Tadka Travels – Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

*Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

Tucked away in North-west Karnataka, the Malnad region is famous for many things, including its cuisine and, the very well-known Jog Falls. We had been contemplating a monsoon vacation for quite a while, and since the falls are expected to be gushing with the deluge of the rains at this time of the year, it seemed like the perfect weekend for a drizzly road trip.

Driving down from Bangalore, we took the NH 48 Mangalore highway up until Channarayapattana and then NH 206 via Shimoga to Sagar, and finally, the little hilltop town of Kargal. This was a gorgeously scenic route, with banyan tree lined roads, emerald ponds with lotus blossoms peeking out and fluorescent green paddy fields stretched lushly up to the horizon. The trip took us about 9 hours, with three quick pit-stops en route, and plenty of brief halts to soak in the restful pastoral scenes. Since we were unsure of the food options on this route we had packed some pooris, potato masala and tomato chutney for a delicious road-side picnic and found clean restrooms at the Cafe Coffee Day outlets on the highway.

Jog Falls

Apparently here has been a significant shortfall in the rainfall in this region this year. However the fields surrounding us could not be greener! The clouds were rolling in on the horizon and a light sprinkling of rain kept us cool all along the long drive.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

Though we had planned this trip primarily around Jog falls, the Sharavathi adventure camp where we had stayed turned out to be a fabulous attraction in itself. Even if you don’t make it to Jog Falls, this place has enough to make the trip worth it. Like most Jungle Lodges properties, the location is quite spectacular. The hotel is the only habitation on the massive Talakalale Reservoir that is part of the network of water systems around the falls area.  This place is off every grid there is, and there is almost no sign of civilisation visible around. The still waters are invitingly blue, and lush wild undergrowth comes up right upto the serrated banks and dips into it.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

Jog Falls are the second highest waterfalls in India and they are located about 6km away from the Sharavathi Adventure Camp. Four gushing silvery streaks and several smaller trickles make up the panorama of the falls, and together they present a stunning picture, though the mist that frequently settles in may have you scrambling to make out that picture clearly!  This is one of the iconic and most majestic sights in Karnataka, with the sparkling water falling off steep, craggy rocks and cliffs, and then cascading and thundering madly into the ravine below.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

The grandeur of the rocks and the drama of the falls is fascinating enough to soak in for hours! There was earlier a path that one could take to climb down to the base of the falls but this has since been closed down, and you can now only view the scene from a couple of points in the tourist complex situated on the opposite hill.

Our stay at the Sharavathi Camp included a guided trip to the falls, and the guides drove us to another little known viewpoint located next to the government’s PWD guest house. This was a real blessing in the monsoon since our city car would not have made it through the slush on the road to the second viewpoint. Here we were able to see the falls from a different angle, and without the crowds thronging the main viewing area.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

If you want something to do in the evening you can visit the complex at the falls for the laser show that they put on for tourists. This is a pleasant way to spend an hour however driving back in the dark can be a little challenging.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

The cottages at the Sharavathi Adventure Camp are cozy and well appointed, and offer excellent views of the cool greens and blues of the reservoir. We loved the spacious balcony which was perfect for bird-watching, relaxing, reading and drinking coffee at all times of the day.

An all-day menu plan with three meals and tea is included in the stay here. Food is pretty average, with a mix of North and South Indian dishes. Breakfast was fresh and we found it to be the best of the meals that they put out. The service and hospitality here was very good..the trekking guide, boatmen, drivers, waiters were all very friendly and obliging.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

The resort has its own little marina with a handkerchief sized beach from which you can launch the boat of your choice. Everyone in the family enjoyed kayaking all over the reservoir. We spent a lot of our time doing this and the feeling of total solitude on the calm waters was truly unique and utterly addictive.

Life jackets are a must, of course and they do have a few boatmen who keep an eye on the guests and help with the boats. There are also a couple of paddle boats and a motor boat. A few more water-based adventure activities could well be included to take advantage of the huge water body that they have dibs on.

