Post Port Eliot

So we’re back from the Port Eliot Festival and London looks particularly grimy in comparison to the bucolic Cornish scenes we left behind.

port eliot festival
port eliot festival
port eliot festival

I think it might have been the loveliest festival I’ve ever been to. Certainly it has the most beautiful setting, in the grounds of a historical manor house. Such an eclectic line-up too.

Among many other things, we saw poets Murray Lachlan Young and Luke Wright do their stuff and watched cookery demonstrations including one by Jeremy Lee of Quo Vadis. I’d always liked his food but had had no idea he was such a charming chap. We listened to Dusk ‘Til Dawn, a narrative collage of nighttime sounds from the estate by wildlife sound recordist Chris Watson, caught sets by Vangoffey, The Caezers and Ezra Furman and made some music ourselves, taking part in a singing workshop with the Chaps ChoirMathematical writer Alex Bellos demonstrated his elliptical pool table and comedian Dominic Frisby explained Bitcoin.

me at port eliot
alex bellos

We also spent a decent amount of time strolling about enjoying the sunshine , drinking G&Ts by the river and eating delicious things from the many and varied food stalls.

Therefore this week is therefore going to be given over to recipes inspired by the Port Eliot experience. Although today’s isn't based on anything I tasted there, instead it is constructed from the prize James won on the festival's coconut shy. He later hit someone in the head with it whilst playing catch. Sorry to that chap if you're out there! Thankfully the residual guilt didn't impinge on the taste of the dish.

It’s based on the Bean Carrot Thoran, one of my favourite things on the menu at Rasa Travancore, a lovely Keralan restaurant in Stoke Newington. A dry curry, it goes well with rice as a vegan main or alongside meat or fish as a side.

bean carrot thoran

Bean Carrot Thoran (serves 4)


  • 1 coconut
  • 1tbsp coconut oil
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • a few sprigs of curry leaves
  • 2 green chillies
  • 2 inches fresh turmeric root
  • 1 onion
  • 5 medium sized carrots
  • 350g green beans


  1. First crack the coconut. I did it with a hammer in a tupperware box so as to save the water (just strain through a sieve and drink - a delicious cook’s perk). Put the bits in a hot oven for 10 minutes or so then let it cool. This dries the “meat” of the nut slightly and makes it easier to pull away from the shell.
  2. Meanwhile dice the onion and carrot and chop the beans into ½ cm lengths.
  3. When the coconut is cool enough to handle prise the white flesh from the shell (a knife blade or screwdriver helps) and use a vegetable peeler to remove its brown skin.
  4. Put the coconut flesh in a food processor with the chillies and the turmeric and whizz until finely chopped.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and the curry leaves and cook until they start to crackle. Then put in the onion.
  6. When it is beginning to go translucent add the coconut mixture and let it cook stirring occasionally for five minutes.
  7. Lastly add the carrot and beans. Put a lid on the pan and allow them to cook for 10 minutes or so. You want the vegetables to be cooked but retain a bit of bite. This is supposed to be a dry curry but you might need to add a little bit of water just to stop things sticking. If you do, remove the lid for the last few minutes to let it evaporate.
  8. Add salt to taste and maybe a pinch of sugar too which really brings out the sweetness of the coconut.


Ifs And Ands

  • If you don’t have coconut oil just use vegetable oil instead.
  • Use dried turmeric instead of fresh. Just put in 1tsp after the onions and cook for a minute before adding the coconut.
  • Serve garnished with fresh coriander leaves. 
  • This would work with plenty of different vegetables. Cabbage, courgettes, runner beans. I think beetroot would be gorgeous. It would take a little more cooking to soften but be such a beautiful colour.