Exploring South Indian dining in Canberra – First stop Binny’s Kathitto

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Hankering for some much missed Kerala cuisine, I was delighted when Elissa from Five Beans Food suggested Binny’s Kathitto for dinner where Majeesh from Kottayam is cooking appams, puttu, idyappam, Kerala parotta, moilee, aviyal, pollichathu and so much more!

It’s been lovely watching Binny take his specialty Indian street food from the Hamlet pop-up to his bricks and mortar home on Lonsdale Street.

The decor echoes Binny’s warm welcome backed up by the rest of the team, Rose and Khush.

Elissa’s been experimenting with Marsala Dosa…

…so we needed to try that for entree..

Masala Dosa $16 – a crepe wrapped around a savory filling of mashed potatoes, onions, crackled mustard seeds, and tempered spices with sambar and coconut and tomato chutneys.

As there were four of us we shared another three dishes with breads, all of which were very delicious!

Erachi Puttu with Chicken Curry $19 – a steamed rice cake layered with meat masala, along with pappadum and served with a gravy (perhaps my favourite as I loved the puttu)

Kanava Roast $23 – squid cooked in traditional Kerala spice with ginger, fried chilles, onions, tomato and squeeze of lemon with a Kerala Parotta – puffed softbread made from flour $4. Loved the tender squid and it went well with the parotta (thanks for the tip Khush).

Tharavu Curry $23 – duck cooked in coconut milk, green chilli, ginger and spices flavoured with curry leaves with an appam – a Kerala style hopper pancake made of fine ground raw rice and grated coconut $3. This was a very generous serve of, fall off the bone, well flavoured duck meat.

Good news for Canberra Entertainment Book holders, Binny’s now offers a 25% discount up to $30.

Binny’s is licensed and also offers BYO wine at $10 corkage a bottle.

This wasn’t my first visit to Binny’s Kathitto but this time I had a much greater appreciation and understanding of what I’d ordered.

So looking forward to trying some more dishes!

Binny's Kathitto Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Christmas in July at Contentious Character – Passionate, warm and personal

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My favourite foodie events are those where I glimpse the passion of the makers. But Christmas in July at Contentious Character Winery last weekend, was so much more.

Packed with passion, the night was the clearly the culmination of a huge effort from Tony, Ross, Ben and Jeremy, the team behind Contentious Character…..

….and Felicity whose Executive Events Solutions, pulled it all together.

The wine flowed generously, matched to three fine courses from the kitchen of Chef Tom Stoneham…

A glass of Pinot Gris 2009 on arrival (my favourite of the night) was followed by..

Entrée: Parsnip and local chestnut soup (delicious) paired Glass of Riesling 2005 or the Whisky cured salmon with chive hollandaise with Chardonnay 2016 or the 2016 Pinot Gris…

Main: Roast Turkey with all the trimmings (and Union 2008), Terrine of local nuts and mushrooms (with 2004 Chardoannay (very nice!) or 2006 Pinot Noir) or Fresh market fish, baked with vegetables and lemon verbena butter, with a glass Chardonnay 2016…

Dessert: Christmas pudding with brandy custard or Classic sherry trifle paired Glass of 2010 Sweet Patch…

…with lovely mulled white of red wine also on hand!

Mike of the Christmas Emporium had decked out the newly refreshed venue….

…. and live entertainment (with carols) roamed the tables.

It was professional and well done, but very personal and relaxed.

Picked up at the door, we were transported to Wamboin but the warm and freindly Kayne, supporting his partner Felicity also delivering her handwritten welcome note and goodie bag.

Most, I enjoyed the conversations and meeting  both creators and the partners who support them. Like Kayne, again, who quickly changed from bus driver to wine waiter.

Passionate people have such inspiring stories like Mike’s whose love of Christmas is grounded in deeply meaningful childhood experiences.

And speaking of inspiring stories, Can who is the passion behind Canberra Instagram photo project, The Embassy of Kindness shared his great story and treated me to an Embassy interview! I was very impressed by how a few thoughtful questions and some careful listening can not only discover a complete stranger’s meaningful story but also leave them blessed by a few minutes of self-reflection and self-kindness.

Thanks Can for the photo!

Great to catch up with fellow food bloggers on the So Frank table it was just a very lovely night, well priced at $135 for everything including the door to door service.  Perfect on a cold mid-winter Canberra night.

