Friday, December 28, 2007


My Christams Holiday on the Indian Ocean in a seaside Hamlet called Varkala has come to a close. I await the overnight train to Trichy where there is a supposedly wonderful Ganesh Temple (the elephant headed Hindu god) I just have to see, plus the food is spoken of very highly there. I must confess to the past few days of being subjected to westernized Indian as I bronzed myslef on the beach and doing very leittle else. The price I have to buy to avoid the northeasters of winter.

I did get a good pineapple and cashew biriyani recipe fom a local chef that I will rewrite and share at a future date. This meandering journey through the southern portion of India is coming to a quick close. Pondicherry, the French colonial town lays ahead from me, and then alas, so does an airplane's seat.

Enjoy the New Year.....

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Have been in Fort Kochi on the Maalabar Coast for a mere two days, and it has revealed a wealth of gifts to me. For one, it is a quiet, dust free corner of this country, albiet rife with mosquitos, that immediately was a welcome respite from the craziness of the bigger cities. But truly this morning's breakfast meeting with a local cook put me where I wanted. Over a stove with a batter for dosas -- those paper thin pancakes I love so much. I got the formula for the concoction as well the procedure for making the batter. I just have to figure out what we call a certain lentil that goes along with rice and i am in. It is a full day process between the soaking, grinding and then fermenting. By alas, I got it. Though I will admitt to needing some practice and making the perfect pancake still eludes me. I got a library of information from her and cannot wait to get back and source out the products locally and cook up some memories. Clearly, once I do I will post the recipes.

For now, dinner with some other travellers await cooked by some unknown kitchen person beckons.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I just left the Coorg Region of India where I spent the last few days getting intimate with the peppercorn. I had no idea it was a climbing vine that wraps around the bottom half a tree making it look like the trunk is wearing a skirt. I was two months too early for their harvest but I did eat them underipe straight off the vine, and they deliver a punch. When I get back I will publish my "Never Will Make Again Fresh Pepper Chutney" just for the fun of it. Though the coffee was just about ripe for the picking a raw, ripe coffee bean is sweet and delicious...someone has to market Java Juice...Starbucks are you reading this? I am a bit overwhelmed right now for I eat fresh cardamon and got acquainted with my first vanilla orchid. Not to mention the cobra we almost ran over.

Hope everyone gts their holiday gifts as well.....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Bangalore Express

Okay, I ready to admit I am a jaded consumer who was prepared to confornt "Johnny, who may I help you" customer representative dolling out hi-tech remedies from this obscure corner of the earth. I am so angry with him for taking our jobs and draining resources that could otherwise be wasted at home.

Arrived at the Bangalore Cantonment Station, the secondary stop servicing the city, and was immediately concerned that we have entrusted our computers, DVD players, phones to a town void of traffic lights, but not the traffic with Victorian services and cow drawn trucks. It was late and dark and my intitial assessment was informed by what the station light's illuminated. Anxiouly, I stood waiting for my friend Sandeep to fetch me - he ran 20 minutes late! Did I get off at the wrong stationThis could be a definite possiblity for there were no announcements, no station sign to spy as we cruised in - only the pre-warning that the train will not stop long so jump off quickly. Even the fellow passengers, who were locals, questioned the arriving station. I made the leap and not until half way to the exit did I finally get confirmation of my hopefully true destination. At last, my ride arrived with great relief to me for I feared I wouldf never otherwise find a hotel.

Thye Chalins are a loving family living harmoniously under one roof with four separately interwoven lives. Being in a home was a rich reward and made my momentary train terror quickly fade into oblivion.

My next introduction to Bangalore spun on a dime, or should that be a rupee, with cocktails at a hotspot that could exsist in any hip-groovy city -- sleek, contempary design, commanding cityviews from this rooftop watering hole that was jammed with lable obvious consumers. The new wealth of out-sourcing. Though as I looked around there sat but a lone female among the hordes of whiskey throwong young men. i thought prehaps this was a gay bar but I was sure that Sandeep was straight. It was explained while the bar was indeed straight wome go out with less frequency and always in the company of male companions. Never a group of "Sex in teh City" chicks out for a gilr's night. After being up for almost 24 hours a clean bed and pillow welcomed me.

I woke with still too few hous clocked but EST still controls my internal workinhs. Fortunately, Mr. Chatlin offered a traditional south Indian breakfast of curried dalh, coconut chutney and idly (a steamed rice cake) as well as the best cream of wheat I have ever had. Basically, a semolina porridge that was dense and studded with curry leaves, onions, green chilies and mustard seeds - from what I could make out. Then it was off to SVL Chai House to enjoy a local cup of joe. What a delight, and something missing in my day. A strong, yet sweet shot tempered with warmed milk. I quickly knocked two back. Things were seeming okay again. It was off to rendezvous with Sandeep and his mother who had finally greeted the day. We ran to Russel Market, and purchased some foods for the evening meal. Sandeep and I were going to cook - what I still wasn't sure. All I know was that his father was vegetarian; his mother was vegetarian on Mondays and Fridays as part of her religious observations, and his brother, just had food issues.