Jog Falls and Sharavathi Adventure Camp

An 8km walk to a nearby dam rounded off our aqua-centred adventure nicely. This was a fun way to spend the afternoon even though we had to carry umbrellas for those unpredictable rain showers. The guides told us that they take people on longer treks in the summer but the monsoon isn’t the best time for this due to leeches and slippery conditions.

We were looking for that quintessential monsoon getaway where we could enjoy the rains without being stuck indoors all the time, and we definitely found that here..misty walks and kayaking in little drizzles, cozying up with hot pakodas and ginger chai while it was pouring, a comfortable cottage tucked away on a hill and most of all, the awe-inspiring and spectacular panorama of Jog falls.



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Celebrating The Season’s New Harvest!

January is all sorts of lovely, here in Bangalore. Ribbons of mist lift the cover off steel-gray mornings, exposing dancing slabs of sunlight. The song of the cuckoos and the squawking of parakeets, the hissing of idli-bearing pressure cookers and the frothing up of coffees, all providing warmth against the nip in the air. And to top it all, festival season kicking off with Sankranti, decreeing an order of freshness about everything. Newly harvested grains, lentils, sugarcane, ash gourd, pumpkin, Indian jujube, mango fronds and coconuts fill the markets. Bright orange and yellow chrysanthemums carpet the gardens like little Suns unto their own merit. But the best draw is the starchy, almost tinny aroma — the sogadu — of avarekaayi, hyacinth beans. 

Preparations for Sankranti are typically on for a few weeks, as we hull a bunch of roasted groundnuts, their papery skins swirling around us like fairy dust; chop de-skinned, dried coconuts into cushy little squares; jaggery (bella) into tiny cubes; and mix it all up with roasted sesame seeds (ellu), for the ellu bella — a sort of healthy trail mix, packed in little sachets and shared with friends and family as a token of love, along with figurines of ducks and deer, bananas and pineapples, crafted by pouring molten sugar into wooden molds. There’s also a bunch of laddoos and chikkis made out of roasted til and jaggery.

The sights, smells and the overall essence of the harvest festival are delightful: Rangoli designs adorning front yards, depicting motifs of the harvest season, like pots, sugarcane plants, and the Sun. Mango fronds hung above doors, interspersed with flower garlands. The peppery heat and hints of hing in the Suggi — Khara Pongal, and the sweet notes of raisin-speckled, cardamom-infused Sweet Pongal. The tang of jujubes, the juicy fibrousness of sugarcane chunks. The kaleidoscopic splendor of kites fluttering against spotless blue skies. The simplicity of a thought like — ellu bella thindu, olle maathaadi — which translates, as a perfect metaphor for our times, as — eat ellu bella, and speak of good things. 

The festive spread in our homes is reflective of a happy mix of all the cultures we share. Happy Sankranti from the Tadka kitchens! 

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Tadka Travels: A Weekend at Baevu

Once you leave the claw-hold of the city limits, Bangalore stretches and opens into a vastness that is rich in character and scenic sights, slowing time down and freeing the mind. The landscape needles through fields and ponds, cattle tracks and villages, its roots evidently firm in a time before tarmac and automobiles came into being. Every now and then, city slickers like us try to get out and explore this landscape, to get close to nature, outside our manicured gardens and dusty walking trails.

At Baevu, The Village, we had such a rejuvenating experience that the city life has gotten too much with us, since our return. Located in Ramanagara, about a two-hour drive from the city, the “village” is home to a thousand-odd neem trees (hence the name Baevu, which translates as neem in Kannada).


Ten beautiful cottages done up with no-fuss, earthy decor, one big dining area, a swimming pool with natural water, patches of vegetables and crops, a cowshed-in-the-making, a granary equipped with Vade (a mud pot lined with cow dung, to store ragi or paddy grains, with an airtight lid – this method of storage is very effective in keeping pests away) storage containers, solar panels, a play area for children, wild mushrooms and mountain flowers blooming alongside herb and borage plants, birds snuggled up in cozy nests, geckos and chameleons scurrying into bushes..are some of the highlights at Baevu.


