The Frustrated Chef

When I first mentioned to my friends that I was going to write a book which focused on me, food, and psychology; they were a bit worried. However, now that they have seen the final version, tasted many of the dishes and seen how I have changed – They love it – I hope you do to....

This book would never have been created if it were not for the help of a few select people during its authorship. My thanks go out to:

Richard De Souza: My brother’s structured method for high performance training (Mental Skills Training) has been pivotal in turning my life around. His basic method is documented within my book and is currently being used by tennis players, actors and business people to improve their personal performance.
Mattias Karlsson: He is a brilliant chef and has been involved in creating many of the wonderful dishes within this book. Mattias has been my culinary mentor over the last 10 years and I am lucky to call him a friend.
Daniela Fleckenstein: An amazing photographer and friend – she has created all the yoga photography.
Victoria Boulton: Created the magnificent artist impressions of the Veranda.
My family – Without their support and help over the last few years I would never have had the strength to complete this book. This book is for them.

Text June 2012 © Pat De Souza and Photography June 2012 © Pat De Souza
Enlightenment (Food)

Cooking for a living was not something I ever expected to do, and from a family perspective it was certainly frowned upon. My “road to Damascus” moment was a long time coming, and not an easy path.

With my parents being Goan, I was lucky enough to come from a rich culinary heritage. In the seventies this was a blessing, as the U.K. romance with food had not begun. Back then, if you had exotic tastes and wanted to eat out, your choices were restricted to the local Golden Dragon or the Red Fort. Otherwise, the Little Chef reigned supreme.

Even though money was tight, we ate food with spice, colour and flavours, which almost transported us to the sandy beaches of Goa or moonlit nights under the coconut palms. While my friends were having cottage pie with baked beans, we would be tucking into pan-fried mackerel stuffed with a sweet spicy red masala, a cooling coconut fish curry, and white rice. We were also very lucky as my mother was not just a traditional Indian cook. She loved to experiment, so we were indulged with home-cooked Chinese and Italian specialities, flavours that most other Indians would never get to experience.

In the early seventies many Goans who had migrated to Kenya left because of the political unrest. We were one of those families, and my parents chose to come to England. Prejudice was rife in the U.K. and, like many other communities of new arrivals, we tended to stick together. It was normal for families to gather every weekend and to talk about the good times in Africa. I will always remember my father’s friends reminiscing about the good old times over glasses of Johnny Walker or Bells whisky, and every so often they would break into sweet melodic riffs of Swahili. It was a warm, cosy childhood.

Visiting my parent’s friends, and going to Goan weddings or village reunions, were always joyous occasions. Every Goan mother loved cooking, and especially liked to impress. For starters there would be platefuls of the smallest samosas, spicy cod and potato croquettes, beef patties infused with
coriander, and those ubiquitous onion bhajis. Those bhajis were nothing like the ones you get in the local Indian restaurant. I still remember their crisp caramelisation and the slight hint of gram flour. These were just the curtain raiser. To follow we would tuck into:
- Chicken Xacuti, a rich coconut-based curry infused with lashings of fresh coriander.
- Pork Sorpatel, the most celebrated dish in Goa, but hardly heard of outside the community; a thick sweet curry made with vinegar, ginger, garlic, and red Kashmiri chillies.
- Aloo Bhaji, diced potatoes cooked with onions, green chillies, mustard seeds, and curry leaves.

We must have been some of the luckiest kids in London. Unwittingly, food had somehow linked me to my past and my culture. It showed me how it could bring happiness and richness to people’s lives and was the beginning of my personal journey.

When I was only eleven years old Mum started to lose the balance and strength in her legs. Although we didn’t realise it at the time, it was the start of her long, ongoing battle with multiple sclerosis.

It was a difficult time for my parents. Mum struggled to keep the family together while my father doggedly kept the money rolling in. For us as kids, life went on much as usual. We went to school, studied hard, played football whenever we could, and tried to make the best of what we had.

