are probably the cheapest and most accessible ingredient and southern cooking makes extensive use of them. Tamarind is used as a souring agent and is a distinctive ﬂavour in southern food, as is curry leaf - a bay-type leaf practically unobtainable here.
Rice in the south is coarser than that grown in the north of India which explains why so many ways have been devised to process it into something more palatable. One reason why these dishes have not taken on over here, apart from the fact that there are very few southern Indians in the UK, is the amount of preparation involved. Every household in southern India has a large pestle and mortar, and every morning women will grind rice and pulses by hand with the same repetitive, circular movements that have given rhythm to life in the region for thousands of years.
South Indian cooking is remarkable in that it has hardly varied since long before Christ. The earliest inhabitants, the Dravidians, relied on the same small number of ingredients for subsistence — rice ,
pulses, coconut and vegetable crops ’
- and archeologists have found that spices were being used in cooking 7000 years ago. Until the Moghuls arrived, the Indian subcontinent was totally vegetarian, and today, most people in the south still are. Even dairy products and eggs are rarely used, and the wheat ﬂour breads — chappatis, nan , etc — of the north with its fertile Ganges basin, are not a traditional part of the diet here.
‘12,. , V“ *t .
Street food in Calcutta differs from that oi southern Iridi. See Flavour oithe Fortnight iora
Hinduism does not specifically advocate vegetarianism, but the priestly Brahmin caste which predominates in orthodox form in Tamil Nadu abstains from meat as part of its non-violent creed. Interestingly, whereas Judaism prohibits certain meats out of contempt for the animal, the Indian motivation is a reverence for life. The Jain sect takes things further still; it will only eat the leaves and fruits of plants, not the living roots. Although many still eat nothing but the diet I have described, of course the variety of peoples and the different inﬂuences upon them is reflected in cooking in south India.
‘Andavar Tourist Snack Bar Tiffin Tea and Coffee Restaurant’ is the proud title of the best eating place in the village.
In a predominantly Moslem fishing village on the Malabar coast south of Madras, I found some wonderful, rather more familiar food. It was much less sophisticated in terms of preparation, with far more reliance on meat, and locally caught fish, for ﬂavour. ‘Andavar Tourist Snack Bar Tiffin Tea and Coffee Restaurant’ is the proud title of the best eating place in the village , and the only one that isn’t a palm lean-to. Here, ‘tourists’ are pilgrims visiting the village’s mosque — I was such an anomaly that I put one tiny wide-eyed devotee right off her food. She was transfixed by the white
t )w -
giant across the table from her and would not be distracted by ﬁngers-full of pulau. Luckily though, when her family had finished putting away vast quantities of rice, the leftovers were neatly folded up in the banana leaf plate, then tied in newspaper to take home.
Like all village chefs, the Andavar’s work at the front of the shop, tempting passers-by with a large cast-iron skillet of prawns and masala sizzling over a wood fire, In front of him are rows of perfect oiled coils of pararha dough ready to be deftly thwacked ﬂat and fine as filo, folded and thrown to puff up and bubble on a second hot skillet. Also,
. orange-marinated meen (fish) steaks
fanning around another cast-iron dish are ready to ﬂash fry to order. The sambals here are made from mutton, chicken, fish or vegetables and served with tasty rice biriyanis - rice fried with onion, chillis, spices,
_' eggs, chicken or fish.
A mark of the prestige of the Andavar is the fact that there is a ‘chai’ and ‘caffey’-maker busy ‘stretching’ his wares on the premises: usually places specialise in one thing only. You have to quench your thirst with coconut juice at one stall, or bottled soda or limca at another before you go to eat, and, afterwards, go and buy mini bananas or intensely sweet mouthfuls made from reduced milk and nuts, or bowls of curd (yoghurt) from different street vendors. One of the great attractions of this village is a milk stall, run by an incredible performer. If he is not whisking Iassi (yoghurt and ice drink) with a Heath Robinson electric spoon strapped to a cable hanging from the ceiling, he is pouring boiling hot frothy milk ﬂavoured with cardamom and rosewater, at high speed, from as high as he could reach, back and forth from one small glass to another. He never spills a drop. Indians don’t like hanging around when it comes to eating and drinking and are even provided with a couple of glasses or a glass and saucer in restaurants in the south so that they can cool their own drinks in this way. There has to be more to it than that though - why else did that milk taste so delicious?