Tadka Tip:
You can choose to take a dip in the pool, walk around the campus as you stop to smell the flowers, read to be alone (and not alone) seated across lush, green hills in the back porch of a cottage, or play a board game or two as you take refuge in the cool confines of your room. Whatever your pick, you can place a special request for a cup of coffee or tea to keep you going.


The food is simple and cooked fresh with local ingredients, most of it grown at Baevu. Apart from the traditional Karnataka staples: dosa/ idli/ upma/ kesaribhath for breakfast, and rice/ rasam/ sambhar/ palya/ gojju for lunch, we also had a chance to relish ragi mudde and millet rotti. Dinner was mostly North Indian style, with rotis and sides. (Which isn’t bad, but we wish they’d stuck to local delicacies). Endless coffees and teas (they even obliged and made us lemon-mint black tea!) served in brass cups kept us going when we needed some fuel for thought.


Beyond its gates, the hills rise and beckon: a trek is a great option, especially early in the morning and before dusk falls, and it is a transforming one, whether the sun is in your face or waning off your shoulders.


The details of nature become clearer and more absorbing – the ruggedness of the terrain, the thunderous acoustics of a neighboring quarry, the lilting sounds of insects whirring and birds tweeting in its wake, the scents of aromatic herbs and seasonal fruits, two little lotus and lily ponds thriving in the freshly fallen rain water, the clouds overhead rumbling up a stir, and a tryst with ancient history secured in the remnants of a Parsi tower of silence: all of two benches where bodies would be left for the birds..are some of the things we encountered, narrated animatedly by our friendly Baevu guide, even as the unhurried rhythm of our steps brought forth an elevated sense of intimacy with nature and ourselves.


We highly recommend the Baevu experience, where a deep attachment to the earth and the air is still the norm for its inhabitants. Like John Muir said, “Keep close to nature’s heart, and break away once in a while..wash your spirit clean.”

Tadka Tip:
You can take back a bunch of neem leaves, with the permission of the kindly staff at Baevu, to use in warm baths or to rid floors and clothes of germs, or even in your food. You can also ask for a bag of fresh, organically grown vegetables and fruits. We got a bag of mixed produce weighing a kilo in all, for about Rs. 50: ridge gourd, papaya, cluster beans, lemongrass, and bhindi. 


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Pizza Pinwheel Buns



Come summer and party season sneaks up on us ever so swiftly, calling for rolled up sleeves, apron strings tied taut, hair rolled up into messy buns, and the conscientious exertion of elbow grease, even though we hardly complain. With two Arian birthdays – of our girls – almost back to back in our houses, there’s no time to peak and pine or wonder and whine, and we get right down to work in the days leading up to the celebrations. We’re always looking for fun party food ideas, especially finger foods, to keep the hungry little ones munching hassle-free, as they soak in the revelry.

What really helps us ease into the process is a good recipe that offers itself to possibilities – vegetarian, simple, and aesthetically approvable. We found one for pizza buns, and they turned out really well: with a layer of cheese and spiced up toppings sizzling and heaving merrily in the concentric doughy circles that contain them. Between the counter and the oven, and between kneading, deflating, rolling and sprinkling, there were moments that felt almost zen-like – somewhat in the vein of what a slowdance would bring. This is why we love baking, and if popular vote is to be counted, pizza tops the list of baked goodies at our parties and there’s really no way to beat that, is there, other than make it?