As Mum’s illness started to take hold I ventured more into her domain. I can still remember the kitchen. It was galley-style with a marble-effect Formica worktop down one side, bright orange kitchen units, and a Bell electric cooker positioned like an altar at the far end. It was at Mum’s side that I really acquired my feeling for food, that ability to create and intuitively know when something was right or wrong.
Mum was a very special cook. There were other mothers who could cook better Goan food, but she had a knack of challenging traditional dishes and putting her unique style on them. I learnt to make dishes that were developments of the traditional form, but far superior to the original. My favourites from those times were a fiery caramelised beef dish with green chilli and lemon juice; a chicken biryani, which broke all the rules because it was cooked in a rich brown sauce; and a pot roasted joint of beef cooked on a bed of onions. The beef was my favourite. It was marinated overnight in garlic, lemon juice, ginger, and dried red chillies. All those flavours oozed out of the beef into the onions to create a rich, irresistible sauce, and half way through the cooking process we added roughened, parboiled potatoes which would crisp and soak up all the gravy.

However, there were other great dishes which couldn’t be altered. My aunt used to make traditional Goa sausages, which were spicier versions of chorizo. We would skin the sausages and add them to diced potato, onions, garlic and tomato, and cook them slowly with a little stock.

By the age of eighteen, I was quite an accomplished Goan cook with the confidence to tackle most things. But being a shy kid I hid my talents, and no one really knew that I could cook.

Cooking all but disappeared from my life when I went to university to read Physics. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just circumstances. I say I read Physics, but most of my time was spent playing football, following punk bands, and enjoying copious amounts of Guinness. Even though my love affair with cooking had almost evaporated, I inadvertently demonstrated the traits of a Grade A chef!

It took me a long time to regain my love of food. I spent nearly eleven years before seeing the light. What happened during that time was life got in the way and I got distracted. Don’t get me wrong those years were quite action packed but I didn’t grow as a cook. For a second-generation Indian it is hard to break your parents’ hearts so I ended up getting two degrees, and began
Working as an engineer for Ford. It was not quite what I wanted, but certainly was fun. I worked on braking systems and electronic suspension, which meant driving fast cars on test tracks, ice lakes and snow-packed mountain passes. In those first five years with Ford I managed to undertake winter testing in America and Sweden, visit most of Europe and sample the delights of Detroit.

But from a food perspective it was definitely my nadir. I spent those years living in university halls of residence or staying with my parents. To truly enjoy the whole experience of cooking you need to entertain people, which requires your own place to cook, eat, and relax in. Cooking turned into just another chore – to be done after study or work.

Being a good engineer was never going to be enough for me. I was bored, craved adventure, and couldn’t see myself at thirty still living with my parents. Many people believe that fate conspires to force you down a particular path. One day she offered me a one-way ticket to Cologne where I met a girl called Mareen who introduced me to a completely different set of people. My friends until then were all engineers. Then everything changed and virtually all my friends were artists, who had a completely differently outlook on life.

In less than four weeks I had found and furnished an apartment. A few days later I organized my very first dinner party. I decided on a Mexican theme, and went for a simple menu. It started with a classic chorizo and potato wrap enlivened with onions, garlic, and chillies. This was followed with a favourite of mine; chicken fajitas flavoured with green chilli, sherry, and crushed cumin. What made them special was that the mushrooms and red and green peppers were fried separately and added to the chicken at the end, so that they were still crisp and colourful. The meal was washed down with bottles of Sol and brown Tequila served with cinnamon-flavoured orange slices. As the night drifted into dawn, guests slowly departed offering their thanks and compliments. Germans are wonderful people because one of their best traits is their honesty. That dawn was my “road to Damascus” moment as it was through their approval that I started to believe in my own abilities. The mist in
front of my eyes had finally been lifted. I hadn’t changed, my skills had not suddenly increased, but it was only then that I really did believe I could cook – not only cook but put on an event.

Germany was great. Countless dinner parties led to reciprocal invitations and soon I became known as that crazy English chef. My culinary confidence grew and slowly I began to think I could create a restaurant.
It’s in the Blood (Food)

They say every Frenchman can cook and every Italian has food in their blood. Over the years, I have met many Spaniards, and every one of them could cook. The weight of evidence that suggests certain nationalities are naturally gifted cooks is unquestionable. When generations have committed themselves to growing crops, making wine, rearing animals, and to making food central to social and religious events; it is hard not to become a foodie. The ability to translate this awareness for food into actual recipes is, in my mind, not taught but is osmotically learned. That intuitive feel for food creates wondrous dishes that bind families, brings friends together, and ultimately makes life worth living. What I am saying is Frenchmen, Italians and Spaniards don’t need to go to cookery school. Despite the economic gulf between the East and the West, that same love affair for food has transcended continents and inspired Goans. I never had any formal training, but somehow my heritage allowed me to understand flavours and textures. Here are but a few examples...