If you missed this opportunity do keep an eye out for other events that Executive Events Solutions or Contentious Character offer, or drop by the Winery for brunch or lunch on the weekends.

Go for the food and stay for the views at Waves Beach Resort, Northern Kerala

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We arrived at Seema’s Waves Beach Resort to an impressive balcony view from this cute garden cottage at Thottada Beach near Kannur, Kerala.

One of the few good places to stay between Calicut and Mangalore in the monsoon season, it’s part of the extensive, well-run network of Kerala Homestays that are the best place to find wonderful home-cooked Kerala cuisine and experience a local lifestyle.

Room 1 is the pick! On first glance the room looks clean and very spacious!

But then you realize that every window and the door way has a wonderful view.

Looking further I discovered the lovely garden setting for meals…

…the hammocks for relaxing….

….and the gate down to the private beach below.

The two cottages each have upper and lower rooms….

…and are perched on the cliff at the end of gorgeous Thottada Beach.

The surrounding village is lovely for walking and chatting to people along the way.

Being the low season we pretty much had the place to ourselves with the wonderful Waves team looking after us…

….Jithin’s happy auto service, who waited for our late train, Liju who shared his cooking secrets and delivered the most delicious fresh, tasty Kerala dishes and Adash, a great all rounder and kitchen hand.

And that’s when I come to perhaps the very best reason to stay at Waves Beach Resort. The food is superb and in the low season all three meals are included in great value rate of about $60 AUS per day for two people sharing a room.

Liju, in his kindness allowed me to watch him cook and I’ve posed these simple but spectacular recipes.

They have worked beautifully back home in Australia!

But just to give you an idea of what we enjoyed and the links to the recipes…

Our first night’s dinner was a wonderful Malabar prawn biriyani with a date pickle, coconut chutney and cabbage thoran.

Next day our Kerala breakfast  was an aromatic, beautifully spiced egg curry and chappati.

Lunch was wow! Served with fat Kerala rice and pappadoms, my favourites were the avial and the pachadi but the long bean thoran and Malabar coconut fish curry were wonderful too.

Second night’s dinner was again remarkable. Liju included two dishes that used the flavours of toasted coconut. The style Liju used for the Nadan Chicken Curry, special to this Kannur area, is possibly used in no other dish.

But the sweet potato smash that also used toasted coconut in another style, was the real standout for me. Look for the recipe and do try it. Along with this was a green bean and carrot thoran, a very simple raita style salad and a very wonderful ghee rice cooked in the biriyani style.

As we had not yet tasted the pathiri breads distinct to Malabar Moplah cuisine,  Liju so thoughtfully asked a friend’s mother to make these for our last breakfast that first visit.

Apparently pathiri take the place of appam and are not fermented with alcoholic coconut toddy. They are delicious, a little like pancakes and made from rice flour, water salt then steamed. Sometimes I think coconut milk is used. Liju served these with a tasty kadala (chickpea) curry, but like appam they were also good rolled around a banana.

We couldn’t stay away for long and when we returned after our visit north to Mangalore and Udupi. Even though we arrived late for lunch, with great thoughtfulness Liju and Adash had collected oysters from Thottada Beach and fried them with chili, coconut and garlic. Liju  served this with a long bean thoran, tomato pachadi and sambar, all beautifully flavoured. It was so very kind and so very delicious, the very best of food!!!

When dinner followed it was another fabulous Kerala meal from Liju’s kitchen – Kerala Fish Curry, Beetroot Thoran, Tapioca flavored with toasted coconut and spices, cucumber and carrot curd based ‘salad’  and that gorgeous ghee rice.

 

Our last and final meal at Waves Beach Resort (at least for this trip) was superb oothappam a spongy, rice pancake flavoured with green chilli and curry leaves, accompanied by an excellent egg curry.

I’m adding Waves Beach Resort to my list of favorites in Kerala. The food alone is worth the trip, but the views from the balcony and windows room in no.1 make it very hard to leave!

For more information and bookings get in touch with Seema wavesbeachresort@gmail.com

 

Bringing the Tastes of Two Regions to Canberra! 11-13 August

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A foodie weekend exploring the wineries and produce of the Rutherglen and King Valley regions is right up there on my wishlist! So I’m very excited that those lovely wines and foods are coming to me in Canberra!

King Valley vineyard

Last year’s Taste of Two Regions was brilliant! And this year I am invited again!!

