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Going beyond xacuti and cafreal, an old cookbook serves the delights of Goan Catholic cuisine (Anisha Rachel Oommen & Aysha Tanya. Scroll.in)
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Going beyond xacuti and cafreal, an old cookbook serves the
delights of Goan Catholic cuisine

The 'Goan Cookbook' by Joyce
Fernandes has been the kitchen
guide for Goans over the past
few decades.

Oct 11, 2018 · 11:30 am
Anisha Rachel Oommen & Aysha Tanya

In 1510, a Portuguese expedition led by Afonso de Albuquerque
conquered Goa, forever changing the cultural and economic
landscape of what is now India's smallest state. From the
16th century until 1961, when Goa ceased to be a Portuguese
colony, the influences of the Estado da Índia Portuguesa
permeated every walk of life. To this day, it is seen in the
pillared porches (balcãos) and inner courtyards (saquãos) of
a house in Fontainhas -- the old Latin Quarter in Panjim --
to the xacuti one might eat at a homestay by the beach.

The confluence of lusophone traditions with local Hindu
customs has created a culture and community that have a
distinct identity that is obvious from even a cursory glance
at a Mario Miranda painting, or even the laziest Bollywood
trope of the fun-loving Goan Catholic.

The Goan Catholics make up about 25% of the state's
population. They are behind many of the popular
Goan delicacies -- xacuti, chicken cafreal,
vindaloo and chourico. Their cuisine is a marriage
of local dishes with a burst of Portuguese
inspiration. The poi or Goan bread is a perfect
example of this. Lizzie Collingham, author of
Curry, writes that the Portuguese began to make poi
in rice-centric Goa, using toddy as a replacement
for yeast, to satiate their bread (or pao as it is
known in Portuguese) cravings.

Taste of the sea

One characteristic of the Goan Catholic cuisine is the use of
toddy vinegar or coconut vinegar. The sweet and sour flavour
of the vinegar is what gives so many of Goan dishes its
unique piquancy. The Hindus of the region though, prefer to
use kokum as a souring agent.

As Goa is by the sea, seafood is an important part of the
everyday meal in a Goan Catholic home. "A daily lunch
consisted of rice, curry, vegetable, meat, fried fish, prawns
or any other seafood as per availability," said Jaqueline
D'Souza, an avid cook and a resident of Porvorim. Coconut too
plays a leading role in the cuisine -- the famous fish curry
of Goa is an example of a dish that gets its velvety lushness
from ground coconut.

A cookbook that provides an insight into the cuisine, without
being intimidating for a beginner is Joyce Fernandes' Goan
Cookbook. The first edition of the cookbook came out in 1984
and has been a constant on the bookshelves of Goan housewives
since.

PHOTO: Sopa De Camarão or prawn soup.

It is the first of four books written by Fernandes. D'Souza
says it was the first cookbook she owned and is very
sentimental about it. Jean Cardoso, a Goan who now lives in
Bengaluru, feels similarly attached to her well-worn copy and
says that it was the book she bought as a newlywed learning
how to cook. On *Traditional Goan Foodies*, a Facebook group
with 1.48 lakh members, pictures of dishes cooked from
Joyce's books pop up frequently. Back in the pre-social media
days though, when the books were published, it is said that
Joyce had a rather clever way of promoting her books --
through hair salons in Panjim.

The book is 71 pages long, with 105 recipes. It is not
divided into sections, and therefore, Bimbli Balchao sits
next to Lover's Pudding, segueing without pomp, splendour or
grand announcements -- into the dessert section. What it
lacks in frills, it makes up for in clarity and an easy,
relaxed instructional voice. There is something to be said
for finding a recipe to make sausages that does not come with
a litany of warnings that are meant to reassure, but in
reality make the process more harrowing.

As with many cookbooks from the decade, not a lot of emphasis
is placed on timing. To be fair, however, on several
occasions, the instructions state the signs to look for --
cook until the onions are brown, for example.

PHOTO: The Marie Biscuit Cake.

Although it may seem like Goan Cookbook might be a book that
values practicality above all else, Fernandes writes in the
introduction to the 1990 edition, "the original names of the
recipes have been preserved for sentimentality" -- and
sentimental, romantic and quirky they are. Lover's Pudding,
Tipsy Cake, Angels' Wings, Cobwebs and our favourite for what
appears to be a meringue, Sigh. We would not expect anything
less from a book that features a recipe for chocolate salami.

The first dish we make from the book is Sopa De
Camarão or prawn soup. In today's style of recipe
writing, this is a recipe that would have taken at
least one page of directions. But in Joyce's clear,
to-the-point writing, in less than 200 words, the
instructions for a foolproof prawn soup are conveyed.

The second recipe that we try is The Marie Biscuit Cake.
Although there is no actual baking or cooking involved, and
the final product is not a cake by any stretch of imagination
-- it comprises stacking coffee-soaked Marie biscuits, layered
with icing, one on top of the other -- the resulting dessert
is one that is sweet and simple. Yet, beyond the obvious
nostalgia value, we suspect this dish has very little
currency. Perhaps next time, we will spring for a Sigh instead.

Recipe for Prawn Soup (Sopa De Camarão)

Ingredients
1 cup prawns (boiled and chopped)
8 cups stock (water in which the prawns are boiled)
8 potatoes (peeled and quartered)
3 onions (sliced)
2 tablespoons butter
2 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1 cup croutons (slices of bread, cut into cubes and fried
crisp)
Salt to taste

Method
Wash the potatoes, place them in a pan together with the
onions and stock and cook till potatoes are tender.
Pass through a sieve or liquidiser.
Pour the puree into another pan, add the chopped prawns and
bring it slowly to a boil adding a little butter at a time.
Remove the soup from the fire.
Mix the egg yolks with the milk and add a couple of spoons of
the soup to the milk mixture.
Mix well and add it to the soup.
Reheat the soup.
Be careful not to allow it to boil.
Serve immediately with croutons.

All photos by Aysha Tanya.
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https://scroll.in/magazine/896429/an-old-goan-catholic-cookbook-first-promoted-through-salons-is-still-indispensable-in-many-homes
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