Mum’s first ever attempt at cooking
Although my mother came from wealthy stock, she grew up in the early forties in an India which was tough for many. I went to Goa in the seventies, and even then it was a culture shock. Only the rich had electricity, and flushing toilets were almost unheard of. Go back another thirty years, and the picture was even more primitive, for the relationship between landowners and their workers was almost medieval. The rich erected palatial villas in the style of grand Portuguese mansions, whilst their workers built rustic dwellings directly on sandy floors, with only dried coconut leaves for walls and roofing.

If you were not born into money it was a hard life, but fortunately the land was fertile and the sea abundant with fresh fish, so the harshness of true Indian poverty passed most Goans by. Lush paddy fields were lined by row upon row of coconut palms, mud-splattered water buffaloes cooled themselves by the shady riverbanks, countless mango groves bore their priceless golden crops of succulent fruit, and fields of onions, pepper, coriander, garlic, red chillies, aubergines and lady fingers covered vast expanses. At sunset this whole
arena was transformed into a shifting melt of golds, greens, reds and oranges all touched with an irresistible orient mysticism. The hypnotic beauty of the landscape, the vast variety and abundance of food, the rich tapestry of colours, and the warm climate, made it feel like the garden of Eden.

My grandfather made his fortune in Tanzania as a pharmacist, setting up healthcare centres in remote villages. I remember seeing a sepia stained photo of him wearing those stereotypical khaki shorts, a pith helmet and shouldering a shotgun. Just like one of those great white hunters in a Johnny Weismuller film, he stood proudly with his foot firmly resting on the head of a lion. On his return to Goa, by then a wealthy man, he married into money and built a large four-bedroomed villa with uninterrupted views across paddy fields. The house was sumptuous, with wide verandas along three sides, four enormous reception rooms, and two kitchens. But the best part of all was that it was modern for its time, with clever use of mosaics, light, height, and colours.

My mother, her three brothers, and younger sister enjoyed the benefits of their lucky parentage. It is easy for me to imagine how wondrous that childhood was, with races, sliding along polished tiled floors through passageways and along balconies; secret climbs to secure those first few mangoes; and those typical cruel games that kids play during the innocence of youth like tying a tin can to a cobra or crucifying lizards and then holding mock funerals.

Whilst the seasons changed dramatically it really didn’t affect the daily routine. On school days the kids were fueled with freshly brewed coffee, Bakri (a rice flour and coconut chapati), buttery parathas smothered with homemade mango jam, and on lucky occasions, a couple of boiled eggs. The five children would finish school at around midday, and troop home for a freshly made light lunch of fish curry, brown rice, and a vegetable side dish. At about four o’clock they
would return from their games for tea and sweets. If you don’t come from the Subcontinent, Indian sweets can be one of those love-hate relationships. I personally can’t abide them but those tea-time treats would have been great if my favourites were available. Sweet tea served with Batca (a rich coconut and cardamon scented cake) would have easily left me content but there were days when samosas and little mackerel patties would sneak their way onto the table. All I can say is, if I was one of those five kids I would have been in heaven.

By seven o’clock in the evening it would have been pitch black. As there were no streetlights, the only way a person could make their way home would have been from one dimly lit house to another. Upon walking through that front door, no matter how rich or poor you were, there would always be the comforting aroma of purees, dhal flavoured with curry leaves, brown glutinous rice straight from the neighbouring paddy field, and a fish curry. If you were lucky like my Mum, there would also be pan-fried pomfrets dusted with turmeric; the aforementioned sweet pork curry called Sorpatel mopped up with small rice and coconut cakes called Sunnas; and, as a finale, beef Rollard. This dish consisted of thin fillets of beef formed into rolls and stuffed with Goa sausage meat. The whole dish was then cooked in a sticky coriander and ginger sauce and served with thin flame-grilled chapatis.

