On our arrival in Ceylon, we hired a chauffeur-driven car and asked to be taken to Candy, the ancient capital, some fifty miles from Colombo. We saw the Capital Columbo before setting off to Kandy, which is almost in the middle of the island.
The roads seemed to be full of people walking in both directions, but there did not seem to be any towns or anywhere for them to walk to or from. On arrival in Kandy, we witnessed a religious festival complete with highly decorated Elephants which were paraded through the town. We never found out what it was about but we did know that it centred on the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
Nearby was the lake, a feature of Kandy.
At lunch time, we went exploring, looking for a restaurant. We then came upon the Queen’s Hotel. The Hotel had been built by the British in 1890 as a Governor’s Residence. It is a magnificent building and I am pleased to say that it is still there and is a fine example of architecture of its period.
At that time, it looked a little bit run down, but we went in to the hotel restaurant. There was no other diners in there, but we knew that it was open.
We sat down for the long awaited lunch. Up came the waiter and I said ”What we would really like is a fine curry for lunch” “No Curry, Sir”. I said ”I don’t understand, no curry in Candy ?” “We have lamb chops, Sir”. Exaggerating, I said ”I’ve been eating lamb chops for the past two weeks, now we want something different”.
He said he would go to speak with the Chef. After a while, he came back and said that the Chef would cook us a fish curry. It was exceptional, it was different from any curry that I have tasted since. It was much appreciated and thoroughly worth the trouble to get it.
The waiter had the Parthian shot: Dennis asked him for a pot of tea for four. After all, we were in Ceylon, producers of the finest tea in the world.
“No tea Sir, only Coffee”.
At one time, Coffee was the principal product of Ceylon until, in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, a leaf disease ended the production of coffee and the British introduced tea as the main export crop.
Here’s a fish curry recipe:
1lb of Turbot or Halibut
8 cloves of garlic,
4lb of fresh spinach, chopped.
4oz cooking oil,
2 teaspoons of salt,
4 large onions, sliced,
8 large tomatoes cut into quarters,
Teaspoon of ground chilli,
Half teaspoon ground Cumin,
A good pinch of ground cloves,
Half teaspoon of turmeric,
Half teaspoon ground coriander,
A good pinch of ground cinnamon.
Fry onions, garlic and tomatoes lightly. When blended, add all the spices and salt. Cook on a low heat for six minutes, then add spinach and cook of twelve minutes more. Add th3 fish and continue cooking until the fish is soft enough to be eaten. Do not stir , but shake the pan to prevent burning.
It should be noted that no “curry powder” is used, but the Chef chooses particular spices to suit the recipe.
On the way back to Columbo, we stopped off at a tea packing plant. There, we were shown around and saw the large tea-chests filled to the brim with black Ceylon tea.
I was going to suggest that they took some down the road to the Queen’s Hotel, but then thought that they might not appreciate my sense of humour.
What we were able to do was to buy a fifteen pound package of tea and have it sent to the U.K. This we did.
Next chapter: Chapter 43: A return to Soho and Denham Village