Kerala, often called ‘God’s own country’, is the perfect destination for the avid traveller who seeks adventure, beauty and tasty food. It encompasses so many different experiences and terrain in this sunshine state that no day is ever quite the same. Over the course of the last few weeks my family and I (and not other animals) spent time in Cochin, exploring their diverse places of worship as well admiring their famous Chinese fishing nets.
The Western ghats, which provide the state, and much of the wider world, with tea, cardamom and coffee.
The calming, slower pace of life in the emerald backwaters,
and of course the palm fringed beaches of the coast and the gloriously warm Arabian sea.
Along the way I met some wonderful people, both locals and fellow travellers, who all made our experience of Kerala very memorable. It was tough to say goodbye to the warm rays and friendly smiles and head back to a much colder London, which is now firming in the throes of winter.
During our travels I learned to cook a wealth of Keralan recipes from chefs and home cooks who welcomed us into their homes and kitchens. Meet some of them below. From left ‘Mummy’ from Philip Kutty’s Farm, Sreeja from Marari Beach Hotel and Moly from Cochin, who allowed me to shadow her for the day.
Prior to visiting the state I had a preconceived notion that a lot of the cuisine would be vegetarian, however this is not the case. In Kerala, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Jews (there are only 6 now left in Cochin) live harmoniously and respectfully amongst one another. As such we feasted on chicken, lamb, pork and beef as well as delicious fresh and seawater fish, shellfish and a host of vegetarian dishes. Coconut oil and coconut in many forms, is the heart of many Keralan dishes along with the irresistibly sour tamarind and kokum, the latter being new to me. “Kera” in Malayalam (the language of Kerala) means coconut. As Kerala is abundant with coconut plants, it naturally got the name Kerala. Yes, many of the dishes in Kerala have heat, but with the cooling qualities of coconut, many had their chilli bite tempered.
Over the coming months I will intersperse my blog posts with temptingly delicious Keralan dishes that will hopefully encourage you to try cooking them at home.
First up is ‘Squid Coconut Fry’, which in all honesty takes 10 minutes and that includes the prepping and cooking. So look no excuses not to give this a whirl. It is so good you’ll be cooking it time and time again.
Squid Coconut Fry
Serves 2 (or 4 if serving with other dishes)
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 dried red Kashmiri chillies, halved and seeds removed if you like it less hot
10 pieces of thinly sliced fresh coconut or dried coconut slices
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger paste
1 fresh green chilli (2 if you like it hot)
10 curry leaves
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
300g squid tubes, chopped into thin rings
1/4 juice of a lemon
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 garam masala
- First get all the ingredients ready as the dish takes no time to cook and you will want to eat it immediately. This dish is not good to be reheated.
- Heat the coconut oil in a pan. When it is hot add the mustard seeds and red chillies followed by the thin coconut slices. Keep the heat on a medium to low heat.
- After 20 seconds add the garlic, ginger, fresh green chilli and curry leaves.
- Move around the pan for a minute before adding the red onion and salt.
- Now add the chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and allow the flavours to come together in the pan. Allow the onion to soften for 3-5 minutes
- Add the squid and move around the pan. Cook for a further 3 minutes.
- Add the lemon, pepper and garam masala. Move the ingredients around the pan.
Serve immediately. All the wonderful flavours will have wrapped themselves around the squid culminating in the most appetising of dishes.
Quick and easy. I would serve with rice, a vegetable curry and a dal (see my recipe library).