My mother says that it was from our great grandmother that we got our cooking ability. She ran the kitchen, shopped daily at the fish and meat markets, organized the harvests, prepared the vinegars, produced rice flours from local grains, coordinated the preparation of the afternoon sweets, and created those fantastic strings of smoked spicy Goa sausages. It was all down to her and everyone in the village knew that she was one of the best cooks around. When my great grandmother was around my Mum never needed to cook.

Mum lived in that culinary excellence until she was seventeen. On leaving home to study nursing she entered the bustling madness of Bombay. Bombay, now known as Mumbai, was a foodies paradise.
The bazaars were packed with every type of Indian snack you could ever wish for and the food in the nursing colleges was excellent. So once again, my mother never needed to cook. She moved to Africa after qualification, and soon met my father. Their charmed lives continued in Africa where life was pleasant, food was varied, and restaurants were fantastic. We left Kenya when I was four years old, taking the cruise liner The Queen Victoria from Kenya to Venice, and there boarded the Orient Express which shot us through Europe to London in a couple of days.

We were used to large open spaces, ayahs, and servants for all the household chores. London was very different. Arriving in the middle of winter, we initially moved into a cold one-bedroom top floor flat in Tooting. It was our first night in what seemed to be an unfriendly, cold, monochrome landscape. We huddled glum-faced around a three-bar electric fire, trying to understand what craziness had made us leave what seemed like paradise.

For my mother who was thirty-five years old, it was even harder. Her privileged upbringing and subsequent choices had meant that life had been more than just comfortable. That night was the first time she had ever had to cook a full meal. All those rich memories of family dinners, village feasts, street foods in Tanzania and Bombay shaped her first ever glorious attempt at cooking. In a cramped kitchen with very few spices she prepared a simple mince curry with a turmeric flavoured rice which was scented with cloves, garlic and onions. It was a meal based on intuition, feel and understanding of flavours. I cannot remember the meal but the experience is still pleasantly ingrained in my mother’s mind. With great pride she recalls that we sat round a table barely big enough for two people and demolished the meal within seconds. Nothing was left except empty bowls and beaming smiles. Again, food had touched our souls and brought colour back into our lives. Like any true story there is always a wry twist, a sting in the tail. My mother recounts with pride the smiling faces, the laughter and the empty bowls. She felt like a princess! One by one we all left the table, my father to his paperwork and us kids to our childhood imaginations. My mother sat there alone at the table and
slowly that warm glow of pride was being dampened with the realisation someone (i.e. her) needed to do the dishes. Welcome to England!

Beach shacks and barbecues
Everyone who has been to Goa has fond memories of “their” beach shack. Shacks became their home-from-home during the daily worship of the Sun God. Tourism in Goa only took off in the late sixties, and in those days it was the diehard travellers and the genuinely liberated hippies who understood the beauty and romance of Goa. As the number of tourists grew, the fisherfolk who lived just behind the shelter of the dunes no longer viewed those first few pioneers as oddities but as opportunities, and with the passing of each season more shacks popped up along the beach. Each shack was owned by a local family who by day ran the shack, and by night trawled the Indian Ocean for prawns, kingfish, pomfret, and mackerel.

In October, after the monsoon storms the men would construct the shacks. The shell would first be created from long willow like beams and then dressed with dried coconut palms. Even though the floors were of sand, I always thought that for a temporary structure they were great. The public areas were simple, clean and offered great shelter from the midday sun. The kitchens consisted of a completely covered area with running water delivered through a hosepipe snaking its way from a neighbor’s house. The fridge was powered from the nearest pylon and most important of all was a two ring gas burner fuelled by a large orange gas bottle.

None of the owners had any formal catering skills, and everything was based upon personal experience. It was Goan traditional cooking at its best. First thing in the morning, one of the young boys would be sent off to buy the fish and meat. Another member of the family would collect the daily fruit and vegetables. Before the sun got too high, a man on a scooter would arrive with a large rectangular block of ice precariously balanced on the footplate. It would be used throughout the day to keep the beer cold and provide ice for the gin and tonics.
People who have been to Goa rarely mention the restaurants or hotels, but talk incessantly about the food from “their” shack. The night their entire family had a late night barbeque of king prawns, spiced lobster, tandoori chicken and grilled pomfret. Others would rave about the tiger prawns fried in garlic and chilli; a simple fish curry served with white rice; or the kingfish steaks, which were dusted with turmeric. The owners and staff in those restaurants were not trained, they just used their natural skills and experiences to create sumptuous meals.

