Indians love their breakfast. Each region of India has a marvelous variety of hot and cold dishes to start the day. Although in the modern cities today, with most family members working, breakfast has usually come to mean a simple sandwich or increasingly cornflakes, you will still find many families enjoying a hot breakfast every morning.
The south offers steaming hot rice cakes called idlis and pancakes called dosas. These are served with an assortment of colorful relishes made with coconuts, mangoes or hot chillies.
In Bombay (Mumbai) spiced rice slivers called pawa are cooked with onions, potatoes and green peas to provide a nutritious start to the day.
The north provides big hearty breakfasts. As farming is the main occupation of the people living here, breakfasts need to be more robust. Housewives and mums will serve their families different varieties of stuffed bread called parathas, which is accompanied with a refreshing relish and washed down with cooling lassi
Other popular dishes include fried bread served with spiced potatoes - the classic puri-bhaji, scrambled eggs and omelettes made with spices, potatoes and onions and served with flat breads or porridge made from cracked wheat or oats and served either sweetened with sugar or accompanied by hot spicy pickles.
And, not forgetting fresh fruit. Mangoes, papayas, watermelon, sapotas (chikoo in Indian), pomegranate, apples and many other types of fruit are always served at breakfast, making an excellent start to the day.
Although tea is the more common drink in many parts of India, in the south of India, coffee is the caffeine provider of choice. Many people buy the beans raw and roast them at home. Both tea and coffee are flavored with aromatic spices like cardamom, cinnamon, ginger or nutmeg.
I remember when we would visit my grandparents in New Delhi, indulging in the breakfasts prepared by my grandma was always the highlight of each day.
The day for my grandparents would begin early - at 5 AM. Once, I was about 9 or 10, I too decided to get up early and accompany my grandparents on their early morning ritual, when the rest of the family were still fast asleep. My granddad and I collected two steel containers from the kitchen and set out on the short walk to the milk depot, where every morning fresh milk was delivered. My grandfather, tall and elegant, personified a respectful figure in the community and was greeted by everyone we passed.
"Sasriakal, Bhagwan Singhji!" (Good morning, Bhagwan Sigh sir). Even his name matched the names of Gods. See, in Hindi/Punjabi Bhagwaan means God! I was always left in awe of him. He was my idol in every way.
As we arrived at the depot there were already a few people lined up, waiting for the cracked wooden doors to open. In the meantime, important chit-chat and small talk was made.
Returning home, we delivered the fresh milk to my grandma and her house-help in the kitchen, both busy with the preparations of breakfast. My granddad poured himself a large glass of the white liquid in one of the steel glasses and gulped it down in one go. That gave me the shudders as I never was the one to drink pure milk. He looked down at me, wiping the remains from his white beard and mustache.
"Come, it's time to go to the Gurdwara."
The clock had just struck six and my granddad, grandma and me quickly washed ourselves and walked to our temple. I loved going to the Gurdwara and still do whenever I visit my parents. I would look up at the pictures of our Gurus in awe, then looking at my grandfather I would smile with pride. The resemblance to our Guru Nanak Dev was uncanny.
As we got home it was still quiet around the house. My grandfather would sit on the porch and unfold his daily newspaper. Our house-help brought him a cup hot masala tea and few biscuits. It was almost seven and breakfast was not going to be ready for another hour. As I joined my grandma in the kitchen, she was busy kneading dough for fresh bread. The house-help was cutting steamed potatoes for the stuffing and I got to lay the table.
Just after eight the larger part of the family was seated at the table. My cousins, my aunts and uncles, mum and dad - all visiting from the US or Qatar gathered around to enjoy a wonderful traditional Indian breakfast. Stuffed bread, eggs, relishes, tea, milk, yogurt and fruit was plentiful and the chatter was lively. Glancing at my grandparents, I saw them nod and smile at each other, wordlessly they both knew what the other was thinking.
To honor two of my favorite people and to the memories of those wonderful times, I would like to serve you a lovely Indian breakfast.
Spicy Egg and Mushroom Roll
6 large eggs - beaten
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
150 g mushrooms - I used button mushrooms - sliced
Fresh cilantro leaves - chopped
Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a heavy pan add the oil and heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry till they change color and spread a wonderful aroma.
Add all the spiced powders and then immediately add the mushrooms. Stir until the mushrooms have softened. Remove from heat and reserve.
Using a kitchen paper towel wipe the pan. Pour about a quarter of the beaten egg in a thin layer, swirling it around to even it. Once it turns golden at the bottom, flip it over and cook the other side. Keep warm and make the rest of the omelets in the same way.
Season the mushrooms with salt (adding salt to the mushrooms earlier makes them watery). To assemble the egg roll, place an omelet on a serving dish. Spread a quarter of the mushroom mixture down the middle. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and fold both sides to make a roll.
Serve warm with toasted bread or a typical Indian flatbread (coming soon) and hot masala tea as below.
Indian Masala Chai
Tea in India is often flavored to provide a variety or to make it more healing. Brewing for fragrance and flavor, you will often be served tea with many spices and herbs. Generally, Indian tea is made by boiling the tea leaves in water and adding milk to the saucepan before it is taken off the heat. You will never see an Indian adding cold milk to their tea, as it reduces the temperature of the tea and also leaves the milk "uncooked".
4 small pieces fresh ginger - crushed
4 shavings nutmeg
2 cinnamon sticks
4 green cardamom pods - lightly crushed
5-7 teaspoons good quality black tea leaves
Dash of milk
Pinch of sugar
In a small pot bring about 4-5 cups of water to a rolling boil. Add the ginger and the spices to the water and reduce the heat. Simmer for approx. 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and add the tea leaves. Let it steep for 5 minutes. Bring the pot back to the heat and add a dash of milk and sugar. Warm through making sure that the liquid does not boil again. This turns the tea leaves bitter.
Using a strainer, strain the brewed tea into a teapot. Enjoy hot!
In my little family our breakfast ritual is normally reserved for the weekend. Then Tom and Soeren go down and lay the table and go to the bakery for fresh bread. In the meantime I will cook up breakfast. Whatever the craving might be. Scrambled eggs, omelets, French toast or just boiled eggs with cheese and a variety of spreads like fruit jams and honey. Sometimes, I go back to my roots and cook up a nice Indian breakfast like this. It satisfies my desire to get in touch with my roots and also takes me back down memory lane. Tom and Soeren thoroughly enjoy this kind of breakfast. Different to the usual Continental breakfasts, this is spiced and flavorful. At our table there is also chatter - about what's on schedule for the weekend. I can't help but sit back, sipping my masala tea and hope that my grandparents are looking down on us, smiling and nodding at each other knowingly.
More great breakfast ideas:
My entry to Weekend Breakfast Blogging created by Nandita and hosted by Trupti. The theme this month Spice It Up
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