I was introduced to this dish in Gokarn, during my first six month trip to India in 2001. Shanker, a great friend who managed the beach side guest house cooked it for me one evening after the sunset.
Gokarn is a tiny holy town, south of Goa and auspicious to Hindus; a dip in the sea is good luck for one’s father and the sea washes away sins. It’s a town i fell in love with. I ended up staying for four months! I have since returned almost twenty times and whenever i do i eat Beetroot Curry.
The food in the photograph was cooked by Nela, Shankers wife, at their home in 2012.
Bunch fresh beetroot
2 fresh green chilies – Chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic
1 red onion
1 inch of ginger
1 green pepper – Sliced
1 half of fresh coconut or dedicated – Grated
Fresh coriander – Chopped
1 tomato – Chopped
1 tsp Salt
1 tbs sunflower oil
1 cup of water
2 tsp Black Mustard Seeds
2 tsp Cumin Seeds
Half tsp Asafoetida or Turmeric
2 tsp Garam Masala
Peel and grate beetroot and leave to one side. Grate ginger and garlic or grind into a paste. Chop onion, pepper, tomato, chilies and prepare coconut. Basically everything needs to be ready to go into the pan fast.
Heat oil on high heat and add black mustard seeds until they crackle. Add cumin , chili and onion and fry until soft. Add ginger/garlic and fry for one minute. Do not burn. Add asafoetida or turmeric and the sliced tomato and green pepper. Fry for three minutes. Ad salt.
Add beetroot, coconut and a little water. Cover and cook until beetroot is cooked. Around 10 minutes. keep stirring. Serve with fresh coriander and home made chapatti.
Pinky, Pinky, wake up, it’s almost four AM. ” I am awake”, i reply. The sound of the train on the track is overwhelmingly loud and fast as i try to open my eyes seven, eight times before heading to the door to smoke and look out for the approaching station. Indians stooped everywhere in deep sleep. Climbing over the bodies i pull the heavy handle and light up….my first inhalation of the day.
Five AM arrival into Ratnagiri then a bus to Ganpatipule. A village i have always wanted to visit. Half way between Goa and Mumbai on the Konkan Coast, south-west India. A town with a monolithic Ganesha that is said to have been discovered sixteen hundred years ago. A pilgrim town with few western tourists and in no way a backpacker bubble.
After Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and many parts of India it’s so refreshing to have distance from western cafe’s, internet booths, travel agents, crap pizza and world heritage sites. Quite little towns full of real ritualistic practices.
In a sense guide books create how we sometimes perceive travel. Many, myself included flock to the Lonely Planet’s must see, their top ten. I have since dissected my copy and kept pages they don’t big up. Udupi was so average, nothing really special or mind-blowing but that was it’s charm. I did not have the expectations i had when visiting Angkor Wat so i was not massively disappointed. Having less expectations of a place is something i have certainly learned from this period of travel! Three days and i head to Mumbai. Yes a place full of tourists but it’s no Luang Prabang, it’s no Khao San Road. Its real and the furthest possible distance from the package deal.
Head down in a magazine or a book or something, anything. no conversation, nothing but a bad, negative quite energy. Spending the day on the beach alone removed me from the silence, thank god. Twenty four hours in the same room, same space, the seat next door, the left side of the bed, the table opposite, blocking the sun can be so wearing, especially when the only options are mute or anger; i anticipate the snap. But for now i turn and sleep. Have your evening meal alone, you have nothing to say anyway.
Even at night the ceramic tiles on the balcony are warm. Thirty seven degrees today and the top of my head is feeling each and every one. Mornings are hazy and cool, days blisteringly perfect and nights warm, sweat circulating amongst the ceiling fan until the cool haze rises. I no longer feel the Kerala green being two states north, three above but it feels like so much further.
The sense of returning back, re-winding eight months to a life prior to this one is immanent; starting to sink in, but how am i spending my days – not very productively. Today i have reached a realisation. Something is not right. Am i content here, am i content in England, am i ever content? For moments yes, for others no. Content with the warm tiles under my skin below the stars but not content with the mosquito’s eating my limbs. Content with the tropical beach and the sea but not with the locals being rude. Content with the beautiful glow of the low night-light radiating into the room. Happy that i have changed my vest for the first time in three weeks but not happy with the lack of space. Sometimes is just best to say and think nothing at all.
There becomes a time when traveling for so long that you just don’t want to do or see anything else. One could possibly call this being cultured out???
Body deflated, mind inflated. Little of India is inspiring me at the moment, but i am far from taking for granted being here. It’s just that i have stopped waking up exited as it seems there is nothing else i want to see, as exhaustion sets in.