Fiesta time
Goans are well known for their hospitality and, given the opportunity, will find any excuse to throw a party. In a tropical country with such a wide variety of food but few forms of entertainment, people made the most of each other. It became common practice to drop in at a friend’s house unannounced. Out would come a bottle of whisky, and soon the womenfolk would be hurriedly preparing a small feast for everyone to enjoy.

There would always be a range of delicacies lurking in the pantry which could easily be fashioned into a scrumptious feast. Goa sausages would be added to the rice to make a spicy risotto, all sorts of pickles and dried fish would be brought to the table and whatever meat or fish which was bought for the day would then be livened up to suit the occasion.

On those occasions the kitchen would feel like a busy restaurant, with pots being continually washed, food prepared, stocks simmered, and people rushing happily from one task to the next. As soon as one lot of guests were watered and fed, another would arrive.

A social butterfly could have gone to a party every day of the year as one could choose between weddings, feasts, baptisms, priest inaugurations, Christmas and New Year’s Eve events. Festivities would normally start with friends and families gathering round huge tables set around the band. The adults would typically drink copious amounts of beer, whisky, and Caju Feni (a vicious coconut spirit) whilst the kids had Orangeade or Coca Cola. The band
would play a mixture of European covers ranging from the Beatles and Michael Jackson to Portuguese-style love songs. It was always a happy atmosphere where seven-year-olds shook their hips like Elvis Presley whilst their grandparents did the jive.

For me it was always about the food. As the night went on, the air would become fragrant with the aroma of warm wholesome spices. Large tables would then be covered with huge platters of samosas, onion bhajis, mackerel patties, mince cutlets, and spicy chicken drumsticks. Huge deep trays were filled with coconut beef curry, pork Vindaloo, chicken Cafreal, Goa sausages, sweet fish curry and lamb Biryani. All of those wonderful dishes were then bound together by the beautiful aroma of a saffron flavoured rice. No wonder Goans loved to party!

Goa sausage
Not many people know that Vindaloo originated from Goa. Whilst it’s famous around the world; in Goa it’s considered to be just another standard dish. It hardly appears on restaurant menus or on family dinner tables. There are many dishes which resonate more deeply in Goan hearts and stomachs such as Xacuti (a coconut-based, thick, grainy curry normally made with chicken or beef); Caldin (a sweet, light coconut fish curry laced with turmeric and green chillies); and Sorpatel (a pork curry made with vinegar, red chillies and tamarind). But my personal favourite has always been Goa sausages. These delicacies are as important to the national heritage as chorizos are to Spain, Haggis to Scotland and fish and chips to England.

Goa sausages are similar to the uncooked picante chorizo from Spain. They consist of diced pork which has been macerated in ginger, garlic, coconut vinegar, kashmiri chillies and a range of spices. The spicy sausage meat is then dropped into skins and smoke-cured to allow the rich flavours to intensify. Because of their strong taste they are not as versatile as Spanish chorizo, and consequently cannot be used in salads, mixed with seafood, or used in stews. To most people that would diminish their culinary value but they can be exceptional.
They stand on their own and are used in risottos or as the base for a simple potato and tomato curry.

The key ingredient for this dish is pork. Goans have always reared pigs. The Portuguese who colonized Goa began the Catholic love affair with this meat and in particular with Vindaloo, Sorpatel, and of course Goa sausages. Until thirty years ago you really had to love those dishes, because for nearly three centuries, pigs had been used to deal with the raw sewage problem created by man. Goa was mainly rural and as a result each homestead was usually separated by a patch of scrubland in which pigs roamed free. Rich or poor, each house had an outhouse located on the boundary, always adjacent to the barren land. At the back of the toilet was a shaft that led directly out into the scrub. Well, you can guess the rest. The pigs ate the shit and the Catholics ate the pigs, whilst I suppose the Hindus just had a good laugh.