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I loved the wines last year, but it was meeting the people behind the wines that was really special! The stories of these passionate families was inspiring. Wendy Killeen and her daughter Natasha (the seventh generation of Stanton & Killeen wine makers) brought along their  wonderful range of Muscats….img_1078img_7606

…. and Tanya from Brown Brothers Wines introduced us to the King Valley Prosecco market leaders in this wine.

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This year Taste of Two Regions is promising more than 200 wines and dozens of local foods from more than 25 regional artisans at their expo at Pialligo Estate on Sunday 13th of August. There’s two sessions 10-1pm and 2-5pm. Masterclasses run all day, but these are filling fast.

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There’s also a King Valley Prosecco Breakfast, an Italian Family Lunch and Dinner with the wine makers (also very popular).

My favourite wines through life have always come from the Rutherglen of King Valley regions. I can remember the first time I tasted a Durif, from Campbell’s Winery, and a time when my favourite wine was Brown Brothers’ Crouchen Riesling and how I loved All Saints Moscato.

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So my expectations are high and I’m looking forward to discovering what my new favourites will be and enjoying a gorgeous relaxed day of fine wine, foods and inspiring wine-makers and producers….a taster for that long awaited foodie weekend!!!

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For a quick look check the Brochure Tastes of Two Regions 2017. All the details are on the website.

Program of Events

Tastes of Two Regions Exhibition

Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate

Tickets $35pp

Alternative Varieties Dinner with Winemakers of Rutherglen (Booked out sadly)

Saturday 12 August, Otis Dining Hall

Tickets $130pp

King Valley Prosecco Breakfast

Sunday 13 August, Pialligo Estate Farmhouse Restaurant

Tickets $55pp

King Valley Italian Family Lunch

Saturday 13 August, Yarralumla Woolshed

Tickets $85pp, children play and eat free

Brunton’s Boatyard Hotel – Rich and full, luxury heritage in Fort Kochi @cgh_earth

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Fort Kochi in Kerala, South India is brimming with history and culture. Coming for the spices, the Portuguese, Dutch and British fought over Cochin for nearly 500 years.

Surrounded by waterways, seafood is plentiful. The local cuisine makes the most of spices, bountiful coconuts and the influences of colonialists as well as Arabian traders, Syrian Christian and Jewish migrants. It is superb!

For travellers who want to enjoy the food and experience their own piece of Old Cochin in style, there’s no shortage of boutique heritage accommodation. But Brunton’s Boatyard offers so much more than just accommodation, at very competitive prices.

I love coming in the monsoon when there’s fewer travellers and it’s cold at home. It’s wonderful watching the rains from my balcony, drink in hand and there’s great low season rates. For the best prices do email Roshini directly. She’s immensely helpful and lovely!

This gorgeous place started over 100 years ago as George Brunton’s boat building yard. Having fallen on hard times it’s been beautifully renovated and modern comforts added to make a wonderful luxury heritage hotel. It’s full of cane, wickerwork, wood, heritage tiles, spice chests, terra-cotta floors, high four poster beds with footstools and deep baths. When I arrived, like at other CGH Earth Experience properties, there was something to wear and something to drink that reflects the local culture and history. This time it was jasmine and marigold along with refreshing cardamom, lime and ginger. My days always began watching the fishing boats and liners from my balcony…… and sipping one of the luxurious leaf teas from all over India, provided in my room. There is early yoga and meditation with the master Sathya Raj, free to all guests every morning. When I went along I had my own private class.Breakfast is included and served in the Armoury Cafe. Fresh juices, fruits, house-baked breads, cereals….…..French toast, eggs, idli, vada, dosa….…..and a changing Mattanchery Experience Kerala breakfast. The Chicken Pidikozi was completely new to me….….chicken curry with boiled rice dumplings, a little like large gnocchi! Other mornings I enjoyed the Kallappam with Portuguese chicken and vegetable stew or with ‘egg roast’. Brunton’s is just up the road from Mattancherry’s Spice Bazaar that has been trading for centuries. Along with the Dutch Palace and Jew Street, it’s a fascinating area to wander down, stopping for a coffee, chai or ginger lassi in one of the cafes.

