Friday, December 9, 2011

Visit to Coorg

Looong overdue…
A holiday in the midst of forests and coffee plantations, hills, no electricity, mobile and internet connectivity, was just the perfect setting for a relaxing break. This was a trip planned long ago, but got postponed for different reasons. The search for home stays in Coorg began, and we finally zeroed in on “Bethel”, a home stay situated in the Brahmagiri forests, about 20-25 Kms from Kutta.
Six of us set out on a Wednesday morning around 8 AM from Bangalore. Our first stop for breakfast was at Kamat Lokaruchi, 60 km from Bangalore on Mysore road. Breakfast was kadubu, Maddur vada, and tea. We drove on along Mysore road, managed to follow directions given by Rakesh from Bethel home stay, bypassing the city and getting onto the outer ring road. A right before Columbia Asia hospital, through some very bad roads, a left before Coorg Cafe, eventually led us to Hunsur. More bad roads, past the Hunsur bus stand, and a left near a Bharath Petroleum bunk put us on the road to Kutta.  We stopped to eat our packed puliodarai, chips, and curd rice for lunch.
We drove past the Nagarhole Wildlife Sanctuary and were very eager to spot animals, especially elephants. The protocol to be followed throughout was “No music, no plastic, no stopping and no food”. For a while, we did not spot anything interesting, other than small birds. And then, came the groups of spotted deer. Some of them had such a cute and innocent impression, that we just couldn’t stop admiring them. We managed to take a few photographs from our car. We did not see any elephants, but were happy for having seen so many deer. We continued our drive, enjoying the beautiful scenic mountains.

Deer at NagarHole Wildlife Sanctuary

We reached Kutta where we were supposed to meet the driver Khader, who had come to direct us to Bethel. The home stay is about 45 minutes drive from Kutta, in the midst of coffee plantations. We passed by Iruppu falls, and stopped to take a quick glimpse. The last few kilometers to Bethel was a dirt track through coffee plantations part reclaimed by the forest. A rough ride (but fun for the drivers).
We finally reached Bethel around 4 PM, and were welcomed by our friendly host Rakesh. The first thing we were told was that there is no electricity and mobile signals, in our cottages. This was a little disappointing for a few, who are so used to the comforts that come with electricity and technology. We decided to take advantage of the remoteness, and enjoy the holiday with just nature as our companion. After all, the whole idea was to relax and be away from technology and the hustle bustle of city life.
One of the best things about this place was the food – tasty, good, and had a great variety. Every time we returned from a trek or any outing, we were welcomed with lime juice (unlimited), to make us feel refreshed.
Day 1 – we walked down to a stream nearby in the evening, after having tea and pakodas. The water was clear and clean, and we sat down to give our legs some free “pedicure”. Our Katcheri session started with some Tirupugazh songs by Amma and Latha perima, and a few bhajans by Prabha. While the ladies got busy singing, the men started their photography session.

Stream near homestay

We walked up back to our cottages, and got ready to sit by the camp fire. We were served lime juice, and some sumptuous starters like peanuts with onion, paneer pakodas and salad (slices of carrot, cucumber, beetroot, onions and radish). The dinner menu was even bigger – chapati, delicious side dishes like paneer mutter, aloo capsicum, rice, sambar, rasam and payasam.
How can we not have adventure in the middle of the jungles? We did not know that there was a “bekku” (Cat) waiting to enter our cottage to get some food. The main cottage had some gaps on top and in some sides, which made it convenient for the cat. We started eating in the dark (no lights, only solar lanterns), only to be disturbed by the cat’s sounds. The cat went in and out of the cottage and one bedroom, not a pleasant experience especially in the dark. We were told later that the cat only comes in search of food, and there is no need to worry. All subsequent dinners were moved from inside the cottage to a sit out to keep bekku out of our home.
Day 2 – started with enthusiasm, as some of us set out at 6 AM to capture the beauty of the sunrise from atop the machan. We then had breakfast, which was again well laid out – aloo paratha, pickle, curd, toast, and puliogare (ok, I can imagine your eyes getting bigger and your mouths watering).
We left for Irupu Falls, which is on the way to Kutta. This place is very famous and has an interesting reference to the Ramayana. It is said that when Rama and Lakshmana were going in search of Sita, Rama asked Lakshmana to fetch him water to drink. Lakshmana then shot an arrow into the Brahmagiri hills, and created the Lakshmana Tirtha river. Irupu Falls is said to be part of that river. The scenery was spectacular and the walk up to the waterfalls was beautiful. However, there were leeches on the path to the falls and several of us suffered leech bites.The Brahmagiri forest is host to some rich flora and fauna, and this was evident on the route to the waterfalls. The photography enthusiasts in our group seized the opportunity to show their skills. We also visited the Rameshwara temple situated next to the falls.
Iruppu falls 