So every time you ate pork in Goa it was like playing a game of Russian roulette with your stomach. At first there was an instantaneous taste sensation leaving you fulfilled. But in the darker moments of the night you would wrestle with your fears, hoping that tonight would not be that night. When I was twenty-one I spent some months backpacking around India with three friends. Although I fell terribly ill through food poisoning, two weeks in Goa allowed me to regain my strength. Unfortunately my chums were not so lucky. One night at Mum’s house in Goa, my aunt put on a feast. There were all sorts of dishes available, including Goa sausage. When in Goa it’s easy to forget that you are still in India, where poverty, hunger and real hardship is still just around the corner. So the boys, buoyed with positivity from the holiday atmosphere of Goa, ignored my advice which was not to eat the pork. That night, first John went down; then Graham, who had to be taken to hospital where he spent the next three days on drips and water. The thing is, the food is just so good that people can’t resist it! Then, the law of averages kicks in, and no matter how robust you are, you fall ill.

Every Catholic family in Goa makes their own version of these sausages. You could pick them up in supermarkets, eat them at weddings and, if you were
lucky, in a number of small restaurants. Some would be absolutely fantastic imparting a rich, robust flavour to the rice but others were swamped with heat or vinegar which made them raw and chemically sharp.

Our family was especially lucky because we had the best sausage-maker in Goa. It was common practice for rich Goan families to adopt impoverished children whose lives would have been torturous if left to fend for themselves on the streets of India. Vitorzine was a mixed-race African/Indian baby adopted by mother’s family. How she came to India is another story, but we must have been blessed.

Forty years ago adopting children was viewed as a charitable action, although in most cases they never became a member of the family but were regarded as servants. Vitorzine’s relationship with us was very different. Everyone loved and respected her, and she took on the role of auntie to young and old. In the early years she spent most of her time with my great grandmother. She learnt about rearing animals, growing/harvesting/storing crops, creating preserves/vinegars/pickles and – the most important thing of all – cooking. She was as strong as an ox, could outpace any man during harvest time, and had the soul of an angel and the innocence of a child.

Over the years Vitorzine became a true master in the kitchen. Recipes which had been passed down from generation to generation now existed in her skilled hands and the knowledge of my great grandmother was now safe for others to enjoy. For me it has always been her sausages. Every year when I was leaving Goa, Vitorzine would surprise me with a parcel of sausages to take back to England. It was always a risk getting them through Customs and I am sure if caught it would have got pretty sticky but it was always worth the risk.

Vitorzine would make approximately twenty kilos of sausages at any one go. The whole process would start with a phone call to a local odd job man to arrange for the slaughter of one pig. The event as in any farming community would be watched with gleeful curiosity by family, friends, neighborhood kids
and old ladies who would be perched on the veranda in their rocking chairs. The audience would watch the pig man chase the sausages from one end of the garden to the other. Time after time our four-legged friend evaded capture to the rapturous applause and raucous laughter of the growing audience. It was a game the pig could never win and eventually he would be cornered and bled. After its hair was burnt off, it would be butchered and the meat shared amongst friends.

There are various ways of making these sausages but the steps are pretty similar. The pork is first diced and dried. The meat is then heavily salted and kept in a cool place for three days, with it being turned at least once a day. It is then laid out in the sun under netting for a day before being flavoured with spices, vinegar and chillies. The meat is then left to absorb the flavours for a further three days, at which point it is poured into skins and left to mature for at least a month.

Morning, Noon and Night
For the last twenty years I have made an annual pilgrimage to Goa, and still find it wonderful even though it has changed beyond belief since those early days. Whilst it has lost much of its spiritual charm due to the package holiday brigade, the countless sun beds littering the beaches, mountains of discarded plastic bottles, and cheap tourist shops; the atmosphere, and the food still make it a marvelous and healing place.

Let me give you an insight into a typical day. My parents have a holiday home in one of the busier resorts. Every morning at seven o’clock a bus passes by, with a deafening blast on its horn. There is nothing better than being woken up by birdsong but alas, in India, it’s normally the traffic. A quick swim or a yoga session would be followed by a relaxed family breakfast consisting of milky coffee, buttery parathas with strawberry jam, and a large slice of pawpaw.

