The fast dwindling Anglo Indian community of Cochin are mainly descendants of the Portuguese with a sprinkling of the Dutch, the French, the German, the Swiss, the Italian and the English. Your Host for this cooking session of Anglo-Indian Cuisine is Oscar and Jeanette Rozario with Portuguese ancestry. They have a simple, yet cosy home at Santhom Colony which is a 20 minute drive from the Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Cochin. Jeanette is a government employee and Oscar is a hospitality consultant who used to work for the CGH group during their early days. They have 2 children – their son works for a travel agency and their daughter is training to be a teacher.
Anglo-Indian cuisine embraced everything that was Indian and mixed it up with all that was European. Influenced by the Portuguese, British and French cooking styles it changes from one region to another, especially when it comes to spices. So in the south, Anglo-Indian dishes tend to use pepper, cinnamon, cardamom; in the Goa-Mumbai belt, souring agents such as vinegar and kokum are popular, whereas in the east, the gravies use less of spices.
After a round of drinks, Jeanette introduced me to Saffron Coconut Rice & Mince Ball curry or ‘Bad Word Curry’ (the word ‘Ball’ was considered rude in the olden days, hence the name Bad Word Curry) – a staple during Saturday Lunch in any Anglo – Indian home. The meat for the Mince Ball Curry – either beef or mutton – was brought home fresh from the butcher shop. It was cut into pieces, washed and then minced at home. It was then mixed with the chopped ingredients – onions, chilies, spices – formed into even-sized balls to be dropped into the boiling curry that was already cooking on the stove and simmered till the mince balls were cooked to perfection and the gravy reached the right consistency. The Coconut Rice was prepared with freshly squeezed coconut milk and butter. The raw rice and coconut milk was simmered with ghee (clarified Indian butter) or butter, saffron and a few whole spices of cinnamon, cardamom and cloves till the rice was cooked perfectly. Delicious. Your clients also get to carry home recipes of the Bad Word Curry and Coconut Rice.
The cooking session was done at the family kitchen which is perfect for a couple. The mood was relaxed and casual with Oscar, who kept on cracking jokes and kept a hawk eye on if I needed another drink. Jeanette, in the middle of all the cooking, kept sharing stories about how she learnt to cook these 2 dishes and many more from her aunt who would come visiting once in every year even now. I heard Jim Reeves after long time which kept on playing in the living room. I was told about happy clients who had slow waltzed post dinner and how a dance floor was created in the living room by removing the furniture. While having dinner – simple cutlery, nothing fancy, just like an everyday, ordinary Indian home- Oscar invited me to come over and spend time with them during Christmas and New Year. “We sing, eat, drink, dance and have lots of fun. We burn the effigy of Pappanji (meaning Grandfather in Portuguese) on 31st December night – a metaphor of the passing year. Something which you will never see anywhere else in Kerala. We also have a carnival with floats every January 01. Not as fancy as Goa. But great fun. Not to be missed” This carnival in Fort Cochin every year is a Portuguese tradition that had stayed on.