Road Trips,  Food and Drink,  Food Travel,  Sustainable Travel

A taste of the South with cooking holidays

The cooking holiday is here and its popularity is growing, buoyed by the surge of interest in Indian food and regional cuisines. Food lovers enamoured of Indian flavours want to recreate them when they return home after their travels.

25 Mar, 2019

Come into my kitchen

Home cook Nimmy Paul in Kochi can be counted among the pioneers in the field. At the time when Kerala first acquired the ‘God’s Own Country’ tag and everything about the state, including its spice-scented cuisine, was drawing attention, Nimmy Paul began to teach cooking to groups in her home, first to domestic travellers and then foreign guests. She now has a dedicated space in Fort Kochi where her guests stay and cook with her. They learn to make a Kerala prawn curry, thoran and Malabar biryani. But these, Nimmy believes, are predictable, so, she includes in her menus dishes that tell a story and, thereby, provide insights into the real people and culture of the place, going beyond travel brochure hype. She tells guests about a banana bread her mother used to bake. It’s full of nostalgia for her and she wants to share that connection with her students.


In a spice garden

Also in Kerala, The Pimenta near Thodupuzha, about 50 km from Kochi airport, takes a different approach to the cooking holiday. It’s a residential package here and guests stay on a spice farm, surrounded by the lush green of Kerala. With requests coming in for vegan, gluten-free and lactose-free cooking, Pimenta tailor-makes cooking sessions that cater to these special requirements. Cooking holidays here range from two-day to 10-day stays and include walking around gardens and farms, seeing how pepper, cloves and turmeric grow and visiting local markets where guests get acquainted with, say, different varieties of chillies and spice mixes. The hands-on cooking lessons can include appam-making workshops and, more recently, they’ve added on a bean – to - bar session that focuses on cocoa grown in the region and on making artisanal chocolate.


Taste local

Head to the east coast down south and in Pondicherry passionate home cook Shyama Banik invites guests into her lovely home and her fully-equipped kitchen. Her repertoire is wide and eclectic and she customizes the cooking lessons, depending on what her guests want. Foreigners want to learn Indian dishes – and she does all the popular dishes, besides local specialities and her own food, Bengali – but groups from Delhi, for instance, may want a taste of Pondicherry and desserts and cakes. Shyama’s students come to her via the tour operators and travel agents she works with. Classes can be small with just one student or a couple, extending to as many as 20 people, when it can be quite a riot and a lot of fun for everyone. Visitors to Shyama’s Kitchen come from the US, UK and Europe.


In the hills

Tasting Organic India is a cooking school attached to Raven’s Nest, a beautifully located small hotel in Coonoor. Here, the experience revolves around making healthy choices and cooking home-style Indian food that is nutritious and satisfying. At this residential cooking school, the emphasis is on consciously veering away from restaurant-style food, which is often heavy on oil and spices. Most vegetables used in the cooking here are sourced from the Raven’s Nest’s organic gardens which have been created with sustainability and eco-friendly practices as a priority.

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