Pizza buns

Pizza Pinwheel Buns

(Makes 18-20)

  • 300 ml warm milk
  • 2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3½ cups all purpose flour / maida
  • 3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 capsicum, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • ½ cup pizza sauce
  • ½ cup chopped sundried tomatoes, optional
  • 200g pizza cheese or mix of Cheddar and Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 50g garlic butter, melted, optional
  1. Place the warm milk in a large mixing bowl. Stir the yeast and sugar into the milk. Cover and set aside until it bubbles and froths.
  2. Stir the flour into the milk and then add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Mix into a shaggy dough, cover and let rest for about 10 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle in the chilli flakes, oregano and salt, and then knead the dough for about 10 minutes, until it is soft and supple, taking a couple of breaks in between to rest the dough and your arms.
  4. Cover the dough and set it aside to rise for about 30 minutes or until doubled in volume.
  5. Meanwhile heat the oil in a small saucepan and lightly sauté the onion, capsicum and garlic for a couple of minutes. Stir in the chilli flakes and oregano. Set the vegetables aside.
  6. Prepare two large baking sheets by lining them with parchment paper and set aside.
  7. Gently deflate the risen dough and press it into a rough square shape. Roll out the dough into a rectangle that is around 20″ by 12″.
  8. Spread the sauce thinly on the rolled dough, leaving a half inch border on one of the 20″ sides. Now sprinkle the cheese all over, and then the sundried tomatoes (if using) and sautéed vegetables, leaving the border bare.
  9. Now roll up the dough as tightly as possible, starting at the longer end which has no border. Once the dough is rolled up, pinch the end with the border to seal up the roll.
  10. Use a piece of dental floss to cut the dough into slices, a scant inch wide. To do this take a string of floss about 12″ long. Put some flour on the counter and slide the middle of the floss through it lightly. Hold the two ends of the floss and slide it under the roll. Now bring the ends together and pull in the opposite direction until a neat slice is cut. Place the slice on the prepared baking sheet keeping about 1″ space around it. Sliding the floss through the flour will help to slide it under the dough easily. Cut about 18-20 rolls from the dough using the same technique.
  11. Cover the sheets and allow the rolls to rise for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  12. Brush the rolls lightly with the melted garlic butter if desired, and bake for about 25 minutes or until lightly brown.
  13. Let the rolls cool slightly on the baking sheet before you serve them or move them to a cooling rack. You can brush the hot rolls again with the garlic butter before serving if you like.


If you’d like to freeze some or all of the rolls, let them cool completely on a rack and then wrap them well in foil. Place the buns in a food storage bag and freeze.

To serve the buns, allow them to defrost on the counter still wrapped. Then place on a baking sheet, cover loosely with foil and warm them in a 180ºC oven for about 10 minutes or until hot. Serve right away.


Adapted from Pizza Party Buns

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Filter Coffee Frappe

Cold Filter Coffee3

The great South Indian filter kaapi seldom gets a respite – from being talked about to being made and had, in all manner of ways. We are big fans of this strong drink, and while we love it plain and simple, the South Indian way, brewed in that traditional drip filter and frothed up with creamy milk to the brim in a stainless steel cup, we have used it in many a dessert, too. In fact, we love it so much that we brew a big batch in the summer and freeze it in the ice tray, for use in milkshakes and cold coffees. This way, the drink doesn’t taste watered down, as it would with plain ice cubes, and the coffee gets its due, too.

This is such a sweet and simple recipe for Filter Kaapi Frappe, that it makes summer all the more bearable, with little fuss or effort. With Bangalore’s mercury soaring, and the rains keeping us waiting, we have turned to this beverage to perk up our spirits a bit, lately. It’s perfect for that in-between time – when breakfast has long been had and lunch is still getting ready. It’s also perfect for when you have no agenda at all, save for a long conversation with a friend, to take in one juicy tidbit of gossip or news, with every sip.

Cold Filter Coffee1

Filter Kaapi Frappe

(Serves 1)

  • 4 frozen filter kaapi ice cubes (made by freezing about 1/3 cup filter kaapi decoction in an ice cube tray until solid)
  • 2/3 cup chilled milk
  • 1-2 teaspoons sugar to taste, preferably castor or breakfast sugar
  1. Put the frozen coffee cubes, the milk and sugar in the jar of a mixer-grinder.Blend for a minute, or until very frothy.
  2. Pour into a glass and serve immediately.

