If you want to know what I miss most about living in Goa let me tell you right now that cabbage is not on top of the list. I don’t know what it is about cabbage but I went through a phase where I decided I did not like it at all and that was that. I would force myself to eat it, swallowing it with water not because I had to finish what was on my plate but because I had declared myself the household’s biggest lover of vegetables. Hence my not liking cabbage was downright embarrassing to that title. So I ate it all or asked for help from Grandma, who came from a family of many where wasting food was simply not an option (Gayle had a daily problem with this and would whine off everything she wouldn’t eat to grampsi. Funny how she’s now the chef)….
Hello from November where I’m going to tell you about the weather because it’s 18 degrees Celsius which is 65 in Fahrenheit (yay/nay?). This is not normal but neither is the Cubs winning the World Series but they did it last night!!! All you science haters (how is this even real) can blame them. The other reasons for the myth of climate change cannot be worse. Holding up a ball of snow? Check….
Of all the things I thought I knew about myself, my getting offended by caterpillars on the beetroot seedlings I placed in recycled buckets of honey is a revelation to me. Note that I didn’t call them “honey buckets” lest you mistake one of my and a lot of people’s hobbies for a gardening fetish. I see these little green things crawl along the rib of the biggest green leaf on this baby plant and I think “you piece of shit”. Ironically. All of these emotions come as a huge surprise to me. I am the type of woman that considers herself a nature warrior deep in my heart. I get giddy over leaves and patterns I see on hikes. I eat all my vegetables happily and ask for seconds. Cursing at camouflaged bugs – I am learning a new side of me.
It takes a second to step back from the expectations I have as a gardener. I call myself one but with humility because as many online forums as I’ve scoured, I still can’t make the squirrels not dig plants out of the ground twice a year. They have to eat. And avoid getting hit by cars! I just have to pretend I know what I’m doing and then walk to a grocery store if it doesn’t work out.
As prime gardening season comes to a close, I’d like to tell you that I have a whole new bunch of tricks up my sleeve this time. A favourite motto has always been along the lines of “live and let live”. I put seeds in the well-fed ground, feed the plants that come out of them and hope for the best. There is always so much to learn. So I went out with a small piece of paper and lifted the miniscule caterpillar off the tiny little leaves. I covered the seedlings with one-pint containers that held cherry tomatoes not so long ago. Dig around squirrels. The course nature takes through us and all of its little ones is a lesson in patience. The beets are doing fine. It’s my dogs that are now eating the carrots.
Food is a funny thing. I used Peruvian anchovies in an Italian style recipe made by an Indian with cooking skills strongly influenced by Indo-Portuguese traditions from the state of Goa. We are diverse, but there is something that ties us traditional coastal dwellers together. We eat fish – lots of it – and we shut shop for afternoon siesta. This isn’t an invitation to stereotype. Just observe. We love fresh, briny, vinegar-y things with spice. Sometimes all together, sometimes not. We all have a “person”, from whom we get the best fish and that will be our person for life. We sunbathe our seafood on the side of hot asphalt village roads and we pickle it in jars to eat all through the monsoon. I’m going to make this my own someday but for now, here’s a close second of all those flavours that sit on my palate and hit all the right notes in my amygdala. It reminds me of my longing for the ocean and the balmy days I was close to it. One bite and I can’t help but cry….
I feel it sometimes, deep, deep down in the pit of my stomach. I wake up from dreams like I was there through the night. Sometimes I feel the vividness pulling me away from the place where I can walk on the streets and feel the most me. Those are the mornings where it feels like something is missing even more than usual. It does not paralyse but my feet feel a little bit heavier, my goals further away. It is hard to explain that feeling of “other”. It starts right from the way the air feels on your skin and how the light reflects off of it. Over there I’m the same, over here I feel different. Or maybe it’s the other way around….
I believe you have to leave your space, your comfort zone to truly appreciate the beauty that was always in front of you. It’s for this same reason that I walk into an old kitchen, full of dusty pots and pans, broken buckets and see promise not ruin. It takes work to cultivate and breathe life into four walls but walls are also strong on their own. We build them to be that way. We create a foundation and trust that it will stand.
These words mean many things to me right now. They relate to people, places objects and values. I have been working a lot on fear lately, knowing that it’s a shitty way to live. Whenever I feel like I can’t do something, I push myself to do it anyway. If someone else tells me I can’t, that’s when I start to doubt myself. I hope that I can work through listening more to me and less to others, but not in a non-productive way. I want to be able to change minds, collaborate, create and just be calm. I started the year breaking all of the above and I wasn’t happy about it. But what’s a new day but a chance to try again and get it right. Embrace your mistakes (I’m telling myself this), be yourself and just give yourself room to screw up. If you have your feet firmly planted on the ground and have the walls to withstand the beast, you’ll be just fine.