FLAVOUR OF THE FOBTNIGHT
‘Chat’ means snack or appetiser in Hindi and these spicy chick peas served with tight, putty purl - deep fried unleaven bread - are typical of the kind of food being cooked by street sellers in the north of India. This is the recipe of Arab All, chef at India Gate.
225g chick peas
2 tbsps vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsps sesame seeds
1 clove garlic, liner chopped 1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsps fresh coriander
2 fresh tomatoes, chopped 1 tsp chilli powder
salt to taste
Soak chick peas in twice their volume
of water for 8—24 hours. Strain and boil in ample water until tender. Heat vegetable oil. Stir-fry the seeds then add the garlic and cook for a further minute and then add onion and fry for two more minutes. Add all the remaining ingredients. Stiriry for 5 about five minutes. Add chick peas and salt to taste. Serve hot with purl.
For the purl:
225g ataa or wholemeal flour 1 tbsp ghee
V4 tsp salt
vegetable oil for deep frying
Make a soft dough from flour, ghee, water and salt. Let it stand to soften for 15 mins. Divide to get 16 similar sized pieces. Shape each into a ball and then roll out to 4 inch discs. Pre-heat oil and immerse one disc in the oil at a time. it should pull up quickly. Turn it when it does and serve at once.
India Gate, 23 Brougham Place, Edinburgh, 031 2291537.
acoustic music three
m bUilding’s unique interior
I Cottier's 93—95 Hyndland Street (off Highburgh Road).
9am-t rpm. Opening on IO April, this restaurant, cafe-bar and small-scale arts venue, in the impressive, former Dowanhill Parish Church , was bought from the Church of Scotland for £1 in 1984 by The Four Acres Charitable Trust who have been working ever since to restore the
and to return it to community use. The proceeds from Cottier‘s will contribute to the next stage , which is to convert the main church sanctuary into a 450-seat arts venue. It is hoped that Cottier‘s will soon be adopted by West Enders tired of traipsing to the Tron or the Ubiquitous Chip - it is similar to the latter in that it combines an upmarket , upstairs restaurant, with an informal cafe-bar area featuring live folk and
nights a week. Food is south-western American in style — grilled Texas shrimps, lamb and green chilli stew served with cornbread — and will be available all day in both restaurant and bar.
I Tap and Spile Glasgow Airport , Terminal Building, St Andrews Drive, Paisley. Jet-setters travelling via Glasgow now have the choice of eight real ales with which to refresh themselves, as
_ The Tap and Spile opens
as Scotland‘s first real ale airport pub. General Manager, David Bradley, will make regular choices from over 300 independent suppliers to keep a constantly rotating selection of guest beers.
I Spices I IO West Bow Street, Grassmarket, 225 5028. Noon-2.30pm, 5.30-10. 30pm. The minds behind the celebrated Kalpna restaurant in Nicolson Square have just opened a second
fully-licenced Indian restaurant. Whereas the Kalpna is exclusively vegetarian , Spices has a mixed menu including meat and ﬁsh dishes. Unlike most of the Indian restaurants in Edinburgh, which are run by Bangladeshis, Spices has an Indian chef ‘trained at some of the best hotels on the subcontinent‘. The management says that it will be offering authentic regional dishes available nowhere else in the city.
I The Verandah Restaurant 17 Dairy Road, 337 5828. Having just won Les Routiers ‘Caserole' award for the ﬁfth consecutive year, The Verandah can count itself among only ﬁfteen restaurants in the whole of Britain to have achieved such consistently high standards. This latest plaudit adds to a long list that includes a nomination for best Indian restaurant by The Scottish Food Guide and inclusion in the Curry Club Guide’s top 100.
The List 10— 23 April 1992 67