Who wants to go and see the martial arts display tonight? Muscly men fighting? Don't mind if I do! Lottie Let Loose for a night out of exciting sword fighting with sparks flying, muscle men bounding around a sunken arena below us, massive leaps taken across an ever expanding line of volunteers bent over (heads protected by an arm of one of the martial arts guys in case of flying feet) and an Indian version of baton twirling with the batons ON FIRE! I'd love to see that at a country fete in England; chubby little leotard clad girls spinning sticks of fire! Lots of oooohs and ahhhhs from the audience especially at the impressive dives through burning hoops that get progressively smaller with the biggest guy taking the final leap through a gap that looks way too small for his broad shoulders. We get the chance to go down into the arena with the guys after the show and have photos taken with them, which we did do guiltily, knowing that the rest of our group is waiting for us to get back so we can go on the next activity of the evening, a cookery class. Sorry, but they
were very cute and muscly.
The cookery class is run by a guy we find out used to be a tuk tuk driver who kept being asked by tourists if there was anywhere in Thekkady they could have a cookery lesson. As there wasn't he saw an opening for a little business and is now so popular that he's listed as the number one 'restaurant' in Thekkady, We wend our way up the steep hill to his house as the sun's going down and sit ourselves along the benches at a long table set out with chopping boards and scarily sharp looking knives. We are given lots of vegetables to chop, some familiar like onions and potatoes and some so like okra and some strange looking long thin beans. Chop small, small! Says his wife as we try to miss fingers. The vegetables pile high in the waiting metal bowls as we work our way through them.
We are released from our 'chop small, small' session and go upstairs to the kitchen area where we learn our chef's catchphrase 'Ay-eeee-ahhhh!' said after every instruction. There is another group already up there enjoying the meal they have cooked just
before we arrived. Beers are passed round, annoyingly running out just as I get to the fridge so I cadge a donation swig or two from a couple of people. We now get a chance to 'mix it, mix it,ay-eeeee-ahhh' as ingredients are added to the large, wok style pans on the burners. First 10 scoops of coconut oil are put into the pans, next is added about a tablespoon of black pepper corms. Once the oil and pepper corms start to bubble and smoke we are told to stand back as a handful of curry leaves are thrown into the pan making the whole thing splutter and spit like crazy! 'Ay-eeee-ahhh!' Next little piles of spices are added to the mixture and the gorgeous smells wafting up from the pans make us begin to feel really hungry.
This being Kerala there is a lot of coconut included in everything and tonight's cookery class is no exception. We learn how to split the coconut and then use a little stool with a scraper attachment to gauge out the coconut flesh,the coconut half twisted a bit like you would when squeezing a lemon.
The next bit, attempting to make
paratha bread, is hilarious to watch. Flour is poured into a heap on the work surface and then gradually pulled together into a dough with the addition of water, salt and some more coconut oil. The mixture is divided into little balls that everyone gets to knead. Then follows the expert's demonstration of how to slap, spin and pull the dough onto the work surface so that it gradually gets thin and holey. Obviously our tuktuk driver turned chef makes it look really easy so it's funny to watch our groups' efforts to copy him. There are more holes than thinly spread dough by the end of their slapping and twisting. Next the mixture is twirled up into little spirals and then flattened ready to be cooked on the griddle surface. Once cooked on both sides the parathas are taken off and squished up to break them into bits. It turns out a bit like flaky pastry and is really delicious despite the slightly less than perfect methods used to make them.
Lastly we all get a go deep frying the poppadoms. We are given a spiky piece of wood looking like a giant's toothpick and have to drop
the circular disc of what looks like plastic into the bubbling hot oil for the count of 1, 2, 3, 4 and then use the spike to turn it over for another 1, 2, 3, 4 before hoiking it out into a waiting basket.
We have a delicious meal made from all the dishes we created with our own fair hands with a little help from our chef obviously!
What a great night out and actually feeling a little cooler than normal due to the unexpected down pour earlier in the evening.
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