Cold Filter Coffee2

For more such recipes do pick up a copy of our cookbook – Around the World with the Tadka Girls here at Amazon or Flipkart.

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Tadka Travels: Cheese-tasting in New Zealand

Of all the cool things to do in Auckland, New Zealand, once you’ve checked the usual suspects off your list, like looking down at the harbor from atop the Sky Tower, taking in the vibrant city sights while shopping on Queen Street, museum hopping, climbing the tallest volcano – Mt. Eden, meeting the penguins at Kelly Tarlton’s, cheese-tasting should definitely be a priority. There are numerous little cheese shops dotting the city right from North Shore to the isthmus and Maukau stretches, and most of them carry at least a couple of award-winning cheeses.


Online catalogs will likely recommend some boutique vineyards and wine bars, which no doubt offer more than just a cheese-board tasting experience with some of the choicest wines, Waiheke island that opens up not just breathtaking vistas, but also hand-crafted specialty cheeses and fine wines, and above all, the Stardome Observatory, which has a special Wine, Cheese and Astronomy show once a month, too.

But our top pick, if you have half a day to spare when in Auckland, is a lovely little cheese shop tucked away in the most idyllic pockets of Puhoi Valley. The short drive up North is nothing short of magical, with lush rolling meadows unfurling at every bend, speckled with well-fed sheep. The village of Puhoi was founded way back in the 1800s by Bohemian settlers, and the museum at the old country school offers wonderful insights into its rich history. You could go kayaking on the Puhoi river all the way up to Wenderholm Regional Park, while you’re there. You could also sample some top-notch beverages at the Puhoi Organic Distillery, accompanied by classic finger foods and Ukranian zakuski!

About Puhoi Cheese:
What started off as a humble endeavor in farming and goat’s milk products in the 1980s, has since grown to encompass a wide range of European-style cheeses and ones with indigenous flavors, too, at Puhoi Valley Cheese, with those sweet-sounding Maori names. Even today, some of the employees at Puhoi belong to the original Bohemian families. The master cheesemaker, a Frenchman, Franck Beaurain, is on top of his game..with a truly crackerjack take on several classic, French-style cheeses.  


What had us completely smitten when we set foot in the Puhoi Valley Cheese Store campus was the picturesque setting: a little fountain in a lake housing egrets and lilies, alluring, grassy expanses surrounding it, and a little park for the kids to play in. The store and cafe is bustling on any given day, and there’s quite a line at the ice cream counter, too. The coffee is great, and you can take a peek at the rows and rows of cheeses being made and put up on display – right from fresh to aged, soft to hard, through the glass enclosure. This gives you a sense of closure as you taste the cheese, because you know for certain they are made and matured on site.


The award-winning Gold cheeses, like Camembert and Blue, are excellent. The cow’s milk Feta with basil pesto is a merry riot of Mediterranean flavors exploding on the taste buds, tart and just perfectly creamy. The aged Cheddar and peppered Havarti are unique and full-bodied in taste and texture.

The Brie is superb, both the traditional and Mahurangi varieties – mushroomy, slightly earthy and magnificently smooth.

The washed rind range of cheeses is fantastic, too. The Kaipara and Gold washed rind cheeses have a piquant, lingering after-taste. They have a sweet and soft, melt-in-your-mouth core, and a thick skin to protect their tenderness.


The cellar ripened cheese platter is a must-try. It comes with black grapes, dry fruits, homemade apricot chutney to slather on delicious crusty bread, all with your choice of three Puhoi Valley award winning cheeses.

Tadka Tip: We thought the wine selection was rather tastefully put together, and our favorite was quite easily the Oyster Bay Chardonnay. (We also loved the Giesen Estate Pinot Gris). They also have a handful of non-alcoholic beverages, beer and cider, too, if you prefer those, to wash the cheese-and-crackers down with.


