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And indeed, blimey. Has it been that long since I put a post up?

Well I have been off getting married, so I think I’ve got a pretty good excuse!

Our honeymoon was in Kerala, South West India, which is very very hot at this time of year. 34°c at 9pm and 100% humidity, just silly. Night time, sitting outside, and you just sweat, you don’t have to move, you just sweat!

For some reason, whilst we were in India, I was expecting to come back to the UK & find the food really bland and boring. Indian food is spicy (obviously) but spicy with everything! (curry for breakfast anyone?)  But really, a carefully cooked shoulder of British lamb is up there with any country’s cuisine. The one and only bacon sandwich? Well, one of the things this country does to a world class standard is breakfast. People somtimes talk about how the food in this country is boring, but when it’s done well I think it can stand proudly alongside a Thai curry, a Tart Tatin or a Risotto. The difference is how you look at it.  Yes you can compare a Thai curry to bangers and mash, but if all you’ve ever eaten is spice or Thai, or Indian food, our food can seem boring.

One of the things about Indian food and culture, I found, was that it really wasn’t that unfamiliar. Mad, frustrating, exciting, at times emotional and a little bonkers. But at the same time strangely familiar. Not that surprising when you think about it though. As a nation we’ve been there a long time and developed close links, and the food is one of the most popular in the UK. Just looking at Trip Advisor the other day, in the top 20 restaurants in Bristol 5 of them are Indian. Does that say something about Trip Advisor, or something about Bristol?

Of course we had to go straight to the One Stop Thali Cafe in Easton when we got back. Really, really good food, but not quite the same as a Thali in Kerala. And to be fair to them they’re doing a brilliant  job of using local, seasonal British produce and serving it South Indian style, which in my view can only be commended. They’re very busy and deservedly so.

Oddly (or not) the only spices I bought in India were whole mace and black tamarind. As so many of our spices are available very cheaply, and pretty fresh there didn’t seem any point. Whole mace I’ve found difficult to come by in the UK, and black tamarind I’d never seen or heard of.

Black Tamarind’s a peculiar thing. It’s actually a different species (Garnicia Indica) to the brown Sweet Tamarind (Tamarindus Indica) that you may be familiar with from Thai or SE Asian cookery.

It’s dried out over smoke,and this obviously is gives it a very characteristic smoky (which isn’t for everyone) and slightly sour flavour. It’s used in the Keralan fish curry, a very delicious and distinct regional speciality, and almost a national dish. But similar to Sweet Tamarind  it’s slightly sour flavour adds an edge to dishes. I think it’s delicious and I can’t wait to try it at home.

And like India itself, it’s a little bit bonkers and not for everyone.

The first dishes I cooked of course were Indian when we got back. And the smells coming out of the kitchen are just extraordinary. There’s something about the spice combinations, and the stages you add them and cook the various elements. From our first Indian dish on the plane to when we got back home, I don’t think the smell of curry left my fingers completely! It’s heady, exotic stuff, but one I think we take for granted in this country because some of it can be second rate, and not that exciting. Now I know I’m also a bit obsessive about food, so I’ve got all the spices I need,  but it really is worth buying a few to try some dishes out at home. The dishes you cook are so much more satisfying, cheaper and probably better tasting than a lot of takeaway food. And they have the added bonus of making your neighbours jealous when the cooking smells drift over their way!


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