This weekend I have been down south visiting my family. It was my sister’s birthday last week and my mothers this coming week. Yesterday all the family gathered together to celebrate. In the evening we went out for an Indian meal at a restaurant I’d read about called The Cochin.
It’s a little different to your typical curry house in that all the food has some southern
influence, Kerala specifically, and includes special dishes like Dosa, Thali
and a range of Indian Keralan tea shop style snacks as starters. Another thing
I liked it that all the dishes were particular in what they included, there was
no list of curries, Bhuna, Balti, Masala etc, that you then picked your meat,
fish or veg to go with, each dish on the menu was made a particular way and
called after its traditional Indian name. Everything is cooked fresh to order
meaning you could really see and taste the different ingredients and spices.
Upon arrival, I mentioned I couldn’t eat anything containing wheat or gluten and before I had even finished speaking the waiter said “oh you’re gluten free, that’s not a problem. You can have this, this or these dishes from the menu” I found this very reassuring and trusted they knew what they were talking about. Thankfully a lot of Indian food is naturally gluten free, so I had a fantastic selection of dishes to choose from.
We decided to share a couple of starts between 4 of us. We selected Idly a rice flour based steamed little cake that came served with 2 chutneys and a savoury sambar for dipping. The Idly themselves were bland (not dull, just unspiced) and soft, but were great for absorbing all the spices in the chutneys. Not something I’ve tried before.
The other starter was a very intriguing sounding Banana Boli, (banana fritters) – yes on the starters! They were large sliced of banana dipped in a thick spiced batter of sesame, fennel, cardamom and turmeric and deep fried. These sadly weren’t gluten free, but everyone else pronounced them delicious. We suspect they may have been plantain rather than banana, as they were definitely savoury rather than sweet and were served with a red onion pickle and a spicy dip.
For mains I selected a potato masala dosa. I had my first dosa in a
Sheffield restaurant last year and
have been longing for another one ever since. They are a paper thin crisp pancake
made from fermented rice and lentil flour. They are cooked on an enormous flat
hot plate before being topped with your filling of choice and skillfully
rolled. The middle part softens around the filling, while the two hollow parts
either side stay wonderfully crisp. They are served with a selection of
chutneys and sambar. You typically eat them with your hands, tearing off a bit
of the crisp pancake, scooping up a bit of filling and dipping it in the chutney.
When my dosa arrived I couldn’t believe my eyes. They are traditionally long, but this one was simply enormous, it was about a meter long and stretched over the edge of the tray and even over the edge of the table, it must have been about a meter in diameter before it was rolled! It had a wonderful flavour, the dosa itself being quite plain, the mildly spiced potato filling adding substance and texture and the chutneys or sambars adding heat, savoriness or creamy coconut depending on which one you dipped. It was delicious and I somehow polished off the lot!
The rest of the part shared a lamb & spinach curry, a chicken stew (which was actually mildly spiced with nuts and coconut) and a lamb & caramelised onion dish. They were all pronounced delicious and full of flavour.
Another thing I loved about the restaurant is that they also offered two rice based, naturally gluten free breads – thick fluffy rice based pancake-style looking Appam or Kallappam, which is the same bread mixed with cumin and shallot. This is such a nice change to the usual offer of naan, of which that wasn’t even an option, Chapattis and flaky Parathas or Poori being the wheaty bread choices.
Overall it was a fabulous meal and wonderful to spend some time with my family. If you’re ever in the
area (or Hemel Hempstead where they have a
sister restaurant) and fancy some traditional authentic Indian food then head
straight for The Cochin.
Note: I want to state that this review is purely my own. This was a family meal out that I enjoyed and decided to write about. The restaurant does not know I have written about my experience and I have received no incentive to visit or review them.