I hope you find something you cherish and see it through to the next step no matter what.
Goa sausage (choris) flatbread
- Choris pao (“cho-rees pav” sausage bread) is a very popular street food here in Goa. The bread (white bread) is always made locally. The locals always know the best place for you to eat this bread so ask around if you ever visit. It’s usually a small roadside shop that opens in the evening right when people are coming home from work. The sausage is made from pork and it’s fatty, full of vinegar and spice. While it does look spicy because of its bright red colour, it is not overwhelming and the flavours are perfectly balanced.
- The flours I used are specific to India and the ingredients may require you to go out of your way. You can always try your Indian grocery store if you’re in the US or online. I have provided the local names for the flours in parenthesis. If you just want to go the bread flour way like I did in my last pizza dough recipe, you can do this by clicking here.
- If you’re using cheese I recommend feta or sharp cheddar.
For the dough
- 70 gms (½ cup) durum wheat flour (atta)
- 70 gms (½ cup) bleached wheat flour (maida)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp olive oil
- ½ cup warm water (not more than 115 degrees F)
- A pinch of sugar (1/4 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
Mix the flours, salt and olive oil together in a bowl. Add sugar to the bowl of warm water and stir to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast into the bowl. Let it sit until the yeast dissolves and foams up. If your yeast doesn’t foam, then it’s time to buy new yeast. Add the warm water to the flour mixture and using your hands, mix them together until a dough forms. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes and them cover the bowl with a damp tea towel. Place the bowl in the fridge overnight or for 12 hours.
Take the dough out of the bowl and flour your working space. Place the dough on the counter and cover it loosely with plastic wrap. Let it sit for an hour.
Once it has rested, remove the plastic wrap and flour your hands before you start shaping it into the flatbread. If the dough has risen (and it will, especially if it’s really warm where you are), punch out all the air. Oil a baking sheet or pizza pan and flatten your dough on to it. Use your fingertips to spread the dough evenly, making the outer circumference of the bread a little thicker than the rest of it. Cover and keep it ready for all the toppings.
For the toppings
- 1 heaping cup Goa choris
- ½ cup cooked kidney beans
- ½ cup boiled potato, diced
- ½ cup red onions, diced
Heat the oven to 400 degrees F (200.4 degrees C).
Remove the choris from the casing it comes in and cook it in a frying pan for 5 minutes. Save 1 tbsp of the choris grease and drain the rest of it using a colander and put the choris in a bowl. Add the rest of the toppings in with the choris and toss gently with the grease so it all absorbs the flavour.
Spread the toppings evenly on top of the dough.
Place the baking sheet with the flatbread into the oven for about 25-30 minutes or until the edges of the crust turn light brown.
Remove the bread from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes before slicing. The toppings don’t stick on top of the dough very firmly so I recommend using a pair of kitchen scissors to cut through the bread.
I’m in Goa. The evening breeze is heavy and warm, begging for a cup of tea (always). My hair is frizz (see new Insta profile pic please) unleashed and for the first time in my entire life, I love it. This is where I come from. Every single thing in this world is the reason I’ve become this shy, easily annoyed, colour-crazy, brown as the red dirt human. Truth: I’m the MOST excited person to have stepped through the timespace portal that is air travel. Especially since I have a love hate relationship with planes….
The sound of a dark black grinding stone pounding spices into a paste still plays in my head just as I heard it many years ago. I’m not sure what they were putting in it to turn it that bright orange but it was hypnotic for us children, who were otherwise more interested in digging up earthworms and feeling brave. That smell – pungent and earthy. That sound. If you know, can you hear it?…
I enjoy looking through blog archives. Mine and everybody else’s. Seeing the year stamped right next to an essay about that time in our lives where we didn’t think we knew much about what we were doing, yet we did it anyway. It’s brave to attempt any creative work and sustain it. Seeing archives, even if they are 3 years old – feels like winning a prize….
When I set out to write this post, I wanted it to be A) wise B) funny C) life-changing. Things changed in the past hour and the staring game I’ve been playing with a box of acrylic paints has convinced me that I need to set this past weekend in stone. Lest I forget. I forget weekends a lot. The first question people ask here on a Monday morning is: How was your weekend? If there was extreme weather, forget about mentioning anything dire. Nobody will care X 100000. This time, I decided to prepare*.
