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Last few days in India


King Fish

Illustration by Leigh Sinclair

Our next stay was in Tellicherry, a small friendly town where we stayed at a huge colonial style homestay – Ayisha Manzil.

It's owned by Moosa and his wife Fazia who are very amenable hosts. The property has been in Moosa's family for many years and is full of antique furniture, lovely old light fittings and still employing and training house boys, the sons of friends who Moosa trains up to enter the hospitality business.

Fazia is a notoriously good cook and we ate only in-house. Breakfasts on the sunny terrace of freshly pressed juices, Indian appam and dosas, homemade preserves and chutneys, lunches of delicious salads including one highlight of mine: a crunchy shredded beef salad and dinners of fresh fish and vegetables

Alan, the house man who helps out, accompanied us through the town to guide us around and took us to a very quiet beach to swim and our first trip to a "driving beach" specifically designed for cars, tuk tuks and even buses of school children to be driven along its vast length. Alan was very proud of this beach proclaiming it the only one in Kerala.

We visited a local cotton factory where material was woven from scratch, the fine cotton dyed in large vats, dried in the open air then made into typically vivid colours and patterns. Beautiful dressed ladies worked in this factory and allowed me to take photographs as long as they could see them for approval, as Alan explained many would never have seen a photo of themselves before.

Moosa himself took us to the busy fish market where we chose some seafood for our final dinner, after a session with Fazia in her kitchen where we made Malabar parottas, a prawn curry and a lovely okra yoghurt dish.

One evening back at the house Moosa and I realised we had a friend in common – the talented Anand George from Purple Poppadom in Cardiff. Anand is from Kochi and takes groups from the UK on foodie trips to Kerala with one of his stays being with Moosa. When I told Moosa that Anand had cooked at Wrights it made his day!

Our final destination was Kochi where we stayed in the boutique Tower Hotel on the waterfront, overlooking the Arabian Sea.

Kochi, also known as Cochin, is a fishing port and is famous for using large cantilevered fishing nets which seem to literally scoop the fish out of the sea. They are known as Chinese fishing nets and were apparently introduced by the Chinese in the 14th century. They are fascinating and quite hypnotic to watch as it takes six fishermen to work one in a type of dance formation.

The fish are then sold fresh in piles on the waterfront to local restaurants and residents. A lot of different fish are eaten in this part of India plus prawns and shellfish but on menus you often see king fish which is like a sea bream.

We had some delicious meals in Cochin on recommendation of Anand as it is his hometown including Vindalu and The Grand Hotel.

Well that is just about all of my memories of India, which were incredible and as it is now two years since my trip – as my photo memories keep telling me on my iPad – even more precious.

Apologies for the rather long rambles but it was so good it's hard to stop.

As Simon said (I think in jest ) “you only went for two weeks not two months”. Maybe next time.