f you’ve been to Broadway in Kochi (in reality there's nothing "broad" about Broadway, but that's another story) you might have seen the Bharath Coffee House, an eatery that’s been there for almost ever. One of the oldest eateries in the city, the Bharath Caffee House is situated at the Convent Road/ St. Teresas’s end of Broadway on your left as you enter it. Even though the entrance to this eatery is right there on the road, you are most likely to walk past it without even realising you’ve done so, unless you know the place or are looking for it.
Bharath Coffee House an unpretentious eatery, that serves decent food at very reasonable and affordable prices. The service there is lukewarm at the best, but then most of the people who frequent the place are regulars and don’t expect any different. Some of the serving staff are old timers from way back and they go about their job in a rather unhurried manner which seems out of place in today’s world. They will serve you well but take their own time doing it. I don’t say this as a negative remark about the place, just that it’s the way the place is and probably has always been.
The place can either be bustling with people or almost empty with a few people dotting its many tables, depending on the time of that day you make it there. Lunch times are the busiest because many of people working in and around Broadway come here for a decent and very affordable food.
Bharath Coffee House is one of those old fashioned vegetarian places where you walk in because you’re hungry, plop down at a table, wait for the staff to get to you, pick something out of the laminated one page paper menu, wait for them to serve you, eat, and then pay at the counter on your way out.
While it’s not a place one would typically go to for a dining experience, eating there used to be an experience of a sort, where one could get a glimpse perhaps of how things used to be about 30 years back or earlier. When my husband took me there for the first time years ago, he told me he could recognise some of the elderly staff there from his days in college!
When I first went there, there used to be old fashioned ceiling fans hanging from the high wooden ceiling, turning slowly without a care in the world. The four corners of the dining hall had old and round wooden two seater tables with matching chairs, while larger wooden tables and chairs dotted the rest of the hall. The waiting staff, most of them older than one would expect, looked quaint in their uniforms which included turban style headgear. It was almost as if one took a little step back in time.
This café has always been a favourite stopover for us every time we visit Kochi and take a shopping trip to Broadway. There have been times when we’ve started our Broadway expedition with a cup of coffee and little something to eat, usually Pazham Pori (sweet banana fritters) or while our daughter would place her regular order for their famed beetroot cutlets. Things are changing as they do everywhere, and with very trip back home we find something new had replaced something that was and the old ambience giving way to a more “modern” feel. Bharat Coffee House is slowly becoming an unfamiliar place but their coffee, banana fritters and Beetroot Cutlets shall live on in our memories.
As I mentioned, our daughter could never be persuaded to order anything but those Beetroot Cutlets every time we visited Bharat Coffee House on Broadway. This is odd in a way because for some reason, the beetroot is a vegetable which for some reason isn’t very popular in our home and so I rarely buy or cook. A few days back, I was reading something and came across an article on Broadway in Kochi, and that brought back memories of shopping for spices and other stuff there and of course our trips to Bharat Coffee House. It also brought back a feeling of nostalgia for those Beetroot Cutlets.
The word “Cutlet” originally comes from the French word “côtelette” and typically describes a small, boneless cut of meat that is usually cooked whole. The classic way of making Cutlets involves dredging them in flour, following with beaten eggs and bread crumb, and then frying them.
In India, Cutlets (sometimes also referred to as Chops) are more like croquettes can be made of meat cooked spices and onions, then dipped first in beaten egg and then in breadcrumbs, and pan-fried till crisp on the outside. The vegetarian version is usually made with potatoes or mixed vegetables with potato instead of meat, sometimes dipped in a thin flour batter before dredging with breadcrumbs.
The recipe below is what I put together from the memory of what the Beetroot Cutlets at the Bharat Coffee House tasted like. My daughter remarked after eating one, “Amma, it’s scary how your Cutlets taste almost like the Bharat Coffee House Beetroot Cutlets!” So I guess my recipe came pretty close to the real thing because my daughter is very good at telling it like it is, and wouldn’t worry much or think twice before telling me if the Cutlets didn’t make the cut!
The only thing that’s not like the original about my Cutlets is that I chose to dredge them in Semolina (rava) before frying them, because I like the crusty outer texture that comes from this. You could dredge the Cutlets in plain flour, cornstarch or breadcrumbs or in egg and then breadcrumbs instead, if you prefer. Indian Cutlets are usually shaped flat and round or oval or even heart shaped, though you can also find them in typical croquette shapes. The Bharat Coffee House Beetroot Cutlets are always teardrop shaped for some reason so I shaped these cutlets the same way.
I’d like to mention a couple of things about making these cutlets. Make sure that the beetroot, potatoes and peas are well cooked so they can be mashed well. You don’t want lumps of vegetable (not big ones anyway) in the Cutlets when you bite into them. If you find mashing the Beetroot difficult, you can grate them fine. Make sure the Beetroot is well drained otherwise you will have a very moist mashed vegetable mixture that will be difficult to shape. It will also fall apart in the oil.
Beetroot Cutlets/ PattiesIngredients:1 tsp oil1 large onion, finely chopped1 tsp ginger-garlic paste1/4 tsp turmeric powder2 tsp coriander powder2 tsp cumin powder1 tsp chilli powder (or to taste)1 tsp garam masala2 medium to large beetroots, cooked and finely grated/ mashed (about 3 cups)3 potatoes, cooked and mashed (about 2 cups)1/2 cup green peas, cooked3 slices white bread, powdered to bread crumbs*2 tbsp cornstarch2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped1/2 cup semolina (not semolina flour)Salt to tasteOil for pan frying
*Remove the crust (optional) from the bread slices, tear them up and run in your blender jar a couple of times till they look like crumbs. You just want to break up the bread so it mixes well. Day old bread is best.
Put the mashed/ grated beetroot, mashed potatoes, peas, the breadcrumbs and the cornstarch in a bowl, and using your fingers, mix them up together till well blended and the texture of dough. The mixture should be slightly moist but not wet.In a pan, heat the 1 tsp oil and add the onions and the ginger-garlic paste and sauté till the onions become soft and golden brown. Add the turmeric, coriander, cumin and chilli powers and the garam masala and stir everything for about 30 seconds to a minute. Let it cool. Then add it to the mashed mixture and knead with your fingers to mix well.Divide the mash into 15 or 16 equal portions. Roll each portion into a smooth ball, flatten and shape as you wish. Each Cutlet should be about 1/2" thick. Refrigerate the Cutlets for about half an hour. You can also refrigerate the Cutlets at this point for up to 6 to 8 hours and then fry them just before serving.Heat the oil in a frying pan (the oil should be about 1/2" deep in pan) till it is quite hot but not smoking. Dredge each Cutlet in the semolina and carefully slide it into the oil. You can pan fry 4 to 5 Cutlets at a time.Let them cook until they’re a golden brown, then turn them over gently and cook on the other side as well till golden brown and crisp.Let them drain on paper towels. Serve them warm with tomato ketchup. You can also serve these Cutlets with slaw or a salad or as patties in Vegetable Burgers.This recipe makes 15 or 16 Beetroot Cutlets.