Brunton’s is also near the ferry dock and it’s an interesting 10 cent ride over to explore modern Kochi.
For lunch it was great to head to CGH Earth’s David Hall near the Parade Ground. Originally a 350 year old Dutch East India Company House, it was bought by the influential Kochi Jewish Koder family and now renovated as a space where contemporary artists can work and exhibit free of charge. I love the garden cafe specialising in wood fired pizza, like the Fort Cochin topped with seafood . Also good for a hot or cold drink, the Spicy Chicken Chappati wraps are on my list for next time.
But if you’re heading back to Brunton’s for a swim….…..you might have their thali for lunch…img_5688….or something from their international and local menu like this Kathai Roll that just hit the spot! img_5686The gorgeous bed was always hard to resist in the warmth of the day with a lovely fresh fruit basket delivered daily.
Afternoon tea is also ‘on the house’ each day at 5pm and might be delicious cucumber, tomato and mint chutney sandwiches with house-made bread and home-made banana cake or hot potato or banana fries and homemade biscuits. It’s such a lovely gesture and just perfect at that time of day. 
From here don’t miss catching the complimentary daily sunset cruise, on the last boat made by Brunton’s Boatyard 60 years ago. Leaving from Brunton’s private dock it’s a must do! Guided by the lovely Saranya, we passed local fishermen at Aspinall House – a successful boat building family last century, the old warehouses on Spice Street…….continued past huge ships unloading at the port, Chinese fishing nets introduced 600 years ago, great fleets of local boats that supply Kerala’s love of seafood, and seven islands in the bay.  Also complimentary before dinner is Chef Nithin’s daily demonstrations and tastings of carefully explained traditional Kerala dishes, like Kerala Fish Red Curry, Fish Moilee and Portuguese Vegetable Stew. Dinner is luxurious and relaxing at Brunton’s History Restaurant whose menu reflects Kochi’s heritage. Particularly famous is the signature dish, First Class Railway Mutton Curry – reflecting British influence on Kochi’s cuisine. Slow cooked for 5 hours it’s served with a rice pilaf, sautéed spinach, corn masala and house made kulcha buns.  The signature dessert at Brunton’s Boatyard is their delicious Vattelappam, a local Syrian Christian recipe based on a coconut custard set over caramelised jaggery. It reminded me of the Sri Lankan Wattalappam but smoother. After all Sri Lanka is not far way! My favorite Kerala dish is the Portuguese heritage stew, Fish Moilee with appams. The Vypeen Moilee version from Brunton’s Boatyard is one of the best, full of fish, squid and prawns. Very pretty is the butter tiger prawn starter with beetroot and paneer mousse and curry leaf hollandaise…

…and very delicious was the Baby Squid stuffed with Biriyani!

Diners are also surprised by little complimentary treats like nuts, gorgeous warm house-baked breads, salad or spicy carrot and red pepper soup.Brunton’s is also within a 5-10 min walk of three more of my Fort Kochi favourite restaurants if you stay for a while and want to explore more menus.

I’ve tried to put my finger on what makes Brunton’s so good. I love the high standards, the quality and authenticity of the property, the food and the many included activities, but I think most of all it’s the team at CGH Earth that make it so special. There is always great warmth in their smiles and their eyes light up when they see you. You are the centre of their attention! They thoughtfully anticipate guests’ needs and are genuinely caring and concerned that each person has the very best experience both in the hotel and of community and culture around it. They are well supported by the attitudes and values of CGH Earth whose approach reflects their commitment to environmental sustainability, preserving local culture and generously sharing true South Indian hospitality. This was my fourth CGH Earth experience and I’ve seen it in all of them. They are truly unique in what they do and they do it so well!

For a full and rich Fort Kochi experience in heritage luxury at great value for money, Brunton’s Boatyard is the place to choose.

Celebrating Eid in Kozhikode, Kerala –  Malabar Muslim Cuisine 

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It was all happening down on the beach last night at the Eid Festival in Kozhikode, famous for it’s Malabar Muslim Cuisine.



It was also the perfect night to try the famous regional biriyani at the iconic Paragon Hotel served with delicious sides of date pickle, coconut chutney and curd based pachchadi, with the famous Malabar parotta.



We were well looked after and recommended the house specialty, a stir fried, spicy seafood dish with thick fresh coconut crescents ( mentioned in Charmaine O’Brien’s Penguin Food Guide to India). Together with a couple of sweet mint lime drinks came to just $10 AUS. Amazing!
But the night was not over as we called in to the Hangout and Ashim created a wonderful fresh Alfonso mango ice-cream for us!


We have to go back! And I’m having that mango icecream again!


@hangouticecream @calicutparagon #kerala #kozhikode #eid #hangouticecream #paragoncalicut #loveindiatravel #monsoon