Don’t miss Udupi on your way along the west coast of Karnataka, India – a real treat!

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Udupi’s famous 900 yr old Sri Krishna Temple is a relaxed and personal kind of place at this time of year, with less visitors because of the monsoon rains.

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In the dry season it gets thousands of visitors each day. Worshippers come to see the young Lord Krisha whose attire is changed daily. No two days are ever the same.

He is also famously turned to face east ( or backwards). The story tells that when a devotee was not allowed in to see him, being an untouchable, Krishna instead turned around so that the devotee could instead see him through a crack in the west wall.

All this I know from the kindness of Smitha and her family who were visiting from Mumbai and took pity on my ignorance.

And the kindness continued as Sathya, a priest in the temple showed us around the Sri Krishna Temple’s Goshala, home to the temple’s cattle.

Sathya explained that the temple is part of a community of 400 students and priests who live on site and showed us the huge dining hall that serves meals, free of charge to the many pilgrims who visit, many traveling long distances.

In peak times they feed 5,000 to 10,000 people a day. The food is cooked in huge pot and was indeed very good.

Smitha’s lovely family invited me to sit with them and Smitha shared her interest in nutrition and helping people to eat a traditional Indian diet despite modern challenges.

We waited for the dishes to be brought around by temple priests: rice with rasam…

…a great jackfruit, pumpkin and eggplant sambar…

…payasam for dessert and a sweet doughnut type pastry.

My efforts don’t do justice at all to the good food. Being extra slow to eat by hand my dishes sadly ended up mixed together!

But I did save room for the famous Gadbad Icecream at Woodlands nearby!

And while we were there we had to sample their other specialties like banana buns with chutney, rawa idli with sambar and coconut chutney and pineapple kesari bath.

Woodlands also had this really interesting Moode ‘leaf’ idli steamed in a banana leaf.

And you can’t leave Udupi without seeing the lovely Malpe Beach which surprisingly was allowing swimming.

Malpe had that real Goan feel (Goa is pretty close really) with the lovely bright houses in amongst the coconut palms. It would be a great place to stay a few nights.

 

 

Cooking Kerala Appams in an Aussie Kitchen!

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Traditionally these wonderful rice pancakes are eaten for breakfast with either a vegetable coconut based stew or dipped in sweetened coconut milk.  So Yummy!

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I enjoyed them often in Kerala for breakfast , lunch and dinner…

…and miss them terribly!

So I was very excited when my friend Maya taught me to cook Kerala style appams back in my Canberra kitchen.

With Maya’s help I based the recipe on the YouTube and instructions from Show Me The Curry but tweaked it.

I first mixed 1 tsp dried yeast with 1 Tbsp sugar and ½ cup warm water and fermented to become bubbly/foamy.

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Then I used it to grind 2/3 cup cooled cooked Basmati Rice in a blender/food processor.

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Every time I visit India, I bring back something extra for my kitchen. This time it was a Preethi ‘Mixi’ Blender carried in the hand luggage! This makes easy work of grinding grains and seed spices.

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I then used 280ml (2/3 tin) coconut milk and added this gradually to grind 2 cups Raw Ponni Rice that had been washed and soaked for 4-5 hours. Ponni rice is available from Indian grocery store and is essential to the recipe. This needed to be ground until the batter was very smooth.

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Then I fermented the batter in a warm place for 8 hours (in a large pot with a lid) before adding 4 Tbsp sugar and extra coconut milk added (the rest of the tin).

You need to put the batter in the fridge after it’s fermented where it will keep for a few days.  However, it needs to be room temp for cooking though and a ‘custard –like’ consistency.

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I sped this up after work by putting the pot in a sink of hot water and stirring it occasionally (add extra cow’s milk or coconut milk if needed).

I then used about ½ cup of batter and swirled around an unoiled non-stick medium hot appam pan to achieve a lacy edge and soft crumpty centre and covered it with the lid to cook for a few minutes.

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These are also easily cooked in a frypan if you don’t have an appam pan, although it’s not nearly as good as the appam pan version. Kallappams are cooked like that.

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Appams are great served with a Kerala style coconut based ‘stew’ for breakfast or any curry any time. Great for mopping up the gravy and more delicious than plain rice.

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And completely gluten and dairy free, and FODMAPS friendly!

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

 

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.

Monsoon Magnificence at Wayanad Wild, Kerala @cgh_earth

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The monsoon is wild at Wayanad Wild, but magnificent! Up in Kerala’s tea, coffee, rice and spice growing hills…..

.…full of natural beauty…

….this new offering from CGH Earth Experience Hotels is a gorgeous place to be spoil by lovely staff who think of everything!

Surrounded by lush jungle nurtured by 5000mm annual rainfall, it’s perfect relaxation.

With no boundary between the hotel and the state forest, Wayanad Wild seems to go on forever.