The days would become quite routine and each hour would begin to follow a familiar pattern. After breakfast I would trot down to the pool to read, but would
soon gently nod off under the shade of the coconut palms. Because of Mum’s illness and Dad’s age, cooking in Goa is impossible for my parents. It is very difficult to find decent home help, especially when it is only for the three months they spend there each year. But ten years ago we found Connie. Connie is made out of the same mould as Vitorzine. She has an effervescent, happy-go-lucky spirit typical of many in Goa. When you couple that with her energy, integrity and cooking brilliance – she is pure gold dust. Many other families have tried to poach her with better financial offers, and work guaranteed throughout the year, but Connie will not go. I have learnt many of my recipes from Connie and am consequently indebted to her, and deeply appreciative of her loving support for our family.

So, while I slumbered under the palms, Connie ladened with provisions for lunch arrived at the house. I don’t know how she did it, but somehow in just over an hour she created a feast. By midday we would sit down for a family meal usually consisting of fried fish, spicy mackerel patties, fish curry, dhal, purees, and two types of vegetable dishes. There were always two types of pickles, and if I was lucky I would get a special plate, just for me, of Para. Para is a typically Goan delicacy of dried fish preserved in a sticky, spicy, sweet and salty sauce. After my hunger was satisfied, lunch would be followed by a nap, another swim, and a cup of tea at four o’clock.

Goa has always been about chilling during the day, celebrating the sunset, and truly enjoying the nights with drink and food. Armed with a good book and some cool tunes I would walk down to “my shack’’ where I would watch the sunset. Sunset still retains its majesty and with a few gin and tonics under my belt, the golds, reds and greys would all come together to bring back the true mysticism and spirituality of India. It was easy to sit long after sunset and as the stars punctured the black sky you were engulfed in the music of the sea and the wind.

Whilst there was always enough food left over from lunch, night time was about discovery. I usually would have only two weeks and therefore would try and experience as much as possible. There were great places to eat where
the quality of food was guaranteed. Just down the road from my parents house, on the outskirts of the dunes was a small guest house called Cecilia’s Place. For the last few years it had been rented mainly to a community of Koreans who were seeking the spirituality of Goa. Soon, they took over Cecilia’s restaurant and created a fabulous Korean fine dining experience. I remember sitting on their roof terrace with the leaves of a coconut palm gently rustling in the wind just behind my left ear, and having a spicy coconut and prawn soup followed by a fabulous main course of honey-grilled chicken. I felt like I was in heaven.

This book is not meant to be the Rough Guide to India, however, there is one place which must get a special mention and that is Sousa Lobos. This restaurant has been around for over forty years. It sits right on the beach in Calangute. Back then the vistas must have been fantastic with it being the only restaurant directly on the beach. However, over the years a combination of modern India and Blackpool has crept around it, which has diminished its tranquility. What has not changed is its food excellence as it is one of the few places full of Goans and Indians. It focuses on Goan, Indian and Chinese dishes and in high season serves over 400 people per day. I remember going there one evening with a group of friends and we all ordered our favourites. Austen, who I have known for years has the uncanny knack of choosing the best thing on the menu. That night he was true to form as he ordered a Tandoori Kingfish. Elsewhere in Goa; you would get a steak (slice of fish) but at Sousa Lobos you got the whole fish; almost twenty inches of firm, fresh, delicately flavoured fish. The place was and still is amazing.

Food memories are all about oddities and delightful surprises. One night, after an especially heavy session, I met up with some friends who suggested we go to Mambos. Mambos is a small late night drinking den in the middle of nowhere. It is a crazy place which due to its very nature meant that low-lifes, tourists and locals mixed in an uneasy calm. At the time it consisted of a small round hut made of bamboo leaves. On one wall was hung a huge reggae flag with Bob Marley’s picture emblazoned on it, and on the other side was a sound system as big as a house, blaring out Bob. So there I was at three
o’clock in the morning, drinking brandies whilst everyone else was smoking hash. I know you will say it was secondary smoke which made this experience all the better but I can tell you now, the food that night was out of this world. I had the best ever roast beef in my life. The slices of beef were infused with ginger, garlic and coriander; and the roughened roasties had absorbed all the flavour from the spicy marinade.