Dinner ended up being:
Sauteed Banana Flowers with Garlic and Lime
Charred Eggplant with onions, chilies and ginger
Butter Beans Marsala with Tomatoes
Fish Fillets with Pomegrante wrapped in Banana Leaves

It was a success, or at least the politeness of the family made me feel that way. From my point of view I believed it to be so.

As the meal wound down I asked if I would like to go "blanketing" that night. Curious, I asked what it meant and was told there was a trunk full of woolen blankets that they go and distribute to homeless to offer but a touch of comfort during the cool winter nights. I was touched, amazed and immediately a willing volunteer. We piled into the car: Sandeep, his father, an aunt and uncle and a pair of sissors. The latter were for notching the blankets rendering them defected and therefore unable to be sold for a few ruppees. We headed that night for a neighborhood called Richard's Town. No, not in honor of me just an ironic, humbling twist. Finding needy recipients was no trouble though we did seek out childern, people with just a thin cotton covering or a ratty plastic tarpin as their night's protector against the chill. The trunk was reduced to the owner's manual at an unfortunate speed. For me. I ached as I watched a simple, utilitarian cover bring so much joy, surprise and gratitude to thse who receive sp little in life. They were a car full of people who who know were life they were positioned and yet did not forget that they were still citzens of humanity. It was an awesome ripple they are creating in this tempestous sea.

We induldged ourselves with a sweet paan leaf, soft like butter, and redolent with sugared rose petals, and a dark cup of chai (tea). Quiet laughter filled the car as we recounted some of the more precious moments of the night. I was so thankful to have a full belly but even more indebted to this family fpr allowing me to experience a Bangalore I would never get on the phone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


A just a quick sigh to have landed after 20 hours of travel...but alas my bag decided to spend some extra time in London. Not surprised, I do find it a wonderful city. Though it is warm and humid here a change of clothes will serve me well. Pray, it makes it onto the flight today.

Now, I am going out and about...spied a sweets shop!

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Persimmons are a quintessential fruit of the cooler months. Its color, a brunt orange, is perfectly matched to the floral displays adorning a table-scape. Though there are two main varieties found throughout the markets in the United States and they are complete opposites.

The Hachiya is a large teardrop shape that must be eaten when extremely soft or the tannins contained with this one will remind one of an eraser clouded with chalk. It has a very gelatinous mouth feel, and this is the persimmon I like to use when making bread puddings, jams, or tapioca pudding.

It is very easy to extract the pulp from this one for it over-ripe nature when ready just requires a squeeze, and the seeds are easily found to boot.

Then at the other end of the spectrum is the Fuyu variety the is a squat crab-apple like figure that is eaten hard is and is not nearly as juicy as it larger relative. For me these are snacking persimmons, or if I am making a chutney. When I cook this version I am in the habit of peeling them for it is a bit tough.

Sweet Potato Soufflé - yields 8 servings
3 1/2 pounds of Sweet Potatoes (or yams) - peeled and diced
2 1/2 cups Persimmon Puree - approx. 3 ripe fruits (skin and seeds discarded)
1/4 cup Thyme leaves - chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest - minced
1 1/2 tablespoons Curry Powder
1 teaspoon White Pepper
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1 tablespoon Honey
1 Orange - juiced
1 tablespoon Salt
4 Egg Whites - beaten to stiff peaks

Pre heat the oven to 275 degrees.

Cook the sweet potatoes in boiling water till soft. While they are still warm mash the potatoes into a smooth mass. Place the potatoes on a baking tray in the oven for 15 minutes to dry them out a bit. In a large bowl thoroughly combine the sweet potato, persimmon puree, thyme,zest, curry powder, cayenne, pepper honey, orange juice and salt together. Gently fold in the egg whites until the whites are completely incorporated. Place in a 2 quart soufflé or casserole dish and bake for 40 minutes. Serve immediately.

Persimmon Bread Pudding - serves 6

2 Eggs
5 Egg Yolks
1 cup Persimmon Puree
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1/4 cup Sugar
1 Vanilla Bean - split in half
2 cups Milk
2 cups Cream
8 croissants (or any sweet bread) - sliced into 1/4" pieces

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the eggs, yolks, sugar, persimmon puree and nutmeg to together until well combined. Scald the milk and cream with the vanilla. Whisk in a small amount of the milk mixture into the eggs. Then once the eggs feel warm, add the remaining milk. Strain the egg/milk mixture through a fine sieve. In a 12 inch long bread loaf pan place a single layer of the croissant, and pour over a small amount of the egg/milk mixture. Repeat this procedure until the pan is full. You should lightly push down on the layers to make sure the pudding is compressed and the croissant is completely soaked. Cove the pan with aluminum foil put the loaf pan in a water bath, and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. It is done when a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in the water bath. Then un-mold from the pan, and serve slices with a dollop of whipped cream or creme fraiche.