The mere thought of visiting India brings such a flood of warm memories that I can hardly wait to go back! India, and especially Bangalore will always be home to me. This is where I grew up, where my mother still lives and where my brothers and I gather once a year for a much needed, much looked forward to reunion!
This yearly ritual of reconnecting with family in Bangalore is very life affirming since I live in Canada. Quite often, I feel like I am straddling the divide with one foot 'back home' and one abroad. But as soon as I'm with my brothers, the years slip away and I thoroughly enjoy that easygoing childhood banter once more! So every year we all gather, have a lot of laughs, create new memories and enjoy the fabulous food that Bangalore has to offer.
A trip to Bangalore wouldn't be complete without a visit to one of our favourite restaurants - Punjab Grill. The food here is excellent and the chefs create amazing new dishes to keep us coming back! Executive chef Bipin Kumar is always very welcoming and generous with sharing his wonderful recipes. The lamb seekh kababs in the picture below are my absolute favourite and you can find chef Bipin's unique recipe over here.
On our recent visit this year, we took a short trip to Coorg, a charming little hill station set in the Western Ghats of Karnataka. As we neared the lush green mountains with many coffee and spice plantations nestled in between, passed by waterfalls and wild life sanctuaries set beside steep winding roads and breathed in the cool refreshing breeze, we were glad to leave behind the heat, noise and hectic pace of Bangalore.
We stayed at Cinnamon Cottages, a bed and breakfast homestay on a family owned coffee and spice plantation belonging to my brother's late friend K.S Raj and his wife Asha. This sprawling, oasis of a plantation with beautiful flowering shrubs and trees lining it's driveway, grows a variety of spices, fruits and coffee.
Asha's son Mahavir, a young man of 24 is now in charge of the plantation. Charming, full of enthusiasm with innovative new ideas for the future, he graciously showed us around the plantation. This huge, majestic, centuries old Banyan tree (seen in the picture above) grabbed our attention and Mahavir told us how he used to swing on it's sturdy rope like branches as a child, a lot like Tarzan!
In addition to cinnamon, cardamom and pepper, coffee is the major crop grown here. Mahavir is showing us his prized Arabica coffee beans, still green and not yet ready for picking, in the picture above.
I found Asha's old fashioned, traditional Coorgi kitchen (seen in the picture above) absolutely fascinating. With it's huge wood burning stove lining the entire length of one wall, shiny copper cooking pots bubbling over in one corner and exotic aromas wafting around, it reminded me of days gone by when a lot of homes in India had kitchens like this!
Asha also has a modern kitchen with a gas stove where she does most of her cooking. She served us delicious egg curry for breakfast, which was paired with Puttu (a steamed rice and coconut dish). We enjoyed this traditional Coorgi breakfast by spooning the curry over the puttu, letting it become all spongy and flavourful and devouring several helpings of it!
Here is Asha's recipe for Coorg style egg curry. Serve it with basmati rice as puttu is hard to come by! And if you are serving this for breakfast, have some Masala Chai to go with it.
4 large eggs
2 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
20 fresh curry leaves
2 green chilies, sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 inch piece ginger, minced
5 large canned whole plum tomatoes (San Marzano variety), pureed
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp each, ground spices: turmeric, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garam masala, cumin, coriander, dried fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi) or use - 1 tbsp Malabar Masala Powder
1 can (400 ml) premium coconut milk, divided
1 medium potato, peeled and cubed into bite sized pieces
1/4 cup frozen peas
2 tbsp each: lemon juice, chopped fresh coriander
Place eggs in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook for 6 min, then cool, peel and reserve eggs.
Warm oil in deep skillet set over medium heat.
Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and green chilies. Saute for 1 min.
Add onions, garlic and ginger to skillet, saute 5-7 min until lightly browned and softened.
Add pureed tomatoes, salt and all the spices. Saute, stirring for about 5 min until slightly thickened.
Skim off about 6 tbsp of cream from the top of the can of coconut milk and reserve. Pour remainder of the can into skillet, stirring well. Cook 2 min.
Add potatoes, peas and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a gentle boil, then cover skillet and reduce heat to low. Cook for 20 min until potatoes are soft, peas are cooked and sauce has thickened slightly. Stir occasionally.
Add eggs and cook uncovered for 10 min, stirring occasionally.
Add reserved coconut cream, lemon juice and fresh coriander to curry. Turn up heat to medium and cook uncovered for 5 min. If sauce is too thin for your liking, turn up the heat and boil it off for a few more min.
Gently slice each egg in half, transfer to a serving bowl and then spoon the curry sauce over top.
Coorg photographs taken by Ajay Tewari