Only a week back to reality and already India feels a million years ago (no exaggeration). Back to work, to windy cold days and to being stuck in traffic jams on the M25. Yay… I must have said the same sentence around 100 times, ‘Yes I had an AMAZING holiday thank you, it was everything I wanted it to be and more’, every time with oodles of enthusiasm because I really could talk about it forever. We spent the most amazing 3 days at an organic farm called Dewalokam, 50km outside the main city of Kochin.
We arrived to a grand white building, out front was a pool filled with fresh water and then down to a river surrounded by coconut trees. It turned out we were the only people staying there for the first two days as it was their low season which was great for us, we had the place to ourselves and we felt like royalty. The family who owned the property were so proud, walking us round the estate to explain all the different things they grow there from cocoa to nutmeg to coffee. The estate was entirely self sufficient with even the gas for the cooking coming from the methane produced by the cows! It was very inspiring. The chef was exceptional, providing 3 meals a day. Breakfast was fresh fruit provided by their own crops plus an omelette from their own chickens, lunch included fresh fish curries, rice and wide variety of breads and dinner each evening had rich chickpea dahls, vegetable curries plus a traditional Indian dessert such as kulfi or halwa (which I did on last weeks blog post). Everything was so delicious you could not resist but eat seconds… and thirds… We watched the chef doing cooking demonstrations and he educated us on Indian dishes (South India uses coconut oil and milk in cooking where as north India uses vegetable oil), teaching us about different spices and flavours.
On one walk through the forest, we saw millipedes, fruit bats and snakes!
During our stay, the host took us on a trip to a Hindu festival which was so colourful, stalls lined the streets up to the place of worship with hundreds of people wondering the streets making their way up to the stage where traditional dancing and singing took place. Three huge elephants were wearing traditional brightly coloured head dress and lead down the streets to the pounding of drums and waving of fire, it was a breath taking sight.
Our next trip took us into the high hills of Munnar, over 20000ft above sea level. It is famed for its rolling hills of tea plantations, mile upon mile of bright green bushes where you can spot women picking the fresh leaves off the top ready for the PG Tips. The climate here was much cooler with frequent rain storms. We visited the local town and a tea museum (where a man lectured us for over 30 minutes on the correct way to make a cup of tea. Apparently, we have all been doing it wrong. Half a teaspoon of loose leaf tea per mug, brewed for 3 minutes. No milk.). The home stay was built high up a hill and the balcony had the most amazing view of the lush hills with clouds floating so low that we regularly found ourselves sitting inside the cloud!
Our final couple of days saw us exploring the main city of Kochin which had its own beach. After the relaxation we had experienced the rest of the holiday, we had a shock. It was bright and loud and busy, such a contrast. We saw poorer parts of the city however not the abject poverty we imagined.
Market stalls sold warm bottle of water, bits of bric a brac found on the street, one stall even had a man who just fixed umbrellas. Tuk tuk drivers were searching for work during the quite season, shop owners trying to get you through the doors and kids played cricket on every street corner as goats ran wild. I bought a sari, spices, tea and vintage Indian butter churner (such a sucker for a bit of kitchenalia). It was sadly the end of the holiday and we had only just scratched the surface of Kerala let alone India, there is so much more to return for and I can’t wait to plan the next visit!
This ginger cake is made using jaggery which is a raw cane sugar produced in India, it is the healthiest form of sugar (as healthy as sugar can be anyway) as it has loads of vitamins and minerals. It isn’t very attractive and comes in huge brown flaky mounds. The flavour is very rich and super sweet so the amount of sugar can be reduced. If using jaggery, you will need to grate it before adding to the recipe. If you can’t get jaggery, you can substitute it for dark muscavado sugar. I have added quite a bit of ginger as I like my ginger super firey but feel free to lose a teaspoon of ginger to suit your preference. The white chocolate buttercream balances out the spicey ginger. Due to the moistness in this cake, it is much better after a day as it gets a bit more sticky. I have decorated mine with ginger candy that I bought in India and then scattered with phylisis.
Jaggery ginger cake with white chocolate buttercream
- 125g salted butter
- 100g jaggery ( or dark muscovado sugar)
- 125g golden syrup
- 125g black treacle
- 250g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 thumb size piece of ginger
- 1 large egg
- 250ml full fat milk
White chocolate buttercream
- 125g unsalted butter, softened
- 100g white chocolate
- 200g icing sugar
- Preheat oven to 180C and line a 20cm round cake tin
- Melt the sugar, syrups and butter together in a large pan over a medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon or spatula. Once everything has dissolved and combined, remove from the heat and cool slightly.
- Sift all the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Measure the milk into a jug and beat in the egg. Pour the syrup mixture from the pan into the dry ingredients and mix, add the milk and egg mixture and combine everything together. Chop off the outside of the ginger and finely grate, add to the mixture and stir.
- Pour into your prepared cake tin and place in the oven. Bake for around 25-30 minutes, until springy to the touch and a skewer pushed into the centre of the cakes comes out fairly clean. Leave to cool completely in tin before decorating.
- To make the buttercream, place a heat proof bowl over a pan of simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the top of the water) and add the chocolate to the bowl, melt slowly while stirring. Allow to cool then add to the butter and half the buttercream, beat until combined. Slowly add the rest of the icing sugar until desired sweetness achieved. Smother on cooled cake and decorate accordingly. I have used crystallised ginger and phylisis