Day 3 – Our agenda for the day was to go to Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, at Tolpati and the Tirunelli temple, which also has reference to the Ramayana. We drove down to Wayanad, which is in Kerala, and is about 30 km from Kutta. We were very excited and looked forward to the safari. We were accompanied by a “spotter” who joined us. The first animal we saw was a pair of wild dogs. We were told by the spotter that these are very dangerous and usually attack humans. We then saw some barking deer and spotted deer. And then came the best part – elephants!! Some of us squealed in delight, while the others tried to take pictures. As we drove further, we saw a beautiful peacock (too quick to capture on camera).
We got out of the sanctuary, and parked the jeep to catch up on breakfast. One thing which I should mention here is the amazing hospitality of our host. The breakfast which was packed for us did not have just sandwiches or toast, but puri, rajma masala and vegetable upma. We continued our drive to Tirunelli. The Tirunelli temple is an ancient one dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is said that the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parasurama performed the last rites at the death of his father Jamadagni at this place.
While some of us enjoyed the siesta after the fiesta, in the afternoon, the others got the opportunity of learning how to make “Akki roti”, a delicacy in Karnataka. Our host Rakesh arranged for a demo session at his neighbor, Radhika Kittu’s house.
Day 4 was the last day of our holiday and we decided to relax. We left Bethel on Sunday morning around 9 AM after breakfast, after thanking Rakesh and his wonderful support staff. This was truly a lovely experience and we promised to go back again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Paal Poli

Fine Rawa (chiroti rawa)- 150 ml
salt- pinch
Almonds- 10
Ghee- 1 tbsp
Maida- for dusting
Milk- 600 ml
Sugar-100 ml
Cardamom- 3-4
Saffron- a few strands
Soak almonds in water, peel and grind fine with a little milk. Mix rawa, salt and badam paste and knead into dough and let rest for 20 minutes. Then rub ghee on it and knead well even by pounding with the roller. Sprinkle a little water and pound/ knead. Make small balls and roll into small rounds. Fold into a semi circle and paste the edges together.
Boil milk, add sugar, and continue to boil until slightly thickened. Add cardamom powder and saffron. Keep it hot.
Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the prepared polis. Turn and fry both sides. Drain and soak in milk. When the next poli is fried, remove the soaked one and place in a big plate. Continue with the rest of the polis. After all polis are fried and soaked, pour the rest of the milk on all the polis. Take care not to stack the polis or they may get stuck together.
You can omit the almonds or add the almond paste to the milk for a different flavour.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Corn Au Gratin

Tender cooked corn – 2 cups
White sauce
Grated cheese – 100 gms
Salt and pepper to taste
For white sauce:
Butter – 1 tbsp
Plain flour (maida)- 1 tbsp
Milk-1 cup
Salt and pepper to taste
White Sauce:
Melt the butter on a slow flame. Add the flour and cook on a slow flame, while stirring throughout, until froth appears. Add the milk gradually and stir continually until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper and mix well. Add cheese and mix well.
Au Gratin:
Take corn which is at room temperature and mix it well with the white sauce. Optional: other veggies like carrot, broccoli, cauliflower etc can also be added. In a baking dish pour the mixture and bake for 15 minutes at 400F. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bisi Bele Bath

Rice- 150 ml
Toor dal-75 ml
Tamarind- 1 ball the size of a small lime
Mixed chopped Vegetables-200 ml (Beans,carrot,potato,peas etc.)
Oil 4 tbsp
Mustard- 1 tsp
Curry leaves- 10-15
Salt to taste
Roast in oil and powder:
Gram Dal- 20 ml
Dhania seeds- 20 ml
Red Chillies-6
Methi- 1/2 tsp
Copra- 30- 40 ml
Poppy seeds-2 tsp
Cinnamon- a small piece
Extract tamarind juice and keep aside. Cook rice and Dal together in the pressure cooker for 5 whistles with 600 ml water. Vegetables can also be kept in the same cooker in a separate dish. Heat oil in a large pan, add mustard, splutter and then curry leaves. Add tamarind water and salt and 2 cups of water. Boil till the raw smell goes. Add the masala powder and vegetables and boil some more. Mash the rice dal mixture and add to the boiling liquid. Top up with the rest of the oil and mix well. Check the consistency and add some hot water if needed. Keep hot and add a dollop of ghee and mix before serving. Serve with Boondi on top, raitha and chips.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lauki Kofta

