3 and a half months in India and not a single blog post… we had so many plans but as they say, if you want to hear God laugh, tell her your plans…

ha ha ho ho ho..

I ordered a really cool little toy camera before we left which, err, got intercepted by indian customs and they never gave it back, 150 phone calls notwithstanding. Result: photo-less-Mark. My bottom lip quivereth still… but you just have to take what she dishes out, that India, that big, buxom, wild mother…

Charlotte’s camera started not taking pictures quite soon too – taking them sometimes and not others, as if it were possessed with its own will. It can be a teeny bit frustrating, standing before the epic, the majestic, vainly pushing the index finger as the moment passes… The fact that i didn’t end up throwing it in the river makes me feel like my spiritual practice is actually paying off.

There are some scanty tid-bits, here below. Sorry dear readers, not to offer more…

We’re both such devotees of Indian food that we never even tried to maintain a raw lifestyle there. I had absolutely no intention of holding back – it may be the last chance I get, so I lapped up everything she had to offer with true, wonton abandon – samosas and all (Charlotte of course was a bit more restrained!).

There are millions of healthy, vital (and some enlightened) Indian’s who live on mostly daal and rice, but my trip was not so aescetic.. Constant eating in restaurants and cafes, poor quality oil and generally rich, complex meals in the end left me feeling sluggish, and looking forward to having our own kitchen again (but it was just gorgeous fun while it lasted!).

We did a lot (a LOT) of hard research into Dosas. Have you heard of a Dosa? The crowning achievement of thousands of years of South Indian devotion to food. Eaten daily by millions for breakfast, lunch and dinner, the balance of simple elements creates a sublime meal.

Often the cheapest meal on the street, my favorite of the trip was in a little cafe in Mangalore, Sri Ganesh Prasad, for a confounding 17 rupees (23 pence). It’s also a good representation of our food journey because it’s a combination of raw, fermented and cooked foods.  See the end of the post for some recipes.

We kept breakfast raw. Easy as there’s so much amazing fruit and easy access to markets. We’ve been worshipping at the Papaya temple almost every day since we left. Huge, juicy whoppers that we’d mix with any greens we could find, fresh nuts, yoghurt sometimes and some superfoods we bought with us (barleygrass, spirulina, pollen and maca).

From the south we made our way up to Rishikesh to find our music teachers. I went to Gokarna and did a two week intensive with my old teacher Tai Chi Tony, and Charlotte spent a couple of weeks introducing herself to Indian classical music with Indu the Hindu in Cochin.

Where the plains of the north meet the foothills of the Himalayas you find Haridwar and Rishikesh, ancient pilgrim points steeped in spiritual history and now swamped with hoards of travellers and even more Indian tourists. Mayhem. Beautiful, noisy, fragrant Indian chaos.

Here the great Ganga flows crystal clear from the mountains. It’s traditional to make an offering…

In Rishikesh we found a sweet little cottage in an ashram in the hills near Ram Jhula and stopped. Found ourselves a  music school and started the practice of Naad Yoga – the yoga of sound. We had a blissful 6 weeks living in the simple style of an Indian music devotee; up at 5am every day to chant in the dawn and then hours of music practice throughout the day with little else but meals in between.

JAI GANGA MA!
DOSA!

So now we’re re-kindling the spark of south India in our new home in Pembrokeshire. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the dosa, it’s a pancake made from fermented rice and daal batter served with a thin spicy soup called sambar and a big splodge of raw coconut chutney. Finger eating is a must – you use hunks of the dosa to mop up the delicious condiments. Messy’s good.

We made the Dosa pancake mix with brown rice and have started experimenting with raw chutneys. We didn’t have curry leaves, fresh neem leaves or fresh coconuts but our version came out pukka nonetheless.

For the sambar you need to first make the spice mix. This recipe makes enough for a big jar that will last for many meals. I thoroughly recommend taking the 15 minutes required to do this. What you get is a jar of heaven that you can’t buy in the shops and creates that awesome, authentic tasting Indian flavour in anything you add it to.

1/2 cup coriander seed
1/4 cup cumin seed
1/4 cup yellow split peas (chana dhal)
1/4 cup moong dhal
1/4 cup fenugreek seeds
1/4 cup black peppercorns
1/4 cup dried red chilli flakes
1/4 cup desiccated coconut
1/4 cup mustard seeds
2 tbs turmeric
2 tbs asafoetida

On a medium heat dry roast all the spices except the turmeric and asafoetida in the biggest frying pan you’ve got until they’re well browned – about 10 minutes. Stir or toss them constantly to stop them burning. Take the mix off the heat and add the turmeric and asafoetida. Fine grind in a blender, hand mill or coffee grinder.

Making the Sambar:

1 cup yellow split peas, soaked 1 hour or more
2 cups water
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp coconut oil

1 heaped tsp tamarind dissolved in 1 cup water
1 tsp coconut oil
5 small dry red chilies (or to taste)
1 medium onion
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida (optional)
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 large tomato
2 tablespoons sambar powder (see above)
1/4 cup chopped coriander
1 cup of a vegetable of your choice – we used squash and green beans.

1) Boil the yellow split peas with the turmeric and oil til they’re soft, then mash them up.
2) In a separate pan, saute the chilies, mustard seeds and fenugreek for a couple of minutes then add the onions. Saute til they’re brown then add the tamarind water and bring to boil for a couple of minutes.
3) Add the onion mix and remaining ingredients to the dhal and simmer til the veg is soft, adding a bit more hot water if it’s getting thick; the Sambar is designed as a thin soup. Garnish with the coriander.

Coconut chutney:

desiccated coconut is always a let-down after being in India where the coconuts are fresh. This is the first of our experiments which came out really creamy.

1/2 cup desiccated coconut, soaked 2 hours
1 handful fresh mint leaves
2 tbs sunflower seeds, soaked 4 hours +
1 tbs coconut oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
1/2 tsp lemon juice

2 tbs moong dhal
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp coconut oil

First fry the dry moong dhal and mustard seeds in the oil til the seeds start to pop.
Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and combine.

Dosa:

1 cup moong dhal (urad dhal is traditional but we didn’t have any – moong worked fine)
3 cups raw rice (Indian’s use white. We tried brown short grain which seemed to do the same job)
8 cup water

Soak the dhal and rice in the water in a warm place overnight. Grind in a powerful blender so you’ve got a white smooth batter mix. It should have a slightly sour smell. We put our batter mix back into the airing cupboard for another few hours. By the time we came to use it, it had completely separated and looked like a freakish volcanic dough eruption. Once stirred, it made a uniform batter.
Use the batter to make dosas like you would pancakes. We used an incy bit of coconut oil to prevent sticking. It was a big hit.. the experiments will continue.

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