels abroad, we always enjoy coming back home!

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Kovalam is also popularly known as the “Paradise of South India” and there is no doubt, that Kovalam Beach is the most famous beach in the whole of India.

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And the sunset….  – oh my friends, I must not forget to mention THE SUNSETS!  Painters and Photographers alike have such a big variety of those, since it is never ever the same the next evening.

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This is also a place which has over the years turned into a more than popular honeymoon location, and many foreigners come here to get married on the Beach.

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Since ca. 1930 this town has developed into quite a popular tourist destination for domestic as well as foreign tourists alike. What attracts them to come down here is the simple beauty, the warm waters of the Sea, the friendliness of the people who live here and of course the many Ayurvedic places providing excellent treatment for the tourists.

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For further details please click here on the link for the Kerala Tourism. http://www.keralatourism.org

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I hope you enjoyed a glimpse at our Kovalam – do come back in a couple of days for Part II. See you then.

Carina

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(All Photos: CS/JS – Manningtree Archive)