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A Continental Cuisine Series

India Journal

Day 3

5.30 up…who says filming is glamorous…for a 1 hour 30 minute flight to Mumbai. Geraint is not feeling too well, nor is Christina, me, well I feel pretty good, still half waiting for the tikka to bite back.
Delhi is calm and cool quite a change from the previous days and we get to the airport quickly and say our goodbyes to our fixers. By the time we get through many security checks we only have 30 minutes for coffee and water before getting on the plane.
Rich looses boarding pass and we panic, but in the end we all get on and relax. Well if you can relax sitting next to Reza…quite by chance he falls asleep, bliss. I’m woken by him grabbing my arm ‘Look Phil, Look, look Mumbai’ I jump and respond eyes closed….’that’s where we are going Reza’ he’s all exited love him.

We have a quick coffee and a bite to eat and board the next plane to Goa, another hour or so. This time the plane is fairly empty so we all relax, Christina in full eye mask get up. I should have a taken a picture.
Our fixer drives us to the hotel; another car takes Christina, Geraint, Matt and Rhian to check out the beach and the restaurant for tomorrows cooking. Rez and me head for lunch the beautiful Taj Hotel. Wow, staff are brilliant, so many of them and nothing, nothing is a problem. I’m sure they think Rez and I are partners…very funny…
The crew says that are not going to be back for lunch so we order. Tarka dal, fried okra, rice to start. The okra is delicious in a gram batter light and fluffy. Dal is superb, deep flavour the Asafoetida kick I love is perfect. Accompanying crisp breads and super soft naan.
Next a deep flavoured Goan prawn curry, masala fried kingfish and vegetables with steamed rice.
Full again, the crew turn up and have a bite to eat. Reza and I go for a walk and chat about life and his past and growing up. He is a fascinating man, bright and very funny. As we get back its getting dark and I go for a lie down before dinner.

Again its brilliant, pilau, spinach and cheese curry, potato with fenugreek, lamb xacuti, crab xel xel (whole) more dal and chicken cafreal is outstanding.
Geriant is still a little weak and has a pizza, worried about more curry!!!!

Day 4

7.30 rise today, the sun is peeping through the trees, I’m chilly, and then realize I left on the air con…
Down stairs I’m the first one. Reza sweeps into breakfast with a loud ‘ did you sleep’ and before I can answer tells me what to eat for breakfast. So we have boiled eggs with idli (steamed rice buns) cucumber juice and fruits.
The rest turn up slightly bleary eyed, everyone seems a bit quiet today. We pack the van and head off to cook Vindaloo on a lovely beach. We drive for about 45 minutes and end up on sand track, finally driving out onto a wonderful beach with hardly anybody on it. The view is stunning and it’s getting very hot now.
We set up the cooking sequence and with our local chef Rez and I question him as to the best way to cook probably Goa’s most famous dish. He explains that you need to cook onion with tomato and a dash of water. Next add a paste of dried then soaked pulverized red chili. Peppercorns, cloves, cassia bark, star anise, ginger and garlic are added then mixed well. Finally the special ingredient, coconut ‘Toddy’ vinegar, that give the dish it depth of favour. The fish, in this case Grouper is finely sliced and warmed in the sauce, for a few second, but not overcooked. The end result is spectacular, not too hot but fragrant, light and with many layers of flavor, its very good and I loved it.

I hop from foot to foot; the sand is so hot, it reminds me of that scene in the film 10 with Dudley Moore running across the sand form towel to towel. We film a few cut away’s and then after a cool drink hop in the bus and head towards our next filming location.
20 minutes away we turn off the main road narrowly missing a chap on his bike ladened with large bundles of something. He doesn’t even flinch, just keeps going. We trundle down a sandy track and at the end a small clearing with a very smart military man, perfectly dressed in uniform, His perfect moustache and hair is immaculate in the searing heat. He salutes us as we enter a small restaurant area. How lovely!!

I’m told at this point that we are here to film a piece to camera on wait for it Elephants! Yes one each, how exciting. We are lead up a small jungle track and there right before us there they are with their keepers.
They are magnificent creatures, one 57 years of age and the other a mere baby at 19. These are proper working elephants, and workday in and out carrying various bits and pieces from huge logs to large bundles of leaves and branches.

Our keepers fuss about the elephants to make sure they look good for the camera. Amazingly they are completely controlled by sound and the keeper’s feet.
They sit on the neck and legs behind the ears. They are so obedient, and even lift their keepers onto their backs using their trunks, then passing a small stick up to them afterwards, its such a wonderful sight. We walk up a small bank and the elephants are maneuvered into position so that we can alight. All settled and comfortable, we set off with Geriant and Richie running ahead to get the best shots and sound. After a few passing shots another elephant emerges from the bush fully ladened with branches. Reza calls it an elephant traffic jam.
We film a few more shots and then we have to go. I say goodbye to mine with a large chunk of watermelon, what graceful creatures they are.

Quick drink in the restaurant and off to film in a Portuguese restaurant, as they did bring the dish, including pork and chili to India with a local restaurant owner. We arrive he’s not happy and tells us we can’t film, oh dear…Quite by chance our guitar player booked for the film knows another restaurant and another person. We need to get a bit of history regarding how the dish arrived on the Goan shores and how it’s changed. We finally meet up with Margarida famous food writer and restaurant owner. Luckily she had just landed from Germany so helped us out, what a result. By now we are tired and hungry so have a spot of Vindaloo for lunch. Its deep flavoured, full of perfumed oil and with a wonderful colour, its superb, NOTHING like I have had in the UK.

Next filming in tuk-tuks and a piece to camera. Geraint not happy, they are all over the place so we get a couple of shots and get back to the hotel for a fresh lime soda. Dinner is very good and we flake out once again.

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