Lauki (Suraikai)-500 gms
Gram flour- 1 cup
Green chillies-3-4
Salt to taste
Peel and grate Lauki. Squeeze out all the water from lauki and reserve the water. Add gram flour, chopped green chillies and salt. Heat oil in a pan and fry the mixture in the shape of small pakoras. Drain and keep.
Tomato Gravy:
Tomato- 5 medium
Onion- 3 medium
Chilli powder- 2 tsp
Dhania powder- 1 tsp
Ginger garlic paste- 1 tsp
Garam masala powder- 1 tsp
Oil- 3 tbsp
Coriander leaves- 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Blanch the tomatoes in boiling hot water, remove skin and chop fine. Grate the onion. Heat oil in a pan, add onion and fry till golden, add ginger-garlic paste and fry. Add all the powders and fry for a minute. Add the tomato pieces, 1 cup of water and boil for about 10 minutes till the mixture thickens. Arrange the koftas in the serving dish and pour the gravy over the same. Garnish with coriander leaves. Serve with chapathi, poori or pulao.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Vegetable Spring Roll

For the wrap:
Maida- 240 ml
Corn Flour-45 ml
Oil- 15 ml
salt to taste
water to mix.
For the filling:
Cabbage shredded thin- 500 ml
Onion- 1 medium sliced thin
Carrot- 1 medium slivered thin
Capsicum- 1 small slivered
Cooked noodles- 60 ml(optional)
Spring onions- 2-3 chopped fine
White pepper powder- 1 tsp
Sugar- 1 pinch
Ajino-moto- 1 pinch
Soy sauce- 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Mix the flours and salt for the wrap, add oil and mix well. Add water little by little and make a smooth dough. Roll into 5″ thin rounds. Heat a tawa and lightly toast the rolled wraps and keep aside.
Heat 1 tsp of oil in a pan and saute the onions for a minute. Add all other vegetables other than spring onion, salt, pepper and saute well. Add sugar, spring onion, ajino moto and soy sauce at the end, saute and cool the mixture.
Mix a tbsp of maida in a little water into a paste and keep aside.
Take a toasted wrap, and place 2-3 tbsp of filling on it. Fold the lower end over the vegetable mix, fold both the sides and roll tight. Using the paste, seal the open ends of the roll and keep aside. Prepare all the rolls as above. Heat oil in a pan and deep fry the rolls on medium heat till golden. Drain on tissue and cut in a slant into 1″ pieces and serve with tomato, chilli sauces.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Tukkada (or Diamond Chips)
Wheat flour- 180 ml
Maida- 60 ml
Ghee or Butter- 1 tbsp
Salt to taste
Chilli powder- 1 tsp
Oil for deep frying
Mix the flours, butter,salt and chilli powder well. Add water little by little and knead into a soft dough. Make small balls and roll into chappathi. Cut the same into diamond shape using a knife or a pizza cutter. Deep fry the diamond cuts till golden. Drain, cool and store in a airtight container. A nice snack with tea, coffee or by itself.
A sweet variety can be made with a modification. Omit the salt and chilli powder and proceed as above. Make a single-string syrup with sugar, dip the diamonds in it, remove and cool.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dum Aloo

Potato- 400 gms
Tomato- 200 gms- chop into small pieces
Curd- 150 ml- whisk smooth
Sugar-1 tsp
Oil- To deep fry and cook
Salt to taste
Grind together:
Cinnamon- 2 pieces
Poppy seeds- 1 tbsp
Curry leaves-10
Ani Seed- 1 tsp
Red Chillies-3
Green Chillies-2
Ginger- 1 inch
Coriander leaves- 100 ml
Scrub and boil the potatoes with jacket in a pressure cooker for 3 whistles. Peel,cool and cut into 3/4 inch square pieces. when absolutely cool, deep fry the pieces and keep aside. Take oil in a pan and fry the ground masala for 5 minutes on a medium flame taking care not to burn. Add the tomato pieces,curd and fry well till oil separates. Add sugar, salt and water if needed. When the gravy is thick, add the fried potato pieces and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves. If desired garnish with fried nuts and raisins.