“So, how was your weekend?”
Me: Glad you asked. I woke up on Saturday with ants in my pants. I hate relaxing. If I tell you I relaxed all weekend, don’t believe me. I ran. If I was going to finish off the rest of that pizza, I needed to make more room. My insides can only take 4 slices of a medium pizza at a time. Plus, somebody gave me a box of Top Pot donuts on Friday sooooooo. As soon as I got home, I celebrated by eating my first slice of pizza with a side of 2 eggs. I am not an animal. I showered and watched my first movie of the day: The Skeleton Twins. It was on iTunes for $1 (rent, not buy). As if I needed convincing…KRISTEN WIIG. Hello. My short review is that this movie is worth more than $1. My long review doesn’t exist. After the movie, which wrecked my insides, I proceeded to work on food illustrations for the next 7 hours. It was a productive and healing time for me. Making art and eating pizza is the best thing you can do for yourself on a Saturday. Once I finished creative pursuit #3, I went to creative pursuit #4, watching another movie – Amour – all by myself, under a blankie. I can’t understand why all I want to do is emotionally destroy myself. Oh yes. It’s because I had leftover donuts.
On Sunday, lest we forget, we went to our (my) favourite grocery store and bought more shrimp, a side of salmon and lots (I’m not even joking) of vegetables. We searched in vain for cheese samples and left for home to eat more donuts and drink coffee, like Americans. Soon after I cleaned the fish and marinated shrimp, I sat down to watch Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I never stopped. I couldn’t. I have never binge-watched anything before and in order to stay true to myself, I slept through the last episode. Pinot Noir hasn’t stopped playing in my mind cassette. As for the shrimp and kale food, it was amazing. The shrimp will never be as good as it is in Goa but it was a brave attempt and I’m willing to give it many chances until December. That’s when I’ll eat all the in-between small and fat-sized prawns. Fair warning, tourist season.
How was your weekend?
Goan-style shrimp and grits
This recipe is my interpretation of a Goan dish called “kismur”. It’s usually made with tiny dehydrated shrimp or fish. While I’ve always loved the coconut part of the recipe, I could never eat the shrimp because they always jabbed the inside of my cheek. I decided to use fresh shrimp instead and serve it over grits, a new favourite comfort food for me thanks to the Kiss My Grits food truck that spoilt us last summer. This recipe needs no “notes”, but one and that is a note of thanks to Gabby for giving me a bag of grits straight from South Carolina! THANK YOU, G-DAWG (I’m inviting you over again so I can make you this).
For the grits
- Recipe from Sean Brock’s Heritage as posted on Food 52. I halved the ingredients in Food 52 recipe for this post.
For the shrimp + coconut (kismur)
- 8 shrimp, peeled and deveined (keep the tails on)
- ½ tsp chili powder
- ½ tsp ground turmeric
- Juice of ¼ of a lime
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp +1 tbsp coconut oil, divided
- 2 tsp garlic, finely chopped
- 1 Thai green chili, finely chopped
- 3/4 cup green onions, chopped into rounds
- 1 cup fresh grated coconut (You can also use frozen, which you should find at any Indian grocery store in the US)
- Pinch of garam masala
- Salt to taste
- Chopped parsley, butter and lime to serve/garnish
Marinate the shrimp with chili powder, turmeric, lime juice and salt and let it sit covered in the fridge for a minimum of 1 hours to a maximum of 6 hours.
Cook the grits, cover and set them on the stove on very low heat while you cook the toppings.
Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium heat and add the garlic and chilli to it. Stir frequently for about 30 seconds making sure that the ingredients do not burn. Add the green onions next and sauté for about a minute. Next, add the coconut and fry it for about 4-5 minutes or until the coconut browns slightly. Take the frying pan off the heat as soon as this happens and add a pinch of garam masala and salt to taste. Empty the coconut mixture into a bowl and set aside.
Once the shrimp is ready to fry, heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat. Add the shrimp to the pan. It should sizzle as soon as it touches the pan. Cook for a minute to a minute and a half on one side and turn the shrimp over. Cook for a minute more and take the pan off the heat. Stir the coconut mixture into the pan and toss to coat the shrimp. Place the contents of the pan back into the bowl.
To serve: Spoon a heap of grits into a bowl and top with the shrimp and coconut. Serve hot/warm with chopped parsley, a wedge of lime and more butter.