Archive for the ‘Goa’ Category

GoaFlying from Kolkata to Goa, I was again amazed by the good range of vegan little meals and snacks available at the airport. While waiting for our flight, I bought filled vegetable samosas from a coffee shop; delicious nuts (cashews – a choice of plain raw, salted, or roasted coriander and cumin spiced and almonds – lightly salted, roasted) at a snacks shop and spicy roasted chickpeas at a newspaper seller. These often supplemented my protein needs when I asked for dairy-free vegetarian meals.

A tell-tale sign that one has arrived in Goa is to see trucks loaded to twice their height with fishing nets. What a change this place is from Delhi and Kolkata: my soul could finally breathe again with the open spaces, mountains covered by cashew trees and mango forests, large palm groves and docile black water buffaloes grazing in a puzzlework of rice paddies. Goa was colonized by the Portuguese nearly 500 years ago. There is an interesting mix of European Portuguese and west Indian in the food, clothes and people’s features. The houses were quintessentially Portuguese though: brilliantly coloured buildings finished in white trim, decorative roof tiles and terraced gardens. New Goa’s capital, called Panjim (which means “Land that never floods”), has narrow streets, brightly coloured houses, Portuguese-style shops and lots of blue fishing boats bobbing in the water at the port of this laid-back coastal village. There are no beggars, homeless people: everyone lives in large houses that stay in the family clan. The women wear either dresses, Portuguese style, or beautiful colourful saris, mostly woven in gold thread or silver sequins sewed on. Amazingly these are their everyday work clothes as they either herd goats or sweep the streets.
Goan church

Our accommodation was in a restored Portuguese colonial estate bungalow with 7 individually designed and furnished suites. After a 3 hour cooking demonstration in the hot kitchen of the estate, it was peaceful bliss to slip into the tepid water of our long pool in a secluded part of the garden. Breakfasts and a couple of dinners we enjoyed around the massive wooden table in the dining room.

Ingredients platter

Ingredients platter

The next day we had 2 cooking demonstrations. One was at a luxury hotel close to where we were staying, by a Goan female chef. The food was slightly milder than the previous Bengali cuisine.

We savoured the demonstrated foods in an open-air dining area in the hotel’s garden. Afterwards, we drove towards the mountains to visit a spice farm to see cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice trees. Our guide explained the medicinal values and culinary uses of the various spices.

Finished dish: chickpeas and pomegranate seeds

Finished dish

Later, towards evening our second cooking demonstration was this time presented in the garden of a private home that used to belong to a Portuguese priest. (Goa has a high percentage of Christians (Roman Catholic) at 27%.) We sat around an antique wooden table on the veranda under woven grass lanterns and candles to a feast of home-cooked Goan cuisine of more than 15 dishes! I delighted in the veganized pancakes, pumpkin pie, filled vegetables, fried okra with sweet corn and a mixed vegetable dish in a spicy coconut sauce.

Spice farm

Goan cuisine is characterized by the use of various spices – mostly brought in via the spice trade, such as mace, green cardamom and cinnamon. A curious ingredient is “kokum” (the round, red fruit of a type of mangosteen tree). This provides a tartness to especially ‘dal’ dishes, similar to the use of tamarind. This cuisine closely resembles that of Malvani cuisine: pride of place is the use of coconut (both first and second extractions from freshly grated coconut), “kokum” and spices such as peppercorns. The Portuguese brought cashew nuts, pineapples, tomatoes, potatoes, and, most importantly, the chilli over from Brazil. These were eagerly assimilated into the local cuisine. The Hindu Goans use less chilli, onion and garlic but use more vegetables. Christian (Catholic) Hindu dishes are a lot spicier, and sweeter with the use of jaggery; they also include beef in their diet.

" Mise en place" ingredients

' Mise en place' ingredients

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