Listening to the nearby stream, well fed by the monsoon and watching the rain from my balcony is like a mindful meditation.
Umbrellas are a part of life here in the monsoon but if you’d prefer a drop off at your door it’s no trouble.
I love how the tariff takes care of everything and includes all meals ….

…as well as in-house activities like talks and nature walks before and after every meal with naturalists Maneesh and Surya…
….daily cooking demonstrations with chef Vishnu, creating simple dishes like Malabar Fish Curry and Longbean Mezhukkulpratti.
In the monsoon the rate is very attractive at around $210 AUS per double room – for everything except off property excursions.

But why would you leave? The food is wonderful here.

Served in an open air restaurant integrated with the environment…

…Manoj overseas a great team who create wonderful meals!
Often it’s a buffet like this breakfast of puttu and kadala curry, appam and egg roast ….
…or another of iddyappam and vegetable stew and idly with sambar. Eggs to order and dosa!
Or this buffet dinner of Malabar grilled fish, prawn, paneer with cashew and mutton curries, black pepper chicken, eggplant, okra, potato and beetroot dishes, Dahl and ghee parotta.
Dinner is sometimes also a barbecue.
But meals may be a la carte if guests are few like a Thali lunch of tiny grained gandhakasala rice unique to Wayanad, fish curry, prawn marsala stir fry, raw banana with beans and pumpkin curry, cabbage and fresh coconut thoran, green dahl and mahi-mahi fish Marsala grill accompanied by lime, mango and bitter gourd pickles, finished with a locally grown bamboo rice, jaggery and coconut payasam.
A la carte dinner may be Corriander prawns (or the vegetarian starter of beetroot patties with mint chutney)…
..followed by soup and then a special Wayanad Wild Malabar stuffed fish in spiced coconut sauce stuffed with green chili, corriander, ginger and shallots, served with string hoppers (iddyappam).
Last may be Watanad’s unique fresh jackfruit mousse!
Meal times are flexible and fit in with guests needs. Staff are wonderfully attentive. Everyone seems to have worked for CGH Earth for years, at their different properties. If they try elsewhere they seem to come back and I can totally understand that!
The rooms are spacious and attractive…
…all with great balcony views into the trees, the perfect spot for watching the rains.
Daily chats (snacks) are refilled daily and the mini-bar soft drinks are free for the first time.
Monkeys make themselves at home.

And there’s a refreshing pool for a post walk swim.

A pickup from Kozhikode costs around $65AUS and takes about 2 hours. From Kochi it would be 6-7 hours but the cars are very comfortable so this is not a problem. But you can also fly to Kozhikode.

Book directly through the website or by contacting Roshini who is always so helpful directsales@cghearth.com
Excellent value for the holiday dollar it’s lovely for couples but also great for a group of friends or family.
#meandcghearth #kerala #wayanad #cghearth #favourite #loveindiatravel #foodindia #wayanadwild @cghearth @wayanadwild

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

Eighth Bastion Hotel, Kochi – a top spot to stay @cgh_earth

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Eighth Bastion, like all CGH Earth hotels, is a great spot to stay in Kochi, especially with the generous low season price ($125AUS including the fabulous breakfast).


Near the Dutch cemetery and Thakur House, it once was a Dutch mansion itself.


It’s close to the beach for great people watching and wandering.


It has just 19 rooms with some (quieter) rooms overlooking the pool and other (noisier) rooms overlooking local life and out to the sea. Room 305 was great, a little noisier as it was on the corner, but great views, space and privacy. It was lovely sitting on the balcony watching the rain with a tea, or listening to the rain overnight on the roof. So relaxing!


There’s gorgeous common areas, a lovely infinity pool and complementary bikes and umbrellas to use.




Staff are wonderful, relaxed, warm and genuinely thoughtful.


The breakfast team Binesh, Ajeesh, Mathai and Sayanth.

Interestingly Mathai told us about the pasta he makes using a mix of flours made from jackfruit and wheat that gives a result lower in glycaemic index and higher in fibre. Very clever!

They are joined in the kitchen of East Indies restaurant by chef Shinto.


Breakfast is generous and delicious including house made pineapple jam and muesli, full English breakfast, pancakes and Indian breakfasts like idli and sandbar, aval (rolled rice with jaggery and spices), dosa, oothappam with sambar and coconut and tomato chutneys and a great black chenna with Kerala red rice puttu.



There’s even the Bruder Bread, unique to Kochi that dates back to the Dutch influence. Made locally from a family secret  it uses caramelised sugar, eggs, vanilla, spices and raisins.


While weekdays in low season are just the la carte menu for breakfast without the buffet, there’s no missing out.



Book directly through the website. Roshini at Reservations is fantastic, so very helpful. (directsales@cghearth.com)
She can also organize a very comfortable and welcome pick up from the airport at a competitive price which I recommend.

A top spot for a boutique stay in Kochi!

Can’t wait to try Bruton’s Boatyard next month!

@cghearth #meandcghearth