CHAI, MASALA DOSA AND DHAL

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Looking back on my days in South India I must say that I enjoyed the food very much there.  All the dhal dishes, the variety of vegetable dishes, the spices and fragrant herbal dishes were all very much to my taste, and rice as a accompaniment was delicious.  While sorting through photos the other day I found some of my visit to Vijayawada and the surrounding area in Andhra Pradesh, and I picked out some of the ones that portrayed foods, street food sellers, and chai shops.

Man selling his vegetables using his bike as vehicle, both practical and colourful.  The carts on wheels are also very practical and you see them a lot in all the towns and villages.  The young boy was minding a cool water stall, big smile on his face as he was obviously enjoying this job.

Along the road on the way to Vijayawada we came across a rice harvest, the people harvesting were working in the hot sun, laying the stalks of rice on the road, we were told that the trucks and busses driving over this would dislodge the rice grains and make the job easier for them to gather the rice.

A lovely lady preparing vegetables, and a storage place where the cabbages and green chillies seem to be a popular food item.

Another popular street selling item would be the bananas, I ate some lovely little bananas in South India, they tasted so creamy, a bit like banana ice-cream, delicious. The hot food stall in the dark, this was around Christmas 2009, the smell was very nice and wrapped itself around us while we browsed the other stalls in the area.  It was the first time I saw the Christmas stars on sale, beautiful crafted from light cardboard, I bought some and took them home to give to my grand children.
IMG_5485I’m always fascinated with the vegetable types that I am not familiar with, here are quite a few on display, the okra, and the bitter gourd (though I have tried to grow these in Ireland), not even sure what the purple vegetable is.  I would want to try them all out.  And when I find spices or herbs between them I go altogether enthusiastic.  Loving it all.

Another street food seller, love the amount of green beans, they make any meal worth eating. So colourful too.

Here I cannot remember what this man was selling, I thought some sort of nuts perhaps.  And on the right it was the children that caught my attention more, they were very curious about me for some reason.

About the chai houses I have fond memories too, you would be walking or driving along the road and there you would regularly come across a chai seller, lovely to sit in the shade and drink a delicious glass of chai, and chat with the local people who would be just as curious about you as you about them.  A relaxed way of living, having all the time in the world, the way it should be.  Materialism has not reached these parts it seems.  I still think that rural areas are healthier and nicer to live in wherever you go in the world.  In India you are never far away from other people even in rural areas, it is not a lonely sort of place.  It’s colourful and friendly.  I was fortunate to travel both in Tamil Nadu, in Andhra Pradesh and in Kerala, in each place I made very good friends.  In Kerala my good friend Mary even gave me demonstrations in preparing traditional Kerala dishes, she and her husband also took me into the mountain areas where they showed me a variety of trees that produce spices, very interesting, but I will write about that another time.  My friends, I do hope you enjoyed my little photo journey through this delightful part of the world.

ALL THE GOOD OF LAND AND SEA

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Today I did a spot of cooking, but first I took the bus to Victoria, only ten minutes away, and I searched for and found the Fish Shop where I bought one large steak of fresh tuna, and two fillets of ling, the man in the fish shop offered me a recipe for cooking the tuna, it’s a great recipe he said, you will need oregano and other items, and as he said it he added a bunch of fresh oregano to the bag of fish, all for only €7 which I thought was very reasonable.  I then visited a vegetable stall, in Victoria these stalls are at the large car park near the bus terminal, and they are there most days.  From what I can see the produce is very fresh.  A friendly man helped me to a number of vegetables, as well as lemon, parsley, and an orange that I needed for my recipe.  He added a bunch of free celery leaves to my other shopping free of charge, the herbs and vegetables smelled good.  I love cooking with fresh herbs, and that is why I am enjoying the cooking quite a bit here, fresh fragrant herbs, especially oregano, rosemary, mint, basil, and sage, as well as tomatoes, olive oil, lemon, garlic, broad beans, green beans, and fish.  I may add that the long type of onions also are delicious, I’ve been enjoying those here.  To finish the tuna story, I made the marinade as instructed and cooked the fish  according to the recipe, and it was really delicious.