Tadka Tip: If you’re looking to pick up cheese to carry back home, like we did, to India, we highly recommend the Puhoi Semi Soft Smokey Gouda, Windy Peak Gouda (both slighty sweet and buttery), the Puhoi Aged Cheddar (a salty, bittersweet, tough goodie), the Peppered Havarti (bursting with peppery, spicy goodness and comes in a small pack, too – so you can perhaps buy a couple of them) and of course, the Puhoi Parmesan, which is a class of its own! The cheeses are all reasonably priced and worth every dollar, because they are hand-made and crafted with the irrepressible passion that stems from years of experience.

You’ll come out feeling satisfied and a little heady, after your cheese-tasting experience at Puhoi Valley. The breathtaking backdrop of green crests and troughs against sunny skies, if you’re fortunate, and long, white clouds, will stay with you long after you’ve rolled away with the hills and vales, much like the rich aftertaste of the cheese and wine.


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Curried Up: Chutney Pudi


Chutney powder is a beloved condiment in South India, known by many names (chutney pudi or podi, even gun powder) and appearing in many forms (peanut, garlic, chilli, methi, til, dals). It finds its key spot on the breakfast plate, with dosa, idli, paddu, upma etc., as well as at lunch, to be eaten with hot rice and ghee. Every community boasts of a distinct variety of chutney powder, scaling the heat and spice up or down, mixing in a new element like coconut (desiccated) or dry fruits (dates) even.

It has been a staple for years in our families, and in fact, has served its purpose at its full potential when, for instance, an illness had crept in and the taste buds craved something with a zing. We would even sprinkle some on hot buttered toast sometimes. It is known to have been the only saving grace for farmers and labourers, who couldn’t afford much more than rice or ragi balls on some days as they strove to make meals out of scraps of vegetables and bits of dried meat.

With a little bit of ingenuity, one can amp up the nutritive value of this ubiquitous condiment today, by adding flax seeds, moringa leaves, and the like. Here’s a variant that brings in the high iron and fiber content of curry leaves. It’s a favourite with us and it doesn’t last long!


Curry Leaves Chutney Powder

  • 2 tablespoons chana dal
  • 2 tablespoons urad dal
  • 1 tablespoon moong dal
  • 1 tablespoon toor dal
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon methi
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • 1 cup cleaned curry leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon tamarind powder
  • A pinch of hing/ asafetida
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon jaggery powder
  1. In a pan, dry roast the dals first until they turn light brown, set aside in a tray.
  2. Roast the red chilies, methi, coriander seeds and pepper, set aside with the dals.
  3. Fry the peanuts until brown and set aside – you can remove the skins once the peanuts are slightly cool or let them be.
  4. Roast the curry leaves until they turn crisp, set aside with the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Once cool, grind the roasted ingredients with the tamarind powder, hing, salt and jaggery.
  6. Let it cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
  7. This powder can be stored for up to 4 weeks in a clean, airtight container. 


Note: You could also add 1 tablespoon of lightly roasted desiccated coconut powder to this – but the shelf life will be considerably reduced. Another variation is to add roasted garlic – but you’ll have to eliminate the hing/ asafoetida in that case.

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Soup’s On! Pressure Cooker Minestrone


Winters are for curling up with a good book or movie and hot, comforting food. The days that seem so much shorter bring on a wave of inertia and we barely make it to the coffee pot without grumbling. Gone are the times when cooking was an elaborate ritual, involving standing for long hours in front of the stove, stirring and whisking things until they came up to an aromatic and bubbly simmer, tasting a small spoonful from time to time, then sprinkling a little bit of this or that, until the alchemy of it was near-perfect.

In this age of that familiar fastness about everything, we like to take things a little easy, and all the more better if it can be accomplished with little foot or hand work. A one-pot-meal has been an eternal favourite, no doubt, but a one-click one, even more so. This Minestrone has all the magic of a slow cooked soup, except, it’s made in a short time, by throwing a bunch of nutritious elements into the pressure cooker and allowing it to do its thing. A great way to beat the winter blues, when the bones are cold and tired and the spirits need uplifting.

Go on, reach for that book you’ve been wanting to read, or turn the TV on and tune into that fun movie. Supper will almost make itself ready!