On my last visit to Goa I went with the whole family, which included my sister’s four kids. Mealtimes on that trip were always focused around desserts. Usually you are on a “hiding to nothing” in India because Indians do not understand desserts. You do get decent ice lollies, and we did find a passable patisserie run by some Germans, but it just wasn’t “dessert heaven”. However, there was one special occasion. We had just polished off a pretty ordinary meal in a fairly expensive restaurant, when Joe, who was six at the time, spotted a chocolate cake. It was chocolate cake all round that night, and my God, was it fantastic! It was a chocolate fondant of the highest order, a spongy outer shell with the softest, buttery chocolate centre you could ever imagine. We ended up going there every night but only for dessert. On our second visit we were next to a table of well-to-do Bombay wallahs who had presumably come down to Goa for the New Year festivities. They were discussing the dessert menu and gushing about the chocolate cake. They had all eaten it before and loved it. It was going to be chocolate cake for all of them. We quickly finished our drinks and departed, knowing that unfortunately for them we had had the last one.

Let’s finish my reminiscing with a little story about one of my final days in Goa. Those last few hours would always be painful because I never really wanted to leave. On one occasion the owners of “my shack” put on a wonderful breakfast. It was no different to any other breakfast you could get in any other shack. However, they placed my table and chair in the wet sand. I had boiled eggs, coffee and a fresh pineapple juice with the sea lapping around my feet. Unlike King Kanute, I relished the moment and retreated to the comfort and shade of the shack with the knowledge that I would be back the following year.
And in an instant my sadness disappeared as I realised that I had a three month supply of Vitorzine’s fabulous Goa sausages tucked away in my bag.

It’s in the Blood
So what I am saying is that I didn’t just learn how to cook, it came through a whole body of experiences amassed over generations. Holidays to Goa and watching the way Goans use food for entertaining has given me an edge. This collective learning has given me a unique cookery style which separates me from other chefs. I may not have the training of a traditional chef nor the years racked up in a professional kitchen but my experiences made me unique. I knew I had a special gift. I just needed to find a way of using it.
It’s Called the Frustrated Chef for a Reason (Life)

I was forty-three years of age and still no closer to creating and running my restaurant. My body was ravaged with aches and pains from excessive sport, my mind was cluttered with negative thoughts, and worries gripped my every waking moment.

Like many people I was struggling to keep everything together. It was November 2009. It had been a really tough year and the UK had been in recession for almost twelve months. In early January 2009 I was made redundant and month by month nibbled into my savings to the point where I had used the tax money set aside for next year’s payment. To make matters worse, the umbrella company I was using had stolen £10,000. So there I was; in November 2009 contemplating my loss, the need to find £40,000 and my subsequent inability to move forward on the restaurant. To make it work I needed £400,000 and I didn’t have two pennies to rub together. I wasn’t worried about the restaurant; more concerning to me, was that I needed to raise my game, otherwise I would be in for stickier times ahead. The tax bill needed to be paid and I had to act quickly.

This book is called The Frustrated Chef for a reason. I had known for a long time, that I should have been planning for the restaurant by taking positive steps to getting the knowledge and money together. Instead I only dreamed of doing it without taking the necessary action. This is my story, my personal journey to understanding and ultimately getting back on to the right path.

Martin Luther King once said “the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It’s a phrase which had rolled around in my head for months but it really didn’t have any resonance or connection. Now with my own personal storm raging, it seemed to make sense. I had no choice but to take action. I knew that when I relax, I start to think clearly, my logical brain kicks in and that’s normally when I am at my best.
So I calmed myself down and started to think of ways to resolve this mess. My brother has come to my mental rescue time and again, so I decided to use what he had taught me. I was going to use reflection.

Reflection is an important part of the learning process; allowing you to understand the root causes of certain outcomes and most importantly what you need to do differently to achieve the right outcome. Over a period of a few days, I began to mull over my life experiences; good and bad. I began to realise that certain decisions taken throughout my life have had a dramatic effect upon my current position. Had I acted differently, I would be sitting here with a successful restaurant and no money worries. The penny started to drop that it was me who had frustrated my ambitions, it was me who had made the choices that blocked successful outcomes and opportunities.

Where to Buy the Book

The Frustrated Chef can be bought from Amazon, W.H.Smiths and Apple. iPad and Kobo colour readers exploit the  maximum from the encoding and are ideal if you want to try many of the recipes. The Kindle reader is ideal for viewing the first half of the book. However, the photography is diluted and the navigation becomes unwieldy for the recipes. The good news is, if you download the kindle – pc reader version, the book will be displayed in colour and the formatting will be similar to colour readers.

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