The man at the vegetable stall also informed me that the local produce would be best if I was looking for organic, which of course I was and I told him that, and he was selling a lot of local produce which is very nice.  Why would one import foods when they can be grown at home.

I was in a sort of garden centre shop as well this morning as I wanted to check what the situation is in Gozo regarding the use of ’roundup’ seeing that now it has been recognised by the WHO that the Glyphosate contained in roundup is a cancer causing ingredient.  The nice girl that I was talking to did not know about these matters, she did say that yes they sold roundup and that it is needed as it is very hard to grow produce on Gozo, and this is the second person that tells me that.  Some people that I encountered in the last few days have also told me that it would be impossible to grow organically on Gozo because of the drought, I wonder if I am overlooking something, as I never realised that you need more water to grow organically than with using fertilizer/pesticides.  It is all very interesting to learn how other countries/people think about these matters.

The produce that we have enjoyed here a lot are the local honey.  Depending on what month of the year it is, the honey will taste different and come from different plants.  The prickly pear jam was something new to us, for me it is too sweet, but I just got to try new things, so we bought some.  The basmatic vinegar of Gozo is delicious, I love it in a tomato dish.  The capers, which are grown locally too, are lovely and add a kick to the mixture which all people of the Maltese islands love on toast.  Joso, a nice woman I got to know in Malta, a neighbour of ours there, gave me this recipe for a nice breakfast, she told me to cup up some nice tomatoes, or use tomato paste and put that on toast, then add capers and some basil, it does taste delicious.

Another woman in the shop the other day showed me how the Gozitans use their herbs, also mixed with tomatoes and olive oil, left for half an hour to soak it all up, and then served with capers and toasted bread.  I am sure that this food is all very healthy, it does taste nice that is for sure.

I still wanted to add some photos of what we were discussing in my last post, about the swales, because today I took some pics in the park which is in the middle of the town of Victoria.  A lovely and well kept place where it strikes you how much attention is given to each individual plant or tree.  I saw how they use the swales, and water harvesting.  They dig a ditch around the plant or tree individually, which then keeps any water near the roots and lets the plant utilize the water to the full.  They also make ditches along plants so that even more water is harvested.  Though these photos I took in a park, I am sure these methods are being practised in general.

Just a few examples above.  Below an example of terraced crop growing, where the water will not just run down the slope but will stay on the terrace watering the crops growing there, or in this case the crops that will be sown here.

Terraced small fields at Xlendi
Terraced small fields at Xlendi

I’m enjoying all this getting to know about the life here, so interesting, but also what it does to me is, it makes me think more, and ask more questions to how things are done back in Ireland, where things are on a far larger scale because of the size of the country and the larger population, but still comparisons may be made in certain areas.

One question I still have for Gozo, I still have not seen any cows, sheep, pigs, only three goats, and one chicken, where is all the smallholders livestock?  Are they really all inside like I am told?  And if so how are they fed.  It seems most unusual not to see cows or other livestock on the land.  I look forward to getting answers to those questions some day.

MAURITIUS JOURNEY PART 2

The beauty of the island of Mauritius, experienced some years ago when I went to visit a friend of mine from over there, and I was warmly welcomed by all his family and relatives. Situated on the less touristy South side of the island, It was a very interesting journey, with an introduction also to Mauritian foods, cooking, flora and fauna, and golden sand beaches where the women would dance to very cool music.  Very friendly and lively people, many are from Indian descent.   I was and am still very impressed.  I took so many photos some of which I am revisiting these days.

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Fruit tree Mauritius

Some fruit tree, not sure what exactly it is called.

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At the village of Chamarel, the coloured Earths, this natural phenomenon is due to decomposed basalt gullies.  The hot and humid climate helps in the decomposition of the (volcanic rock) basalt into clay.  As a result of total hydrolysis (chemical breakdown of minerals by water, leaving a large composition of iron and aluminium which constitute a ferralitic soil.  the iron sesquioxydes have a red and anthracite colour, whereas the aluminium sesquioxydes have a blue or purplish colour.  It is a most beautiful sight to behold.

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