Pressure Cooker Minestrone Vegetable Soup

(Serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mixed Italian herbs
  • 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 4 large tomatoes, blanched, skinned and roughly pureed
  • Salt and pepper
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Parmesan cheese to top while serving
  1. Warm the olive oil on low heat in a medium sized pressure cooker. Season with the dried herbs and chilli flakes.
  2. Tip in the onions and garlic, cook for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add  the celery, leeks and carrot, continue cooking for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini to the cooker and toss well.
  5. Now add the chickpeas and tomato puree to the cooker.
  6. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of turmeric.
  7. Now close and bring the cooker up to full pressure. Switch off the heat and allow the pressure to release on its own.
  8. Serve the soup topped with some grated Parmesan, pesto and any fresh herbs you have on hand.


You could add some shortcut pasta to the soup if you like. Add half cup uncooked pasta when you pour in the tomato puree. Do remember to stir in about a cup of extra water for the pasta to cook in.


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Mushroom In Creamy Basil Sauce

img_0594Mushrooms are unique because they absorb a variety of flavours in different recipes. To tone the meatiness down, you can spike up the heat, and balance off with warm spices and the sweetness of garlic, in most recipes. You can pan-fry, roast, grill, or braise them with just a touch of salt and pepper, and use them as a bed for eggy breakfasts, or wholesome one-pot meals like pastas or quiches, or as a substantial filling in sandwiches and wraps.

What you can also do is douse them in savoury gravies, like most Indian recipes dictate. To take a kink from the monotony of the everyday tomato-rich gravy, we tried a creamy basil one and it worked like a charm. The sharpness of the basil is a perfect match for the blandness of the mushrooms, and you can serve this with just about anything – rotis or rice, millets or Thai-style noodles. The spice level is rather mild, which leaves room for experimenting as well as keeping the essence of the simple, down-home meal intact.


Mushroom In Creamy Basil Sauce
(Serves 3-4)

For the Basil Sauce –

  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 2 medium-sized onions, cubed
  • 4-5 garlic pods, crushed
  • 2 green chilies, sliced
  • 1/4 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons crumbled cashew
  1. Heat the oil in a pan, toss in the onion, garlic, green chillies and cinnamon stick
  2. Fry until lightly browned, and allow it to cool.
  3. Grind to a paste with the basil leaves and cashew, using a little bit of water.

To prepare the Mushroom –

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon jeera
  • 1 pack (200 grams) mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon aamchur
  • Salt to taste
  • Prepared basil sauce
  1. Heat oil in a pan, and season with jeera
  2. Once it crackles, add the sliced mushrooms and saute until the water evaporates and they cook down, acquiring a nice, brown tinge
  3. Add the masala and aamchur, then the salt
  4. Pour in the prepared basil sauce, add more salt, and let it come to a simmer for about 5-7 minutes
  5. Turn off the heat and add the cream
  6. You can also garnish with freshly chopped basil just before serving

    As a variation, you could also add some fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels after the mushrooms cook down. 


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Around Town: MTR Karnataka Food Festival


Karunadu Swada, which translates into The Taste of This Great Land – evokes a feeling of blissful homecoming in any Karnataka resident. This is truly the land of many tastes. Go to different parts of Karnataka and you’ll come across foods that are not just delectable, but also very distinct in flavours and textures. Here’s a glimpse into the recent (Jan 21-22) food festival organized by MTR, at the St. John’s Auditorium in Koramangala, where over 100 dishes unique to Karnataka cuisine were up for grabs.


The Tulunadu or coastal regions of Mangalore-Udupi are known for their partiality to coconut and dishes that are cooked in really exclusive ways. Sometimes, wrapped in leaves and steamed, and sometimes, simmered on low heat for hours to get the right balance of spice, heat, sour and sweet.


If you were to randomly sample little bites from across regions, some of the dishes that would stand out would be: the Moode Kadubu from the Mangalore region – idlis wrapped in Moode leaves and steamed, the tiny dollops of buttery goodness in Benne Kadambuttu (steamed butter dumplings) from the Coorg region, the somewhat-crispy, somewhat-tender Matvadi Palya – made with ground lentils and cluster beans, typically from the Bangalore-Mysore regions and the Khar Byali, a toor dal based curry from the North.


You can’t get past the ragi rotti or the obbattu counters without tasting some! There were at least 3-4 varieties of side dishes, including chutneys, that you could dunk the hot pieces of rotti into, and the soothing effect of the pasty, sweet filling in the obbattu is something else. We went back for second servings of the obbattu, especially after licking up the last of one lip-smacking but fiery hot chutney or another.


The chutneys of North Karnataka warrant a chapter unto themselves. There was a green chilli chutney, which could’ve set the fire alarms ringing, a red chilli and garlic chutney that was tangy and delicious, a dry peanut chutney and a wild til chutney powder, too. We couldn’t have enough of these and would gladly have asked for “to go” portions if such a thing was permissible! There were so many other goodies at this counter – one of our absolute favourites. There was the chilli bajji (with the hottest variety of green chillies, replete with seeds!), jolada rotti with a donnekayi (capsicum) curry. We couldn’t help but marvel at the tenderness of the whole capsicums used in this dish – the skins were almost paper-thin and the flavour of the vegetable perfectly complemented the spiciness (not spiked with undue heat) of the gravy. We could discern the taste of peanuts and garlic in the masala and were happy to ask for several helpings of just the curry, to which our friendly servers obliged with smiles that stretched from ear to ear!


Paputtu is a lovely dish from the Coorg region, made with coarsely ground rice flour, coconut, milk and sugar, with hints of cardamom. Not very unlike the puttu from Kerala, it is great as a breakfast or snack and is quite filling. Kadale Gassi or Bean Curry is from the Mangalorean cuisine, which could, in fact, pair very well with the Paputtu!

Who can stop with just one Sandige from our own Bengaluru? These crunchy fryums are made from paddy puffed rice, grated potatoes or white pumpkin/ ash gourd, green chillies, etc. They are ceremoniously made in large batches during the summer and sun-dried until both sides are completely brittle, then stored in airtight containers for use throughout the year.

And of course, no one can resist the MTR masala dosa! Crisp and crackling, with the chutney smeared inside in a stroke of genius, and filled with just the right amount of potato masala, then topped with with creamy butter that hisses its way along the sides.


Here is a small sample of the platefuls of food we relished! We went back for seconds and thirds so many times that we lost count!


The dessert counter was filled with plenty of delicacies, ranging from dry fruit laddus to Dharwad pedha, banana payasa and hayagreeva. We also loved the haalubai!


Our most enjoyable part of the whole set-up was the live demo of special Mangalore delicacies by renowned food historian and author, Chandri Bhat. She was a bundle of unending energy as she stirred and mixed ingredients with the skill of a magician, before assigning sous chef duties to her equally wonderful helper. She told us so many stories that there were moments when we almost forgot about the food. The keyword being – almost!


One of her signature savoury dishes was Potato Saung, made with onions, potatoes, and cooked tender cashews, simmered in a wonderful and really simple masala. It is typically eaten with Neer Dosa.


The sweet dish: Bot Nevri Kheeri, as she said, is nearly extinct! A painstaking and time-consuming labour of love, it is made with mini rice flour dumplings filled with a coconut and jaggery mixture, then dunked in a lovely coconut milk and jaggery base, or kheer. We couldn’t have enough of this, but we also knew better and saved some appetite for yet another round of the chutneys at the North Karnataka stall.

We had a great afternoon, immersed in food and culture, both of which often reflect in our own work: whether it’s for recipe ideas or workshops. We believe that food and culture are two sides of the coin that makes our lives richer and fuller. Everything one needs to know about a particular section of the society, one can learn from its food and the culture of its people. We certainly hope MTR comes back next year with version two of Karunada Swada!



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